The Grand Budapest Hotel (Movie Review)

Say “Ralph Fiennes” out loud for me right now. If you pronounced “Ralph” with an “L”, then I know something you don’t know! … “Saoirse Ronan” is still a complete fucking mystery for me though.

So, I finally got to see Wes Anderson’s new movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Before beginning the review, I must confess that I’ve never actually seen a Wes Anderson film before. I knew him only as the weird, quirky guy that uses a lot of colour and makes a lot of movies with Owen Wilson, Bill Murray and Edward Norton. But hey, I’m nothing if not intrepid, so I decided to take a chance, not go to some crowd-pleaser like  Noah, Captain America: The Winter Soldier or The Lego Movie (Which may be because I hate watching animated movies in theaters, but that’s a topic for another post) and take a chance on this weirdo and his Ralph Fiennes-headed movie.

Boy am I not regretting that decision right about now.

 

 The Grand Budapest Hotel 

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Produced by: Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven M. Rales, Scott  Rudin

Screenplay by: Wes Anderson

Story by: Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness

Genres: Dark Comedy, Mystery

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff  Goldblum,  Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu  Amalric, Jude Law, Harvey  Keitel, Bill Murray, Lea Seydoux, Jason  Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson,  Owen Wilson

Plot: The Grand Budapest Hotel opens in the fictional European republic of Zubrowka in the year 1968, where a famous unnamed writer (Law) is vacationing at a decrepit relic of a hotel named, you guessed it, the Grand Budapest. The once decadent and celebrated hotel has fallen onto difficult times, being, as mentioned, decrepit and, as a result, business has suffered. While there, the writer meets the elderly proprietor of the hotel, a man named Zero Moustafa. Moustafa, a fan of the writer’s work, invites him to dinner where the writer inquires about how the old man came to own the hotel and why the hell he hasn’t closed the dump down.

Moustafa’s story began in 1932, when young Zero (Revolori) was hired as a lobby boy at the Grand Budapest, a lucrative, decadent hotel with a mysterious, anonymous owner where he is mentored by the hotel’s eccentric concierge, Monsieur Gustave H (Fiennes). The looming specter of war in Zubrowka does nothing to faze Gustave  an extremely devoted concierge, who goes the extra mile to make the clientele feel comfortable and ensure that everything runs smoothly. He is, however a bit of a, well, an oddball. In order to make any anxious older blonde ladies feel welcome, personally makes them feel physically and emotionally at ease… With his penis.

Sadly, one of his more frequent penis-clients, Madame D (Swinton in terrific old lady makeup) dies under mysterious circumstances. Accompanied by Zero, he arrives at Madame D’s wake, where it is revealed, surprisingly, that he has inherited an invaluable painting from Madame D, the priceless Boy with Apple. This decision does not sit well with Madame D’s family, especially her villainous son, Dmitri Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Brody), who coveted the painting and wants him dead.

As far as the story goes, I have no real complaints with the movie. I’ve always been a fan of the mystery-comedy genre since I saw the Pink Panther movies as a little kid….

And then, Hollywood discovered the reboot and everything went to shit.

…  And, in truth, it does seem to have a similar style to those movies, so yeah, maybe it provides a healthy bit of nostalgia for me, but regardless of my weirdly old-fashioned tastes, it’s humour should appeal to pretty much anybody. It’s zany enough to appeal to little kids, dry and subtle enough to appeal to older folks, and, surprisingly, dark enough to appeal to sick, twisted weirdos like me. Is this type of somewhat wide-reaching humour a staple of Wes Anderson movies?  Because if so, I need to have a marathon one of these days, this stuff is just wonderful.

One minor quibble I have is that the plot got a tiny bit muddled near the end, which left me a little bit confused, but truth be told, I couldn’t really give less of a shit. The humour, as well as the wonderful use of colour more than make up for anything my pathetic lizard brain couldn’t comprehend. There is just way too much positives to really make a serious complaint out of something that can be remedied by just paying a little bit less attention to the colour of the elevator, or whatever.

Acting: The cast in this movie is goddamn insane. All of Anderson’s usual crop of actors make an appearance in roles of varying importance, and they are all very good at their respective parts. The two leads, however are played by Wes Anderson newcomer Ralph Fiennes, who is absolutely brilliant as Monsieur Gustave, and should, so far, be an early favourite for an Oscar nod.

Although it’s easy to be considered an Oscar favourite in March when this piece of crap is the next best non-animated movie in theatres.

This is the first big role for American actor Tony Revolori however. And I gotta say, he knocks it out of the park as young Zero Moustafa. It’s a rare thing when I approve of an actor under the age of eighteen, but Revolori is funny, fun to watch, and in rare occasions, kind of sad. Irish actress Saoirse Ronan is also wonderful as Zero’s love interest, and Adrien Brody is clearly having a blast as the cartoonishly evil, yet still sinister antagonist, Dmitri.

Which is good to see, considering the career choices he’s made lately.

 

Conclusion: Vibrant, colourful and hilarious, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is an epitome of pure joy. If there is one movie you must see this week, go on and take a chance on Wes Anderson. Captain America isn’t going anywhere.

9.5/10

 

My Oscar Picks

Well, it’s not like I can do so much freaking Oscar reviews without doing a quick prediction. These predictions will have the same format as my Razzie predictions, with my top three picks for every category, except the ones which I haven’t checked out because they didn’t have any Best Picture Nominees (Categories with an “*” are categories in which I’ve seen less than three of the nominated movies). Also, if any movie that I did not watch wins their respective category, that movie will be added to my seemingly never-ending queue of reviews.

Honestly? I just look at the trophy and see a golden novelty dildo.

Best Visual Effects:

  1. Gravity
  2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  3. Star Trek Into Darkness

This one is pretty much a no-brainer. While Benedict Cumber-Dragon was amazing and J.J. Abrams lens-flared Star Trek into beautiful oblivion (I’m hoping that nonsense I just pulled out of my ass makes sense to somebody), Gravity had some of, if not the most  the most, beautiful visuals I’ve ever seen in my seventeen years of watching movies.

Best Film Editing:

  1. Gravity
  2. 12 Years a Slave
  3. American Hustle

I’m still not entirely sure how one critiques editing, so admittedly, this category is kind of a crapshoot for me.

Best Costume Design* 

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. American Hustle

American Hustle could beat out 12 Years, because it did have a pretty fantastic costume design team, or whatever (And Amy Adams’ necklines sure help), but I think that the latter’s  costumes were just a little bit better.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling*

  1. Dallas Buyers Club

I’m shocked that American Hustle wasn’t nominated for this category, but honestly Dallas Buyers Club should win this award, based solely on the work they did with Jared Leto.

Best Cinematography*

  1. Gravity
  2. Nebraska

I’m kinda surprised that Nebraska was nominated for this category, because I really didn’t like the choice of black-and-white colouring, but whatevs. Gravity should and will win, anyways.

Best Production Design

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. Gravity
  3. American Hustle

Assuming that “Production Design” means “film sets and such”, I’d give it to 12 Years, mainly for the stunning contrast between the natural beauty of Louisiana and the brutality of the subject matter.

Best Sound Mixing/Editing

  1. Gravity
  2. Captain Phillips
  3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 

Yes, I know I mixed the categories of Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing, but a) It’s pretty much the same movies, and b) I don’t know what the fuck the difference between sound editing and sound mixing is supposed to be.

That said, Gravity‘s soundtrack was downright gorgeous.

Best Original Song (I Haven’t seen most of these movies, but the songs are on YouTube, so all’s good.)

  1. “Let it Go” from Frozen
  2. “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
  3. “The Moon Song” from Her 

Let’s face it, Disney songs are pretty much the bomb. Keep in mind that this is coming from somebody who thinks that any song off London Calling is the pinnacle of Western Civilization.

Best Original Score

  1. Gravity
  2. Her
  3. Philomena

Like I said, Gravity‘s score is fantastic. I liked Hers’ soundtrack too, but Philomena‘s just seemed nondescript to me.

Best Animated Short Film, Best Live Action Short Film, Best Documentary-Short Subject, Best Documentary-Feature, Best Documentary Film, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Animated Feature Film

I  haven’t seem any of the movies nominated for these, because a) Honestly, these are the least interesting categories to me and b) While I actually love animated movies, there’s no way I’m going to a theater filled with screaming eight-year olds to watch Frozen.

Best Writing-Adapted Screenplay

  1. 12 Years A Slave
  2. The Wolf of Wall Street
  3. Captain Phillips 

I didn’t find any of these scripts to be legendary, per se, but they were still pretty damn great. It could really go any way.

Best Writing-Original Screenplay

  1. American Hustle
  2. Dallas Buyers Club
  3. Her

I wonder if I could somehow develop David O. Russell’s amazing dialogue-writing ability without also developing his crippling douchiness…

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
  2. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
  3. June Squibb, Nebraska

Holy shit, I son’t think you could have picked three cuter nominees for this category.

Pictured: The Axis of Adorable.

Jennifer Lawrence is my favourite actress, and June Squibb was awesome too, but there’s just no way they match up to Mexican-born Kenyan Actress Lupita Nyongo’s film debut.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
  2. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
  3. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

Fassbender played Edwin “Evil Incarnate” Epps to perfection, and Somali actor Barkhad Abdi was awesoome in his debut, but they just had bad luck this time, going up against Jared Leto as the tragic Rayon.

Best Actress

  1. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
  2. Amy Adams, American Hustle
  3. Judi Dench, Philomena

I think that Cate Blanchett is gonna win, considering the love she got at the Golden Globes, but I loved Sandra Bullock.

Best Actor

  1. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
  2. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
  3. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Man, does Leo ever have bad luck getting easy opponents on Oscar ballots, huh?

I had to pretty much flip a coin to decide who I thought was better between McConaughey and Ejiofor. All I can say is that I hope I don’t have to type either of their names again until next Oscar season, at least.

Best Director

  1. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
  2. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
  3. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

I’m not that big of a director guy, but you don’t have to be one to know that Cuaron did a fantastic job with Gravity.

Best Picture

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. Dallas Buyers Club
  3. Gravity

Just read my review of 12 Years a Slaveit’ll tell you all you need to know.

Razzie Movie Review: Movie 43 and my Golden Raspberry Award Picks

And to think that before today, I had to really think about it before deciding what was the worst movie I’d ever seen.

 Movie 43

Directed by: Sadistic hacks who should have known better.

Produced by: Sadistic hacks who should have known better.

Written by: Sadistic hacks who should have known better.

Genres: Sketch “Comedy”,  Gross-Out “Comedy”

Starring: Oh, my God, you guys didn’t have to do this. For fuck’s sake, some of you guys have  Oscar nominations. Hell, Halle Berry HAS a goddamn Oscar!

Razzie Nominations: Worst Screen Combo (Entire Cast), Worst Screenplay, Worst Actress (Berry), Worst Actress (Watts), Worst Director (All 13 Directors) Worst Picture

Plot: The different sketches that comprise this movie are part of a plot that involves a group of teenagers’ internet search for the fabled “Movie 43”, which is supposedly the most outrageous movie ever made. I understand that there’s another version of this sketch that stars Common and Dennis Quaid, but I’m sure I’m not missing that much.

The Catch: Beth (Kate Winslet) is a single businesswoman going on a blind date with Davis (Hugh Jackman), who is supposedly the city’s most high-profile bachelor. Everything seems to be going well until Davis takes off his scarf to reveal the pair of testicles hanging from his chin! And get this: Beth is the only one who seems to notice the testicles!

Improbably, this isn’t even the stupidest sketch in the whole fucking movie. I really wish it had just ended here, but alas…

Homeschooled: A newly moved-in couple (Alex Cranmer and Julie Ann Emery) have coffee with their new neighbours, Robert (Liev Schreiber) and Samantha (Naomi Watts). Rob and Samantha describe in detail their program of homeschooling their son (Jeremy Allen White). Bullying, hazing, detentions, and possible incest ensue.

The Proposition: Julie and Doug (Real-life married couple Anna Faris and Chris Pratt, respectively) have been in a happy relationship for over a year. However, when Doug is about to propose to her, she reveals that she wants him to poop on her. With the help of his friend (J.B. Smoove), Doug sets out to shit on his girl in the most romantic way possible.

At this point in the movie, I was seriously considering suicide. There would be many more suicidal thoughts over the next hour or so.

Veronica: Grocery store cashier Nate (Macaulay Culkin’s younger brother, Kieran) meets his ex-girlfrien Veronica (Emma Stone) at his job. Disturbing conversations ensue.

iBabe: Richard Gere discusses how to market the iBabe, which is like an iPod, but it’s a full-grown naked woman, and which is mangling the dicks of the teenage boys who inevitably try to fuck it, with his workers (Kate Bosworth, Aasif Mandvi, Jack McBrayer). It’s kind of hard to argue with the whole “Teenage boys fucking things they shouldn’t be fucking” theme, but this is still one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen.

Superhero Speed Dating: I’m just gonna skip this one. Any problems with that? Cool.

Middleschool Date: Nathan (Jimmy Bennett) and Amanda (Chloe Grace Moretz) are having a (Admittedly, pretty realistic) date at Nathan’s place when Amanda has her first period. I will never again watch Kick-Ass with the same sense of wonder.

Happy Birthday, Truth or Dare, Victory’s Glory: These are all garbage. Every single fucking one. Every fucking second of these pieces of shit.

Beezel: Whoever thought that this segment would be funny deserves to be dragged out into the street and shot. 

Acting: I usually like talking shit about movies, but this movie is just the most painful thing to dwell on. All the actors are atrocious, because most of them just don’t give a shit about this film.

Weirdly enough, the character I most identified was Chloe Grace Moretz’s character. Not because I’m a teenage girl having her first period, but because of her line “WILL YOU IDIOTS JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!”, which is a line that I wish was screamed at the people who pitched this goddamn movie.

In short, there is nothing even remotely good about this movie. So, this piece of shit has the distinction of being the first movie to which I award the following rating.

Overall Rating: 0/10

***

So, I’m pleased to say that, for the first time ever, I’ve managed to watch all the Oscar-(And Razzie-) nominated money before their rating. Problem is, I haven’t had time to post a review in between school, homework, my job bitching about the Blue Jays, and, you know, actually watching the goddamn movies. So, while I’ve watched all the movies, the reviews are still gonna run a little late. I’m sure this would piss me off, but I’m getting pretty sick of these reviews.

Now, don’t worry loyal readers, the reviews are still. coming, and I’m gonna put ’em out as quick as possible. It’s just that I’m also gonna go back to also writing about baseball, music, and whatever else is on my mind.

Anyways, here are my picks for the 2014 Golden Raspberry Awards, from my first pick to my third pick (Any category that has an asterisk next to it is a category in which I didn’t watch most of the movies because they weren’t “Worst Picture” nominees. However, if one of the movies I didn’t see wins an award, I’ll make a point to add it to my upcoming reviews).

Worst Screenplay: 

  1.  Movie 43. I judge comedy scripts on how funny they are (Obviously). This movie…. Was not funny.
  2. After Earth. “Danger is real…Fear is a choice….” That about says it all.
  3. Grown Ups 2. It’s post-Funny People Adam Sandler, so that should tell you all you need to know.

Worst Director:

  1. The 13 People who who directed Movie 13. Brett Ratner is one of them, which seems about right.
  2. M. Night Shyamalan (After Earth). Holy shit, it really has been 15 years since The Sixth Sense, huh?
  3. Dennis Dugan (Grown Ups 2). Dennis, just stop. Please…Just..Stop.

 Worst Prequel, Rip-Off or Sequel*:

  1. Grown Ups 2: It’s not like the original one was good, but it’s a bad sign when getting rid of Rob Schneider isn’t addition via subtraction.
  2. The Lone Ranger: I dunno if it really sullied the original’s proud reputation of racism, but it still sucked.

Worst Screen Combo: 

  1. Jaden and Will Smith (After Earth): You’d think a father/son combo would have a little more chemistry, but you’d be wrong.
  2. The entire cast of Movie 43. I feel sorry for them, but they were still awful.
  3. The entire cast of Grown Ups 2. Honestly, Nick Swardson drags this cast through the mud even more.

Worst Supporting Actress*: 

  1. Salma Hayek (Grown Ups 2): She’s the only nominee I’ve seen, but she was still atrocious.

Worst Supporting Actor:

  1. Nick Swardson (Grown Ups 2 and A Haunted House): I hate, hate, hate Nick Swardson. He’s a lock for a Razzie in whatever he’s in.
  2. Will Smith (After Earth): I expect more from the Fresh Prince.
  3. Taylor Lautner (Grown Ups 2): Though, if I must be honest, his karate moves were pretty badass.

Worst Actress*: 

  1.  Naomi Watts (Movie 43 and Diana): Honestly, though, they could have picked any actress in that movie.
  2. Tyler Perry (A Madea Christmas): What did I just see? What the FUCK did I just see?!?!

Worst Actor*:

  1. Jaden Smith (After Earth): Holy shit Jaden, just stick to your terrible rap songs, okay?
  2. Adam Sandler (Grown Ups 2) He wasn’t the worst actor in this movie, but still…

Worst Picture:

  1. Movie 43
  2. After Earth
  3. Grown Ups 2

The Oscar/Razzie Project

It’s Oscar season once again, folks, and boy, oh boy, is there ever a lot of deserving nominations for the categories. 12 Years a Slave was a potent tale about, um, slavery, American Hustle…. Had a…Good cast, Nebraska had brilliant shots of…Nebraska, I guess, and The Wolf of Wall Street was one hell of a monster movie.

“Oh, shit! Run!”

As you probably guessed, I haven’t actually seen any of the nominees for best picture. Every year, I make a promise to myself that I’m going to watch all or most of the Oscar-nominated movies, and each year, I stay home and watch a nineties superhero cartoon on Netflix.

In my defense, I think the majority of the Oscar-watching population doesn’t actually watch any of the movies. That’s okay, because there’s so much else going on. You can (Hopefully) laugh at the host, you can see all your favourite actors and actresses wear beautiful clothes and pretend they don’t loathe each other, and you may have the chance to see somebody richer and more successful than you embarrass themselves on live TV! It’s a win for everybody, really.

However, for whatever reason, this year, I feel like watching all the best picture nominees, if only because I hate being out of the know if something is supposed to be really good. So, this year, I’ve decided to watch all of the Oscar movies (That is, the Best Picture Nominees) and, after watching, each one, I’ll post a short review on this blog.

There’s more, however.

See, I’m not content with only doing the nominees for the best in film-making. I’m also insanely curious to see what the WORST in film was like this year. Therefor, in addition to the Oscars, I will also be following the little known awards show known as the Golden Raspberries (Also known as the “Razzies”).

To give you an idea of what these short reviews will look like, here is a short review on a movie I watched last night that also happens to be a nominee for ten Razzie awards:

 Grown Ups 2 

 Directed by: Dennis Dugan (Of course)

 Produced by: Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo

 Written by: Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy, Fred Wolf

 Genre: Gross-out Comedy

  Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade (Yuck), Nick Swardson (Ick) Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Alexander Ludwig, Taylor Lautner

  Golden Raspberry Nominations: Worst Picture, Worst Director (Dennis Dugan), Worst Actor (Adam Sandler) Worst Supporting Actor (Taylor Lautner) Worst Supporting Actor (Nick Swardson) Worst Supporting Actress (Salma Hayek) Worst Screenplay (Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy, Fred Wolf) Worst Screen Combo (The entire cast) Worst Prequel, Rip-off or Sequel

Plot: A sequel to 2010’s Grown UpsGrown Ups 2 tells the continuing story of Lenny Feder, his wife (Salma Hayek) and kids, his best friends, Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Chris Rock) and Marcus (David Spade) and their respective families, who have all moved back to their Connecticut hometown where they all grew up. I have no idea if I have any readers from Connecticut, but if so, I must ask: How often do deer break into your homes and urinate on you? Because that happens in the first two minutes of this movie.

Actually, “plot” is a bit of a misnomer. There is way too much shit going on in this movie, and none of it is the least bit interesting or funny. Adam Sandler movies have never been much for sophisticated plot crafting, but there was still at least some semblance of heart in movies like Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison and Click. I like to think of him as the poor man’s Will Ferrell. They’re two SNL alumni who make comedic movies with tons of heart under the somewhat lowbrow humour. Unfortunately, while Will Farrell is still hilarious, coming off critical and financial successes with Anchorman 2 and The Campaign, Sandler has not been even remotely near the top of his game for a few years now. Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy and now this.

But, I digress. Anyways, long story short, they decide to throw a party, hi-jinks and questionable cameos ensue.

Acting: Oh, Jesus, where do I even start?

I know that movies like this aren’t made to be Oscar-worthy, but seriously? These performances were God-awful, even by Happy Madison standards There are actually some damn talented people involved in this movie, but none of them even tried to do the best they could with what they got (Though, admittedly, there wasn’t exactly much to work with in the first place). Obviously, I wasn’t expecting too much from people like Nick Swardson, David Spade, Taylor Lautner, Kevin James or Shaquille O’Neal (Seriously), but I was at least expecting people like Adam Sandler, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock and Steve Buscemi to show a goddamn pulse, at least!

Worst of all are the portrayals of the women. They’re all depicted as shallow, overly nurturing and/or hormonal. Actually, they’re maybe not quite as offensive as this kid…

…But it’s still bad.

Oddly enough, the best performance was by Stone Cold Steve Austin. This is, however, nowhere close to being a credit to the incredible acting range of Mr. Austin.

Which Razzie nominations does it deserve?: 

  • Worst Screenplay: Absolutely. There was nothing funny about this movie, and it fails even when trying to be serious.
  • Worst Director: Yes. Dennis Dugan may be the furthest possible thing from Martin Scorsese.
  • Worst Sequel: Yup.
  • Worst Screen Combo: Absolutely. There wasn’t a single good performance in this movie.
  • Worst Supporting Actress (Salma Hayek): Yes. She may be one of the best actresses to come out of Latin America ever, but she sure as hell didn’t show it here.
  • Worst Supporting Actors (Taylor Lautner and Nick Swardson): Again, yes. Taylor Lautner sucked, and Nick Swardson has never once made me laugh. Ever. For all I know, he may be a nice person (Although if he’s anything like his characters, I doubt it), but honestly, at this point, I just hate the guy. (I would have also nominated David Spade, though)
  • Worst Actor (Adam Sandler): He definitely deserved the nomination, but I don’t know if I’d consider him as bad as Lautner, Swardson, Spade or O’Neal.
  • Worst Picture: Oh yeah, this was a disaster, through and through.

   Overall Score: 2/10 

Movie Review: Dogma (Spoilers!)

Well, it sure has been a while.

I guess I should begin by apologizing to any followers (All two of you) for not posting anything for around a month. I’m sure this has created a deep emotional void in your soul that only illicit substance use can come close to filling.

Yup, that was my bad.

Truth be told, I haven’t had much time for writing in this month of September, 2013, what with the start of the school year, and my getting a job. And when I have been writing, it’s usually been dedicated to trying my hand at non-fiction. And even if I did try to blog, I ended up with sub-par results, even by my standards. I ended up with a shitty back-to-school related article that I ended up shelving, and a Musician Biography camouflaged as a blank sheet.

Fortunately, I did eventually get inspiration for a movie review from one of Kevin Smith’s better known films. While not as much of a household name as Clerks, it still managed to get some positive recognition and even piss some people off. Ladies and Gentlemen, once again, give it up for…

Dogma (movie).jpg

Directed By: Kevin Smith

Genre: Dark Comedy, Religious, Independant

Starring: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee, Alan Rickman, George Carlin (R.I.P.)

Legacy: Ben Affleck’s last good pre- Hollywoodland movie before his descent into madness.

Plot: The movie opens with an old homeless man getting himself beaten into a coma by three roller-hockey playing teenagers outside of a skee ball arcade in New Jersey. Why does this sound like the setup to a George Carlin joke?

Speaking of which, the next scene takes  place in front of a church in New Jersey, where Cardinal Ignatius Glick (Played by the late king of comedy, George Carlin) unveils his plan to celebrate the centennial anniversary of his church via a plenary indulgence. For those not well-versed in Catholic theology, this would essentially mean that anyone who passes through the church doors has their sins forgiven and will be permitted to go to heaven upon death.  The references to Catholicism aren’t getting any less frequent from here on out.

Meanwhile, in distant Wisconsin, news of the plenary indulgence reaches a couple of fallen angels (Angels cast out of Heaven for rebellion against God), violent, unstable Loki (Matt Damon) and philosophical Bartleby (Ben “The Whipping Boy” Affleck), who were exiled from Paradise after Bartleby convinced a drunken Loki to renounce his job as the Angel of Death, which in God’s defense, does sound like it would be one bitch of a position to replace.

Sure, the salary isn’t as much as you’d think but really, the wholesale slaughter of the wicked is its own reward.

Anyways, Bartleby and Loki decide to set off for this church, deciding to go back home to Heaven via this loophole.

Meanwhile, in McHenry, Illinois, lifelong Roman Catholic Bethany Sloane (Men in Black‘s Linda Fiorentino) attends a sermon at church, where donations are being accepted to help out the old homeless guy in Jersey, who’s on life support. She later goes on to do her job at an abortion clinic. She’s a skeptical Catholic, by the way.

That night, Bethany is visited by the angel Metatron, who is the Voice of God (Alan Rickman) . He tells her about Loki and Bartleby’s plan and explains that if they use the loophole to get back to heaven, all of existence will be destroyed, as it would be overruling the word of God. I guess God doesn’t respond well to constructive criticism. Does this sound like someone else you know?

“Writing a nasty review for [Kevin Smith’s shitty-as-hell buddy cop movie] Cop Out is akin to bullying a retarded kid.”-Kevin Smith

However, Bethany resists the mission, as she has lost her faith in God after her divorce, a direct result of her infertility.

She wakes up and dismisses it as a dream. The very next day, she is attacked on her way back from work by the same three punks that assaulted the homeless guy in Jersey. Before they can assault her though, they are defeated by a couple  of pot-dealing Kevin Smith staples, Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith), two prophets that Metatron said would assist her on her journey. As she reluctantly accepts the journey and sets off with obnoxiously raunchy Jay and silently raunchy Bob, they are joined by Rufus (Chris Rock), the little known Thirteenth Apostle (Who was left out of the Bible for being black) and Serendipity (Salma Hayek), the smoking hot muse with severe writer’s block.

You got me. The entire purpose of this post was to have an excuse to use this photo. You would have done the same.

Overview:

This movie served as my introduction to Kevin Smith, who I only knew previously as the chubby director from New Jersey who calls people “cats” a lot. And I have to say, I’m pretty damn impressed. Smith, a lifelong Catholic, has crafted a pretty damn interesting world, and skillfully displays how to weave Catholic mythology into an entertaining piece of work. Now, personally, I’m an extremely skeptical agnostic (Though I did go to Bible Camp when I was seven) and couldn’t give one shit about somebody’s religion unless they were using it as an excuse to hurt somebody, but I must admit, this movie got me interested in Catholicism.

Well, this movie and the pope.

Now, am I going to get myself baptized at age sixteen? Of course not. There’s too many things standing in the way of me and religious faith (Namely, science and logic) but man, can I ever respect the idea of making religion actually look entertaining. Sure, the dickless angels are a bit much, but overall, I enjoyed how the movie seemed to both pick on and maintain a hopeful optimism for the Catholic Faith.

However, I do have a problem with the movie’s jokes. It’s not that I’m insulted by the digs at religion, because, as I arrogantly said before, I really couldn’t care less. It’s just that the movie seems to suffer from long stretches of little to no jokes.  I found myself more drawn in by the presentation and the performances, which is fine, but one would expect that a comedy movie, especially one starring George Carlin and Chris Rock, would be quite funny. It’s not like it’s completely humourless. There were a couple of moments where I laughed out loud, and Jay and Silent Bob were hilarious. However, maybe it’s not that the movie wasn’t funny enough. Maybe it’s just that Linda Fiorentino ruined all the lines that were supposed to be funny.

With all due respect to Ms. Fiorentino, she was utterly terrible in this movie. I didn’t like how she played her character, how she delivered her lines, or how she never, not once in the entire fucking film, broke the role of “surly middle aged woman who says everything in a snarky tone of voice.” She took me completely out of the movie, and single-handedly demotes this movie from a must-buy to a rental.

The rest of the cast, however, does a bang-up job. Affleck and Damon do great jobs as the fallen angels, and are obviously having fun with their respective roles, as demonstrated in the scene where they pass judgement on and subsequently murder a room full of fast food CEO’s. Carlin is funny, though criminally underused, and Mewes and Smith had field days with their characters. Alan Rickman was awesome, as always, Hayek was awesome (And unfathomably hot) and Chris Rock was excellent as the racially-discriminated apostle. (SPOILER ALERT) Alanis Morrisette was also in this movie, as God’s True Form, a mute Manic Pixie Dream Girl. This is more perplexing than anything else.

Overall:

Sure, there are parts where the comedy isn’t quite up to snuff, and Linda Fiorentino definitely wasn’t helping, but excellent casting (Aside from you-know-who) and an extremely interesting plot make this movie a notable, if not spectacular, indie comedy.

Musician Biography: 30 Seconds to Mars

There are a few things that are certain in this long, painful life that we lead. Specifically, death, the failure of the Chicago Cubs, shitheads on YouTube (Comment sections or otherwise) and celebrities who enter musical careers only because they once played a musician in a movie.

Ahem.

But it also seems that there’s at least a few exceptions to the aforementioned afflictions. Some people seem to cheat death against all odds including, but not excluding, Christopher Lee (Awesomely) and Fred Phelps (Unfortunately). People get out of paying their taxes all the time. Of course, by people, I mean the good people at heartless companies like General Electric. If you look past the commentators, YouTube has some good stuff on it (SourceFed, Vsauce etc.). The Cubs had that one championship more than one hundred years ago.

This seems as good a time as any to declare Fred Phelps to be an asshole again.

The exception for the last category (That is the actors turned celebrities) is the subject of today’s “Musician Biography”. Ladies and Gentlemen, give it up for:

30 SECONDS TO MARS

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Active From: 1998-Present

Genres: Alternative Rock, Neo-Prog, Space Rock, Experimental Rock, Hard Rock, SynthRock, Post-Hardcore (Early)

Legacy: The flourishing of Jared Leto’s musical career and the continuing public indifference to his film career. Also, making teenage girls buy into the misguided belief that the success of this band means prog’s cool again.

Teenage girls are into musicians for the quality of their music, right?

As you may or may not no, Jared Leto is an actor from Louisiana who has appeared in several moderately well-known movies, including Requiem for a Dream (In which he plays a heroin addict and dealer), Fight Club (In which he gets the shit beaten out of him by Edward Norton), American Psycho ( In which he is ax-murdered by Christian Bale) and Alexander (In which he plays Colin Farrell’s gay lover). He started 30 Seconds to Mars as a small family project with his brother, Shannon Leto. In 2001, the brothers recruited Matt Wachter to play bass and keyboards, and Solon Bixler on guitar. Bixler eventually left and was replaced by Croatian-American guitarist Tomo Milicevic.

Because the Leto family is, y’know, rich, they were able to get in the studio and start recording an album in 2001. In July, the band released their first single, “Capricorn (A Brand New Name)”. On August 27, 2002, they released their first, self-titled album, in which Jared played guitar, vocals, bass guitar and synthesizer. The album (Influenced in part by the science fiction novel, Dune) was received warmly by critics, who praised the lyrics, themes and musicianship. Personally, I though the album to be pretty fucking boring. On the plus side, Leto is a great songwriter and musician, but on the other hand, perhaps aside from “Capricorn”, the album is pretty nondescript and doesn’t grip me at all, but eh, what do I know?

Apparently, not too much, as the album zoomed to the top of Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart and hit 107 on the Billboard 200. “Capricorn” ended up peaking at No. 31 on the American Rock Charts while a post-relese single, “Edge of the Earth” hit No. 5 on the UK.

After touring for the album concluded, the band recorded and released another single, “Attack”, which critics and fans (And me!) adored, mainly because it showcased Leto’s amazing vocal talent. It isn’t often that an actor starts a musical career and actually has a passable voice, much less a good one.

Right, Bruce?

The following album, A Beautiful Lie, which was recorded over four years on Leto’s various film sets, was released in August of 2005 and was praised by critics (And me!) except for AllMusic, which surprises me, and Rolling Stone, because well, duh.

When you have to present terrorists in an attractive fashion on your albums to get some attention, then your musical opinion can be taken with a grain of salt, I think.

The album, which abandoned the prog metal of their first album for emotionally charged alternative rock, reached No. 22 on the Modern Rock Charts (And No. 1 in Canada!) and was eventually certified platinum, while a post-album single, “From Yesterday”, hit No. 1 on the Modern Rock Tracks (Though, to tell you the truth, I kind of hated it).

Having achieved mainstream success, the band embarked on the “Welcome to the Universe” tour, which lasted two years and solidified their rock star statuses. During the worldwide tour, they championed environmentalism (Of course they did) , shot the first ever American rock music video in the People’s Republic of China and had Matt Wachter leave the group to spend more time with his family and, eventually join Angels & Airwaves. He was replaced by Tim Kelleher, who is still with the band, but only as a touring member.

But wait a minute. What’s missing from the picture here? Hmmm…. Oh, that’s right, the obligatory dispute with an asshole record label? How could I be so foolish?

In August 2008, Virgin Records sued the band for a whopping $30 million lawsuit, claiming that the band failed to deliver the five albums that they were obligated to deliver. However, under California law, nobody can be bound to a contract for over seven years. Virgin, realizing that they hadn’t done their research in their quest to wring every last drop of money out of their bands, dropped the lawsuit and the band re-signed with them, for some inexplicable reason.

Although Jared Leto did make a documentary about the lawsuit, so maybe it was all for the purpose of an elaborate “fuck you.”

Fun fact: at the preview of the above-mentioned documentary, someone may have tried to kill Jared Leto. Could the labels have made their way from bullying and intimidation to murder? If so, then I have some potential targets that I think everyone can agree on.

Yes you, bitch.

On December 8, 2009, 30 Seconds to Mars released their third studio album, This is War. This would prove to be their most successful album yet, hitting No. 18 on the Billboard 200 charts, number 4 on the Rock charts and number 2 on the Alternative charts. In addition to this, three of the singles, “Kings and Queens”, “This Is War” and “Closer to the Edge”  got in the Top 10 pf the Billboard Alternative Charts, with the first two tracks hitting 1st place.

The album received  positive reviews as well. It is my personal favourite album on the 30STM catalogue, if only for the fact that “This is War” is on this album. Anyways, the resulting supporting tour won the Guinness World Record for “Longest Concert Tour by a Rock Band”, playing a total of 309 concert shows in just over two years.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Um, pretty much the same place as always. Their latest album, Love Lust, Faith and Dreams, showcases the bands full musical talent/pretentiousness, with elements of symphonic rock edging out a large amount of the hard rock edge. Still, it was both critically and commercially successful, hitting number 6 on the Billboard 200. Personally, I’d rate it as better than the self-titled album by far, but not as good as A Beautiful Lie. It’s just too damn pretentious for me to take completely seriously. Also, it has one of the ugliest album covers known to man.

As a rule, album covers should note make you think of Connect Four.

Movie Review: Man of Steel

When I review movies, I can’t help but be a little swayed by movie critics. Sure, everything I write, I mean or agree with, but in an era where sites like like Rotten Tomatoes can give you a quick, effective overview of whether somebody liked the movie, or whether they hated it, and if their opinion of the film was an aberration or the status quo, gone are the days when you had to watch the movie for yourself to decide, more or less independently, what are quality films.

Also, which 9% of critics and 30% of audiences should probably be separated from the general population.

But occasionally, there comes a movie where I simply cannot agree with the critical consensus. Van Wilder is one such movie (18% from critics). Another is Superhero Movie because goddammit, if it has Leslie Nielsen, it’s good enough for me.

This is about the closest Canada had to Mr. Rogers. We miss ya, Leslie.

The movie I’m reviewing today (If only because I’m feeling burnt out from my stupid baseball articles) is one that has polarized both critics and fans, unusual for superhero movies, which are usually unanimously seen as good or bad, depending on how many shitty emo dance sequences occur.

Hee hee! Look at how his cheeks wobble!

Starring the only superhero that just won’t stay dead even if some may prefer it that way…

File:Deathofsuperman.jpg

Those have got to be the weakest wounds that anyone has died from.

…Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for…

Superman, bearing his traditional red and blue costume, is shown flying towards the viewer, with the city Metropolis below. The film's title, production credits, rating and release date is written underneath.

Directed By: Zack Snyder

Genre: Superhero

Based On: Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Cristopher Meloni, Russell Crowe

Legacy: People starting to realize that producer Cristopher Nolan is probably a pretty joyless guy.

“Bitch, please.”

Quick Plot Summary:

The scene: Planet Krypton, an advanced civilization comprised of genetically engineered humanoids whose jobs are all predestined from the moment they are conceived in vitro, and flying bird things that were totally not stolen from Avatar. The time: The Kryptonian apocalypse, a result of Krypton being bled dry of its natural resources, which resulted in an unstable core. The planet’s military commander, General Zod (Michael Shannon, looking every bit the part) deposes the ruling council via vaporization, while scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe. Not singing, thank God)  and his wife Lara (Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer) launch their newborn son Kal-El, the last natural-born son on Krypton, on a spacecraft to planet Earth, after infusing him with a genetic codex of the entire Kryptonian race. What was the point of this? Fuck if I know. Zod murders Jor-El, but his coup is defeated and he is imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. However, Krypton blows up shortly afterwards, which makes going to all the trouble  of throwing somebody in jail, where he will be safe, while your own planet explodes seem pretty damn stupid, huh?

“Honestly? We were just in it for the brutality.”

Kal-El’s ship lands in what I’m going to assume is Smallville, Kansas, where he is brought up by Martha (Diane Lane) and Johnathan Kent (Kevin Costner), who christen him Clark Kent. Because Earth’s atmosphere is different from Krypton’s, or something, Clark develops superhuman abilities, including unreal strength, speed, flight, durability, heat vision and (most terrifyingly) X-Ray vision.

And the ability to make straight men’s sexuality do a complete 180.

After Johnathan reveals his extraterrestrial origins to him, he advises him not to use his powers publicly, fearing that society will reject him. This, despite humanities excellent track record with godlike beings who could crush them with a flick of the wrist.

Andre the Giant: Sent from the distant, doomed land known only as “France” to save us from ourselves.

Fast-Forward several years later, and Clark has matured into a bearded nomad (Henry Cavill) who roams the States…

Wow, you can hardly tell that both this movie and Batman Begins were written by Christopher Nolan and David Goyer, huh?

…Taking odd jobs under false names until he infiltrates a U.S. military investigation of a Kryptonian spaceship in the Arctic. Inside the ship, he discovers the preserved consciousness of Jor-El in hologram form. Holo-El reveals Kal-El’s true lineage to him and explains that he was sent to Earth in order to bring hope to mankind. After the revelation, Clark saves Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from harm when she tries to sneak in and is attacked by the ship’s security system. Upon returning to Metropolis, her story of a superhuman saviour is rejected by her editor, Perry white (Laurence Fishburne). So she then traces Clark back to Smallville, intending to write an expose on the guy that was hanging around an alien spacecraft guarded by the U.S. military. Not once did she think that this might not be the best idea.

Though if she is going to release state secrets to the public, I’m sure Julian Assange could use some company.

Meanwhile, Zod and his soldiers, who survived the destruction of Krypton have made their way to Earth and hijack the world’s communication services to demand that Kal-El surrender themselves to him, in order to use him in his sinister plan that I won’t reveal because I have the sinking feeling that this plot summary has gone too long.

Overview:

Wow, where to begin?

To begin with a negative aspect of the film, I would have to go with what feels to me like an overall lack of originality. I know that it’s a waste of breath to complain about originality in movies today, but in this film, it’s clearly obvious that Christopher Nolan “borrowed” story elements from Batman Begins. Specifically, the part where Clark goes on his journey to “find himself” or whatever, which, you will recall, is exactly what Bruce Wayne did in Batman Begins. Nolan may have also borrowed a little bit too much of the tone from his  Dark Knight series. At times, Man of Steel seems incredibly bleak. Now, I’m not one to complain about this, because I like my heroes a little bit on the conflicted side, and hey, I’m growing up in the twenty-first century. Nothing can faze me.

If I survived the Great Twinkie Drought, then I can survive anything.

One of my “Likes” is the cast. Henry Cavill, despite being a relative unknown outside of his TV show, The Tudors, did a great job, in my opinion, of interpreting Superman as he saw fit, much like Christian Bale did as Batman. Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Antje Traue (Zod’s psychopathic right-hand woman) are all excellent while Russell Crowe  and Michael Shannon are complete bad-asses. I liked Amy Adams as Lois Lane as well, I just didn’t feel like she was likable enough.

“It’s not an “S”. It’s a symbol of hope for my people.”

“Well down here, it’s an “S”.”

“Well, fuck, I stand corrected then, you pompous bitch.”

Another gripe I have about the movie is the pacing. Throughout the movie, we are treated to flashbacks of Clark’s past life. I wouldn’t have any problem with this if it wasn’t annoying and completely unnecessary. It just seems out of place, and way to frequent to ignore.

Also, while the wanton destruction was awesome and really fun to watch, even if it got hard to follow (SPOILER ALERT!) right after Zod’s tentacle machine is destroyed (SPOILER END) It can seem overblown and it may also seem that Superman ends more lives then he saves when he and Zod smash through Metropolis. This is a valid point until you realize that a)  He’s still learning how to use his powers effectively in this movie, and b) HOLY CRAP people, do you not realize that this is more or less exactly what would happen if you got two people who are literally Gods on Earth fighting each other?

Somebody. ANYBODY. Please. Make. This. Happen.

Overall:

Despite its excess, poor pacing and clearly borrowed story elements, Man of Steel succeeds thanks to its its cast, soundtrack and action make it an extremely enjoyable viewing experience.

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