Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Year One

"Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

A fumbling hunter and an awkward gatherer are cast from their village after breaking their tribes most sacred law. But once out on their own, they discover their relegation may well be their chance at greatness.

Do you remember my review for The Hangover? I used an entry archetype called "Two Cents in Two Sentences." I did this because I feared that giving a full review to a movie that was so purposefully boiled down to pure fun and slapstick might be me missing the point. I have to say I regret that choice now.

Not because my motives were off, but because to use that archetype again so soon would feel like a cop out. Which means I have no choice but to try and find a way to review Year One. If I was gonna do a "Two Cents in Two Sentences" review for Year One, here's what it would be: Save your money. Save your time.
To be honest I was curious but not seriously interested in seeing this movie at first. Then, when I found out that Harold Ramis co-wrote and directed it- my hopes were elevated. For anyone who's unaware Harold Ramis is a writer who has been sprinkling our culture with comedy gems for decades, but he is most well known for his literary coupling with Dan Aykroyd which blessed the world and all upon it with the Ghost busters movies. And I'm glad that those two delectable films will be his career's legacy, and not mundane drivel like this.

Year One's efforts at hilarity are matched in intensity only by it's failures at the same. It is another one of those unfortunate situations where you watch the preview, chuckle out loud, and think that the movie could really be funny- only to hit the stadium seating find out that you have already watched all the funny parts in the preview. It's a damn shame too because once I realized that the plot of this movie is really two morons stumbling through infamous biblical events- it seemed like the perfect opportunity for Ramis' subtle satire. Instead I got 97 minutes of dick and fart jokes.

Dick and fart jokes delivered, might I add, by one of the poorest performances I have ever seen out of Jack Black. As a closet Tenacious D. fan and a man who enjoys many of his other films, I am certainly not a Jack Black hater. But his brand of humor falls so flat in this movie that you wouldn't even know it was there if you were looking at it from ground level. And Michael Cera doesn't do much to help with his usually entertaining "straight man" schtick.

Actually, speaking of Michael Cera, let me qualify those dick and fart comments. I think dick and fart jokes have a valid place in comedy. I've seen more than one movie that knocked me dead with them. But if their all middle school quality, then the only audience they'll ever really find is in a middle school; and if you were as miserable in middle school as I was, you know that there's nothing in this world worth going back for.

Year One is made up of an all star cast, which is probably supposed to be one of the big draws. The whole movie is full of faces and names that I've seen be so completely hilarious I was left short of breath- but not one of them manages to pull off more than a chuckle this time out. I guess in the end it just proves Harold Ramis' genius: He put how many stars this movie should get in the title.

Reel Deal Recommends:
Ghost Busters: for Harold Ramis at his best.
Shallow Hal: Jack Black leads in a movie as hilarious as it is oddly touching.

Superbad: For dick and fart jokes done right, and Michael Cera at his straight man best.

Monday, June 29, 2009

FYI to all (read both of) The Reel Deal's followers!

For some reason that I cannot explain, my laptop seems to take morbid joy in murdering the font and size settings of Blogger.com's text editing program. I know not why my friends, I know not why... But I am relatively sure it is my laptop's fault because all the other blogs I read don't seem to have this problem, and because I refuse to believe that I am really that big of a moron. A bit slow from time to time maybe, but moron- I think not.
She's a sweet girl, my lappity top (yes she is a girl), but I'll be the first to admit that she has seen better days. Might I also add that her disc drive doesn't seem to wrok anymore, and that she coughs and sputters everytime I turn her over to empty her bed pan ...Ok well that second one's a lie but you follow right?
I've tried writing them in a seperate prgram and then pasting them in but nothing's seems to work. I am at a loss... But I swear to you I will continue the search for answers and in the mean time I beg of you to swear in return that you will not judge my font-follied ways. Thank you, and stay tuned for Reel Deal's reviews of Year One and My sister's Keeper.
Until then I'm Bruce Nolan, and that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


"I've Worked with better... but not many."
Nearing the end of his three year contract alone in a harvesting station on the moon, Sam Bell can think of little else than returning home to his wife and young daughter. When he starts to see things that aren't there, he chalks it up to a side affect of his solitude. But after a freak accident Sam starts seeing something deeply disturbing, and it most assuredly is there.
Sam Rockwell. I think this review has to begin and end with his name. I know I know "it takes a village", but Moon is almost a one man show and Rockwell carries it with such confidence he's got Atlas fearing for his job security. His performance is delicate, and enthralling.
Set against a backdrop created by production designer Tony Noble, while watching I was immediately flooded with memories of the Nostromo and Discovery One. It would seem Moon's Lunar installation was designed with the thought of simplicity. Anyone who knows me, knows I have nothing against the star ship Enterprise (Love you Jean-Luc) but part of the appeal here is the complete lack of unpronounceable bits of technology. Every piece of equipment, every console and panel looks completely man made- a logical progression of today's technology. That's what the best science fiction offers. Not just a future, but a possible future.
Maybe this sums up the over all feel of this film: Less is more. Moon is a purposefully simple movie, but never a thin movie. Case in point- the character GERTY. Voiced by Kevin Spacey, GERTY is the main character Sam Bell's computer assistant and the only other inhabitant on the Lunar station for the nearly three years he's been working . GERTY is essentially a plastic box hanging down from a telescoping arm (with a small but ingenious touch that I don't want to spoil here). Sounds simple right? Well GERTY also breaks most of the stereotypes this genre has set for A.I. characters. He is awesomely written, and smartly kept in the background.
This film was shot over 30+ days during the '07-'08 Writer's Guild of America strike. Director and writer of the story adapted for the screenplay Duncan Jones said during an interview that the strike allowed him to procure an effects crew that may have otherwise been unattainable. It shows in everyone of Moon's sometimes stumping special effects shots. The shots are brilliant, but like GERTY, understated to keep them believable. Think of them as the Anti-Bay.
A haunting and mesmerizing score rounds out one of the strongest science fiction ventures of the last five years. Fans of the sci-fi genre will be exorbitantly pleased. But Moon has an over-arcing and, you guessed it, simple soul that will draw in any who dare to give it a chance. Sam Rockwell.

Reel Deal Recommends:
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. This fantastic movie is where it all started for me and Sam Rockwell.
The Usual Suspects for a great movie and performance from Kevin Spacey. It's not the most original choice, but if you haven't seen this thriller you'll thank me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."

It has been two years after the climactic battle in Mission City. The Autobots, with no reason to return to their now lost home, have chosen to remain on earth- collaborating with the military to police any further Decepticon activity. Sam Witwickey, meanwhile, longs for a simpler life away from the Autobots. But when his first day of college sees him slowly unraveling with a mind full of alien data- Sam must come to terms with the thought that maybe the battle is just beginning.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the best kind of blockbuster sequel. It takes everything from it's predecessor and does it bigger and better. Unfortunately, when your talking about a sequel of a Michael Bay film, that can be just as bad as it can be good. And though in the end I'd come away pleased with the '07 Transformers, I still had some major complaints. So going in I had one question: "What annoying stuff from the first movie has gotten rolled into this one?" I quickly received my answer. What was it you ask? Well I'll tell you.

They're still trying to convince us that Shia LaBeouf is in his teens. Look, I know this is what the industry does but still, give a break huh? Their still trying to convince us that Megan Fox is hot. She's not. Yes, the pacing is still wonky. Some of the scenes seem so rushed or trivial that you wonder why they were in there at all. And apparently the lubrication jokes from the first Transformers got a lot of laughs, because the toilet humor has been ramped up by a factor of three. I'm sorry but in my opinion one dry humping joke is too many... Revenge of the Fallen has two.
So yes, in a lot of ways it was as I'd feared, much of what annoyed me about the first movie was back for more in the second. But, and it's a BIG But, I also noticed that a funny thing had happened. Something that is a true rarity in the movie industry. They actually learned from their mistakes. You remember those major complaints about the first movie I mentioned? They fixed them. Well... made them better.
For one thing, almost all of the lead characters have been fleshed out; I say almost because the role of the mother, played by Julie White, was somehow left off the list when they sat down to adminiter the upgrades. This additional depth is best summed up with a look at the Decepticon characters. In the first movie they were more set pieces than characters, who's names were only ever said in pokemon-esque self referral. This time (the lead baddies at least) have personalities, goals, and the ability to talk amongst themselves. It's unfortunate that a lot of the background for their story is given in a terribly hokey scene driven by a conversation between Darth Vader... I mean Megatron... and RoTF's main villian. But progress is progress right?
And what would a movie with giant robots be without battles? Heck, that's why half the tickets will get sold right? Well good news, this is the strongest of all the improvements. All the battles are intense and choreographed full of "oh snap" moments. More than once I found myself cheering under my breath. If only in this, I assure you- you will be pleased.

And now a word for the fanboys; if that doesn't apply to you skip down to the next paragraph. Hey guys and gals (yes girls can be fanboys)! I know that many of you, and myself as well, were displeased with how Optimus Prime was portrayed two years ago. I've had many conversations where words like "wuss" and "heartbreak" came painfully to my lips. But I am here to tell you that you will definitely not feel that way this go-around. RoTF brings us a hero every inch the man, er 'bot, we knew and loved growing up.

So there it is. Turns out the new Michael Bay film is quintessentially a Michael Bay film. We all know what that means by now; a blockbuster heavy on special effects, action, comedic relief (or attempts at such), and shots where the glare from the sun hits the lens. But just like the first time, all the jeers seem to be more than balanced by the cheers. In fact, the cheers seem to be gaining strength with each instalment. Taken for what it's worth, I think this movie is a great ride. Some will hate it, and they won't necessarily be wrong. But I probably won't read their reviews cause I'll be busy watching it again.

Reel Deal Reccomends:

Eagle Eye for another enjoyable action/adventure with Shia LaBouf.
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People for a rather fitting Megan Fox experience.
Or you could just watch the 2007's Transformers and get 'em both in one fell swoop.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A PSA from the Reel Deel

Hello friends, and welcome.  With our constant endevour t0 bring you an enjoyable and informative movie review experience, we here at The Reel Deal have decided to make some changes to our format.  No need to worry, it will be a simple adjustment.  But before we explain, there is a more pressing issue that must be addressed.  Here's your designated reviewer to elaborate.

If you'll think back (or just scroll down) to the Reel Deal review of Terminator Salvation, there was an actress who's performance I commented on, whom I referred to as "Moon Bloodgold".  Well, it has come to my attention that I have been incorrectly spelling (and hence incorrectly pronouncing) the 33 year-old actress name since the first time I'd read it off the movie poster for 2007's Pathfinder.  Her name is Moon Bloodgood, not Bloodgold.
 I'm sure that this error has completely ruined my otherwise perfectly plausible chances at being with her, but I would still like to extend a sincere apology on behalf of myself and The Reel Deal.  I hope it's not too late.  She could very well be reading that review and cursing this blog at the top of her lungs as I type... but on the other hand, she did star in Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li earlier this year- so maybe she'd be willing to call it even. 
As to the change in format mentioned early, here's the deal:
Every time I mention an actor or actress in a review, I follow it up with what I feel is another notable performance of theirs.  I do this for two reasons: 1.) Because I want to be helpful and suggest other great movies I've seen.  2.) Because it gives me an excuse to mention movies that don't really fit the criteria for a full Reel Deal review.  However, the mentioning of all these titles tends to clutter my reviews and break up the reading- so I'm going to be taking a new approach.
From now on at the end of a feature review, or any other Reel Deal article, I am going to be including a segment I call Reel Deal Recommends.  Here you will find a quick list of all the actors, or actresses mentioned in that article, as well as my recommendation on another movie of theirs you may enjoy.  My hope is that this will somewhat streamline the reviews while still allowing me to reminisce.  
I hope you find this new format to your liking, and remember- we're all counting on you.


Friday, June 19, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 123

"Yea, a little too Raph."

A subway train controller is drawn into negotiating with a hijacker who's taken one of his trains hostage. But, during their talks it very quickly becomes clear that neither man's story is as simple as it seems.

The thing that really stands out about this movie, is that there really isn't much that stands out about this movie.
Here's Denzel Washington (Fallen) playing one of his three main character archetypes: The flawed every-man, with a heart of gold. Now of course it's Denzel Washington, so he does it extremely well, but the fact remains... And on the flip side of the plot you have John Travolta (Basic), playing more or less the same (enjoyable) villian he played in Face/Off and Broken Arrow. John Turturro gives his patented "some thing's not quite right with this guy" performance, and Luis Guzman plays the guy with the Puerto Rican accent. Now, are all these performances enjoyable? Absolutely! But they're the same enjoyable we've already had and, well, enjoyed.
Alone what I've pointed out wouldn't be enough to kill a movie. Unfortunately the story follows suit. For the most part it goes right where you think it's going to. And then when it gets there, it does what you were hoping it wouldn't do. Not because doing it would make for a bad ending, but because doing it would make for the same ending you've seen a thousand times.
Many of the few outside the box moments in Pelham take the form of some strange cinematography choices. The more sensitive movie-goer may wanna drop a couple Dramamine before showtime, otherwise some overly shaky camera shots may put your popcorn bucket to some unintended use.
Take all that, mix it together and you have a 9 or 10 on the fun-o-meter and a ho-hum on the innovation scale. Not even the entertaining exchanges between James Gandolfini (The Last Castle) as the Mayor and John Benjamin Hickey (Law and Order) as the deputy Mayor can save what feels way to much like a re-run, though I guess technically it is one.
Now if your a Denzel Washington fan like me, there's really no talking you out of going to the theater to check Pelham out- in fact you probably already have since there was a bit of a delay with this review. But, honestly I can't say I feel like I really got my money's worth of movie. Sorry Denzel, it's nothing personal.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Reel Deel Presents:

Two Cents In Two Sentences

The Hangover

It's more than dick and fart jokes.  Go see it, and thank me later.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The stars align, and from the heavens comes a very special installment of:

Where in the Reel Deal gives abridged reviews of movies (and now series!) recently released on DVD.

Today's episodes:  Role Models, and True Blood: Season 1

Role Models
Imagine a comedy that starts slow, but by the end has you laughing (ad nauseam) that special kind of laugh that also gets a head shake because it's so ridiculous and yet enjoyable.  Imagine that it's an oddly heart warming, not-quite-coming of age story for both a high school age boy and a thirty something man.  Now add Stifler and a mouthy black kid.

Look, it's not that I have anything against Sean William Scott (Southland Tales)- it's just that his character Wheeler's sex antics weren't all that funny to me, not to mention they seemed a little out of place in this movie.  And as for the character Ronnie- he was just badly written, it's not Bobb'e J. Thompson's (?) fault.  They had a couple of funny moments on their own, but mostly flop.

This movie only really gets somewhere when Paul Rudd (I Love You Man) and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad, you know him as McLovin) are getting screen time.  Rudd and Scott don't seem to have much chemistry, but he and Mintz-Plasse definitely do.  To be completely honest the whole Scott-Thompson side of the story felt tacked on in my opinion.  An opinion which is only reinforced by the fact that the entire climax of the movie is based off the Rudd - Mintz-Plasse storyline.

Queue it, or Don't do it?

It's hard to give a "Queue it" to a movie that quite literally is only half good, but add to that a hilarious finale and it might just be worth your time.  Queue it, but don't expect gold.

True Blood: Season 1
The first two discs of TB only carry four episodes between them, and at the end of disc two I was ready to call it quits.  The episodes were all buns and no burgers.  There was plenty of sex and nudity, but I felt like I wasn't really getting any interesting story.  Anyone who knows me knows I don't walk in the middle of a movie, same goes for a season.  And I'm glad I didn't.

I went into episode five wishing I could break my own code, and came out not so sure I was ready to leave.  From there it just kept rising, and by the end of the season I knew I was going to watch season two.

I know your wondering so here it is:  as far as the vampires go, TB takes a few interesting stand points, but really has nothing overtly original to offer anyone who's spent anytime on their lore.  I've never read the series of books the characters of TB are taken from, but if you've ever read an Anita Blake novel this take on the undead may be old hat.  But it's OK, cause it's a hat you know and probably love so you won't mind wearing it again.

One thing I did enjoy Vamp-wise was the fact that most of the night-walkers in the series ENJOY being vampires.  I cannot tell you how annoying it is to watch fanged character after character lament their humanity.  Yes I understand it's a valid story point- but it gets a bit old and ham-handed after a while. 

Beyond the vampire's, there are still some very original moments in the series.  And as far as the writing, I found myself connecting with even my most hated characters by the end.

Watcher X says: "I don't like the way Bill says "Sookie", but I like Sookie's hair."

So, Queue it or Don't do it?

Queue it.  If your a vampire fan, you'll queue it 'cause you have to know, and overall I don't think you'll be disappointed.  If your not a fan but your looking for something a little outside the lines, True Blood should quench your thirst...

Oh come on, you know I had to...

Monday, June 1, 2009


"Oh, you're right. And when you're right, you're right. And you - you're always right."
A man in the twilight of his life aims to fulfill a promise he made long ago. But his not so simple plan quickly grows even more complicated as his solemn trip becomes the adventure of a lifetime.
Dear Pixar,
You know what, we get it. You think you make great movies. Are you happy now, I said it. But oh wait, there's an operative word there, think. 'Cause guess what, I got news for you Pixar, you don't!
Take your newest "film", and I use the term loosely. Original inventive story, one that shies away from the standard "Foreign Land" plot devices...Tsk Tsk. What, your to good for the old standards? I mean, where are the indigenous people portrayed as hedonistic cannibals? Nowhere, that's where! How am I supposed to feel like you've brought me somewhere new without the blatant racism and cultural ignorance?
And what the heck is up with your set pieces? Realistic jungle foliage. Beautiful rock formations that look almost like their fashioned after the real thing ...Oh... they are fashioned after the real thing? Well that's my point right there! We're in a recession Pixar. How dare you just hop in your private jets and fly off to South America, I don't care how much it adds to your movie.
And DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON YOUR CHARACTERS!! A bird Pixar, really? A giant bird? Never mind that his movements border on slapstick gold. If "he" can't talk, then "he" can't monologue. And if "he" can't monologue, then how could "he" possibly express motives and emotions? Poor choice. Besides, if I was gonna pick a favorite character from your lame movie it would obviously be Doug the Dog- with his hilariously scatterbrained dialogue... but I'm not picking a favorite character, 'cause your movie was crap. Pure, unadulterated, beautifully structured CRAP.
See what I'm getting at here Pixar? Are you picking up what I'm putting down? Anyone can make screen gem after screen gem if you let them use outrageous and original ideas. You just keep re-packaging the same product- a proprietary adventure that somehow manages to always entertain both kids and the parents who bring them to the theater. A one trick pony, that's what you are, and I'm sick of it. So you and your perfectly formed metaphor for how holding onto the past can hold you back from your future can leave me out of your next fiasco. Call me when you decide to do something new- like make a movie that sucks.

Your friend,
The Reel Deal