Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Movie Review: Stuck In Love

I stumbled upon Stuck In Love on Netflix. I was skeptical of the name, it sounded like one of those cheeseball romantic comedies from the mid 2000's starring Mark Ruffalo. Turns out its working title was "Writers" which makes a hell of a lot more sense, considering it is about a family of, you guessed it, writers.  Once I saw the cast consisted of Greg Kinnear, an old favorite Jennifer Connelly, a new favorite Kristen Bell and the excellent Logan Lerman, I was sold.

In sum, Greg Kinnear is a divorced father who refused to believe that his wife(Connelly) isn't coming back to him.  He snoops around her house and still sets a place for her at the table. Literally everyone he knows thinks he's a starry eyed idealist that does not live in reality. His son is one of those quiet high school kids that wastes his prolific mind pining after a girl he will never actually make a move on and his daughter is, a philosophical college student who sleeps around to avoid getting attached to anyone.

Eventually, because this is the movies and things have to happen, all the characters are forced out of their comfort zone.  Kinnear begins to start living again(all the while holding out hope his wife will come back), and implores his son to start living in general.  His daughter, Sam, meets a guy who slowly pulls her out of her cocoon (Earnestly taking care of your sick mother is a great way to pick up girls).  In much the same way as "White" "Crazy Stupid Love and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", the main character, although wounded, slowly starts taking initiative in his life and moving on and then, unintentionally starts to gain the affection that they are moving on from.  It's an old, but underutilized and rarely well executed story line that Stuck In Love, as well as the other three, nails.

The acting is amazing. Kinnear is exceedingly likable, and a lesser actor with a worse script would have made his character a moping misanthrope. Jennifer Connelly is one of those people that can show shyness, confidence, vulnerability, pain and happiness in a single smile.

The movie isn't revolutionary, and it isn't required viewing. But it is an honest movie about relationships and people.  In the end, you find out that Kinnear's character has been living in reality the entire time. And there are multiple references to Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love", which in itself wins my approval.

One last thing, ever since Juno came out with that iconic, kickass indie movie soundtrack. Every single independent movie tries to fill their movies with unknown artists playing pensive, simplistic, one instrument, mildly ironic songs to the point of irritation.  Stuck In Love does this also, but actually succeeds to the point that you don't realize how cliche the soundtrack is. So, another tip of the cap.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Great Gatsby

I wonder how many people that have criticized Baz Luhrmann's version of The Great Gatsby have ever actually read The Great Gatsby.  Maybe critics are still angry at Luhrmann for his version of Romeo and Juliet.  Sure, Luhrmann had teenagers who couldn't speak the cadence of Shakespeare scream and dance all over the screen.  Romeo and Juliet was deemed too over the top, too modern, too 90's, too everything.  People do not give credit for the trend it kicked off of Shakespeare adaptations directed toward teenagers.  After a modern, yet faithful rendition of Hamlet, the adaptations drifted further and further away from the source material, and in doing so, actually created legitimately good movies.  10 Things I Hate About You and "O" were completely modern, and completely well done movies.

But, I digress. Luhrmann received some flack, as he does, for Gatsby's modern soundtrack and "over the topness". I will tackle the "music" first.  In order to translate the feel of Gatsby's parties to a modern audience, and well, any of the numerous parties, including the one that prompted the excellent "Within and without soliloquy", you need modern music to convey the energy.

“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”

  In regards to the "over the topness", the 70's version of Gatsby was bland and unremarkable. Gatsby's home was astounding, and the parties were large, but it didn't feel special, it didn't feel energetic and it certainly didn't do justice to the idea of The Roaring 20's. Luhrmann's version produces a visceral kinetic energy that allows today's audience, which is used to overindulgence and being assaulted by various mediums, to understand and feel the greatness of these parties. To match Fitzgerald's writings, you have to create a world that exudes life and emotion and energy.

This isn't to say the movie is perfect. It isn't, and I don't like the narrative creation of the narrator writing to his therapist.  I would've preferred Nick Carraway whimsically writing his memoir's at an older age. Or plot device to structure the narrative at all, just narration, or tie it in at the end. What was settled on was weak, flimsy and unbelievable.

Overall, The Great Gatsby was a visually stunning movie with an excellent cast that did what all adaptations strive to do, effectively convey and honor the original.

Friday, May 9, 2014

1st Round NFL Draft Thoughts

I'm a man who likes to seize opportunities. So when I can mention Mike McMahon in a post, its un-American to not jump all over that.

I don't know why I watched ESPN during the 1st round of the NFL Draft. I should've watched NFL Network, I find Mike Mayock far less abrasive and far more entertaining.  But, mocking Mel Kiper is a lifelong hobby of mine and the ESPN coverage is like an Epic Fail YouTube Compilation that I keep finding myself watching.

I don't know when ESPN became this incarnation of ESPN, maybe it was when they changed sets. I hate how they create stories, and then beat them to absolute death. I don't care about if Johnny Manziel likes Cleveland restaurants. I don't care if he goes into "freefall" as Adam Schefter screamed.  I just don't care. He's a talented and entertaining college football player that doesn't project well to the NFL. Yet there he is, getting picked ahead of Teddy Bridgewater for reasons that I simply will never understand.

I don't know what incriminating pictures Mel Kiper has of the higher ups of ESPN, but after all these years of being wrong, I can't figure out how he still claws his way onto the air. My favorite Kiper display of idiocy was the 2007 NFL Draft. From the second round on, Notre Dame running back Darius Walker was ranked in Kiper's top 5 "Best Available". Guess where Walker was drafted? He wasn't. This was also the year Kiper vehemently argued for the merits of Jimmy Clausen. This actually happened.

This year, he calls Greg Robinson a "holding penalty waiting to happen". If Robinson is a holding penalty waiting to happen, does that mean Cyrus Kuandjio is holding someone right now? If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, is Cyrus Kuandjio still holding?

And the tantrum about Taylor Lewan getting picked by the Titans because it didn't match need? Why the fixation on need? You know who drafts BPA consistently over need? The Seahawks. Where are they right now? Why shouldn't the Titans draft a tackle? Oher is no lock at RT and Michael Roos is excellent but all about finesse, they need another mauler to match with Chance Warmack (my favorite o linemen from last years draft).

I hate to rave about Teddy Bridgewater, as that is often the kiss of death for any rookie quarterback. I liked Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Jamarcus Russell, Troy Smith, the list goes on. Bridgewater isn't perfect, but he was by far the most NFL ready qb in the draft. And yeah, he needs to work on his deep ball, but the overemphasis on arm strength is shortsighted. You need zip, you need to be able to drive the ball into tight places, but vision, anticipation and accuracy are far more important traits.

Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Matt Stafford, Andrew Luck all have massive arms and are good quarterbacks. You know who else had cannons? The aforementioned Jamarcus Russell, Mike McMahon, Ryan Leaf, and the always inconsistent Carson Palmer. The difference between the two groups? Work ethic, fundamentals, anticipation, accuracy. Bridgewater has all of those. So, now that I've damned Vikings fans to more bad quarterback play and yearning for the days of Dante Culpepper, I'll take my leave.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hashtag: Soapbox

A shit show like this OF COURSE is going to work out for our heroes, come on, this is Hollywood. 
I think this will be short and sweet, but we won't find that out until I finish my last word. 

Starting with the realization that Clarence was supposed to die from a head-wound at the end of True Romance, as any good moviegoer knows, I find myself in shock they settled on the crutch of life and let him live. They even filmed the original ending. However, spoiled and pampered audiences hated the ending and the plot was forced to change for the friendlier, happier of him riding off into the sunset with Alabama, head bandaged and asleep, with only bright days ahead for them.

When I compared this happy couple in love to another happy couple in love, I preferred the other couple. The couple is none other than Romeo and Juliet.  

I think she gets naked. 
Take these medieval fools as an example of how things should be done. They court each other, faced obstacles from the start, but overcame them enough to give themselves false hope. Then the false hope converts to disappointment, passed off as earnest, but nonetheless pretty misplaced. Add in more assumptions and overreaction and they both rightly die. The medieval times didn't need a happy ending. In fact, nothing about the medieval times were very happy in the first place. Hmmm... in fact, I think this whole story is just as guilty of being full of shit as True Romance. Think about it, medieval people didn't have Netflix where they could just have a lazy Sunday filled with marathoning a TV show they're finally getting around to seeing. No, they fucking worked non-stop. Food was a constant source of worry. Winter came and who knew if you'd even survive it. There wasn't central heating. Fun was asking for a death sentence. I bet there was a medieval Joe shouting from a cabbage box about how ridiculous an idea it was that Romeo and Juliet were even doing anything but working. Seems like a silly idea now that I think about it. 

I think you'd have to go back to the Romans and the Greeks to find good stories that didn't pamper everyone,  actually full of events that would actually happen. But I digress.

Back to True Romance so we can finish this up. He should have died, she should have died. They were in the middle of a brawl containing law enforcement, mafia, and rich Hollywood egotistical snobs. It would have still been a good story if they died. Or even if she lived somehow, I feel like both of them living and then running away with the money is like the Washington Wizards making the NBA finals, and then improbably beating whichever juggernaut makes it out of the western conference. Low probability. I hate it when movies don't make any sense. Remind me to talk to you about The Island sometime.