CAFFEINE RUSH: DIE HARD IN A STARBUCKS

24 Mar

Vera-Farmiga-roar-1600665-374-450

1. The Croods/Fox                                       Wknd/$ 44.7             Total/$ 44.7

2. Olympus Has Fallen/FD                        Wknd/$ 30.5             Total/$ 30.5

3. Oz The Great & Powerful/ Disney        Wknd/$ 22.0             Total/$177.6

4. The Call/TriStar                                       Wknd/$   8.7            Total/$  30.9

5. Admission/Focus                                     Wknd/$   6.4              Total/$    6.4

6. Spring Breakers/A24                               Wknd/$   5.0              Total/$    5.4

7. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone        Wknd/$   4.3              Total/$  17.4

8. Jack the Giant Slayer/Warners             Wknd/$   3.0              Total$    59.1

9. Identity Thief/Universal                         Wknd/$   2.5              Total/$127.7

10. Snitch/LGF                                               Wknd/$   1.9               Total/$  40.3

DID THEY CHECK THE DIRECTOR’S RESUME?

The Croods opens at number one and I stopped seeing every single CGI animated film that comes down the pike awhile back because the allure of the sheer beauty of the imagery wore off long ago.  They ALL look good so they have to bring something more and I honestly didn’t see anything all that appealing to me in the trailers here.  The early indications that this young girl’s curiosity brought her family into a new way of life were seemingly abandoned for scenes of silliness in a way that say, trailers for Brave took pains to avoid (not that Brave didn’t ultimately disappoint me too).  You knew that film possibly was essentially about character in the midst of everything else.  This film is about jokes where fire is thought to be a living thing you might to try and hide from in the dry grass.  Yeah, exactly.  No matter how often Pixar succeeds with both heart and actual wit other companies still are content to just coast on the most basic belly laugh or gag and leave out the former entirely.  What’s sad is that one of the directors actually comes from Disney, having worked as a writer on Beauty & The Beast, Mulan, The Lion King, Aladdin and the underrated Lilo & Stich. The other director, however, brought us Chimps in Space.  ‘Nuff said.

VALHALLA, HOWEVER, IS STILL OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Olympus Has Fallen is a glorious R-rated throwback to the action films of the 80’s and I mean that as a compliment.  For most of the 80’s and well into the 90’s every other film was “Die Hard on a ____.” Speed was actually sold as “Die Hard on bus.”  Passenger 52 was “Die Hard on a plane.”  And Under Siege was “Die Hard on a warship” (its underrated sequel was “Die Hard on a train”).  It’s such an effective storyline of a man against the odds it almost always works no matter how inept the talent.  I’ve seen film that was “Die Hard in nuclear silo” with Dolph Lundgren another that was “Die Hard on a military transport plane” that were both enjoyable on a late Saturday night on cable.  But even I drew the line at—Zeus as my witness—one set at a beauty pageant.  Maybe if they’d let Miss Alabama be the hero instead of some dude…  That this opened well isn’t so much a surprise as the fact the basic plot a) hasn’t been done before (there’s another one coming this year with Channing Tatum and Jaime Foxx) and b) the basic “Die Hard on a ____” concept has been left languishing sometime.  No cliché goes unturned here.  Our hero is one type of badass (Secret Service) with a history of being another type of badass (special forces; it’s always special forces) who has suffered a type of traumatic failure in his past (in this case saving the president over the First Lady) and the ongoing crisis is a way to redemption.  Also the villain is of course an international terrorist aided by a traitor (his motivation? The bailout of the banks, I shit you not).  While it seems like this continues making North Korea our new boogey men (because everyone lacks the balls to make it China whose backing of North Korea is ironically the only reason it’s still standing), it honestly lacks even those balls and he is actually unaffiliated, missing the brilliant twist of Die Hard of the bad guys just being thieves pretending to be terrorists.  Some of that self-awareness would be been welcome here, but it wasn’t missed thanks to a steady stream of non-stop, blood-drenched, wise-cracking hero action that moves steadily enough that you never stop to think about how utterly stupid and improbable this all is. You know, like Die Hard.  It also has a solid cast of actors good enough to keep a straight face and sell this, probably with the knowledge it will pay for another project to remind people they are actual actors.

YOU MUST BE THIS TALL TO RIDE THIS RIDE

Oz The Great & Powerful is down to number three, followed by The Call at number four and speaking of Under Siege, also in this is Morris Chestnut who was in Under Siege 2 and for awhile he was in contention for who’d be the next Denzel Washington along with Taye Diggs and few others only to wind up the lead in smaller films and a supporting player in larger ones because apparently there’s a height requirement to be THE African American leading man and none of them met it.  Personally, I feel it’s what ultimately limited Wesley Snipes. It can’t simply be because he was nuts because so is Nicholas Cage.  Nope. America wants it’s leading man negroes tall. Let me put it this way: Sidney Poitier is 6’2”.

BLERG THE MOVIE!

Admission opens at number four and while I understand why, after seven years of writing and starring in a weekly show Tina Fey would like to just show up for work, the simple fact is she shouldn’t appear in anything she doesn’t write because we have certain expectations from just seeing her onscreen and there’s no way something from one of the directors of American Pie is going to live up to that.  There was not one ounce of the trademark wit we expect from her in the trailers for this and so her fanbase clearly took a pass fearing what most critics have now confirmed.  Come on and give us the thinly veiled Liz Lemon we want on the big screen, Tina!

YOU DON’T SEE  JENNIFER LAWRENCE DOING THIS

Finally opening wide and entering the top ten at number five is the most discussed movie at the moment, Spring Breakers, which honestly is a relief because I swear I’ve been reading about this for a year.  It’s most noted for being yet another attempt by child stars trying to grow up by doing something edgy and honestly that they’re not playing drug addicted hookers instantly makes it better than most attempts.  Here, they’re girls who decided to fund their spring break by committing a robbery on the way and it continues on a downward spiral there once they meet a corn-rowed James Franco who seems considerably more invested in this role than Oz and has the reviews to match.  My lack of interest in seeing this is actually the reason most seem to like it: its deliberate haze of sleaze.  I felt nauseous just watching the sun-drenched dayglow trailer.  I could practically smell the vomit from vodka-laced drinks, so I can’t imagine sitting through two hours of it.  My other reason is how hipsters are flocking to this, making it “the” film to see and then quote as if they’re doing something subversive, much like the actresses making it.  It’s ironic, dontcha think?

SOON RETURNING TO A WEEKLY TV SHOW

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is down to number six and also in this as mentioned last week is Olivia Wilde whose minutes as the “hot girl” of the moment are ticking away thanks to yet another disappointing movie.  This started off with Cowboys and Aliens, continued with The Change Up on through the disappointing Tron: Legacy and add to that The Words, In Time, Deadfall, People Like Us and Butter.  Only London in WWII saw so many bombs.  But if you need any more confirmation of her questionable taste know that she had her choice of men in Hollywood and is now engaged to Jason Sudeikis.  Yeah, I said it.

THE UNSPOKEN TRUTH ABOUT RYAN REYNOLDS

Jack the Giant Slayer is down to number seven, followed by Identity Thief at number eight and speaking of failures, what does it say that a poorly reviewed film starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy is a hit, while a poorly reviewed film starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds tanked?  I think we know.

SOME PEOPLE CAN’T GET OUT OF THEIR OWN WAY

Finally, Snitch closes out the top ten at number ten and somewhere rather than simply do his own version of Die Hard, The Rock is signing contracts for a spin-off of Fast & The Furious and probably another bad family film which the sole point of humor is this big dude dealing with a kid.

BAD BOOKS MAKE GOOD MOVIES MAKE MEDIOCRE TV

TV never stops (thank god) and this week’s new entry is The Bates Motel, a prequel series about Norman Bates and his mother, Norma. Hell, that he was named after his mom is pretty much all we need to know about why Norman started hacking people up.  This however, purports to give us even more answers to questions we never asked and honestly it lost me at Norman’s hot teacher advisor at high school (yes, it’s “I Was A Teen Psycho”). Had she been played by an older, less attractive woman it would be more of a shock that she dies one day, but that she’s young and hot, you can practically see the countdown clock over her head ticking away.  Ditto the very forward hot teenage girl who practically mounts him within moments of their meeting and her equally hot friends. Someone’s gonna notice that the varsity cheerleading squad all died soon after Norman came to town, no?  Yes, they’re trying to set the town up as already having dark & dirty secrets, but clearly those aren’t the type with an escalating body count that would command notice. I love Vera Farmiga.  She’s pretty much great in everything she does and this is no exception.  You see her casual passive aggressive possessive behavior to Norman clearly laying the groundwork for his demented persona and she does it all well without leaning over into camp.  Now, the film opens with a scene strongly suggesting that she’s murdered her husband and even if she didn’t, she clearly could give a shit. This is why it didn’t need a scene with her killing a guy but only after he handcuffs and rapes her on the kitchen table (the assailant is the previous owner of the hotel who resents her buying it from the bank).  Rape is a cheap, lazy device in the hands of most writers and it would have been the same scene if he’d tried and failed (Norman does show up to his mother’s rescue).  It would have been even better if he’d returned drunk but non-violent saying he’d found away to get his hotel back and she killed him. It would have been better if Norman had encountered him first and assaulted him and his mother then killed him and told Norman he was responsible  There were far too many ways to make a statement about her character and setting Norman for a nice dose of mother controlling guilt than a graphic rape scene.  I won’t even get into Norman discovering Japanese comic book porn, which is clearly supposed to be aiding his way into darkness. That’s when you know they just stopped trying. I’ll be sticking to the fun silliness of The Following and giving this a pass. Besides, I already know how it ends.

“HEY, I’M PHOTOGRAPHIN’ HERE! I’M PHOTOGRAPHING HERE!

The greatness of New York isn’t merely that the space in my neighborhood where a hardware store used to be is now a gay bar called “Hardware” (get it?) or that it’s right around from another gay bar called “FairyTail” (get it?).  Not, it’s how New Yorkers simultaneously don’t give a shit about you but have no problems getting all up in your business.  Case in point, Friday night. I haven’t been doing much of my beloved night shooting because now that the enthusiasm of both riding my bike and taking photos has diminished a bit, I’m simply not willing to spend hours out in the cold any longer, here in our neverending winter (apparently that’s what was keeping me warm).  But I finally screwed my courage to the sticking place and went out to try and complete my Upper West Side shooting that I started when I did Central Park West on another buttfucking cold night.  This time I went up West End Avenue then down Broadway and the entire way it was either completely ignoring the loon with the camera out in the cold or “Hey, whatcha shooting?”  “What settings are you using?” “Are you making a movie?” And my personal favorite, “Hey, cameraman! Take a picture of this!”  I’m genuinely surprised the last one was fully clothed, but I guess it was too cold even for the most devoted exhibitionist perv.  What’s funny is you know they don’t do this to tourists so I was clearly recognized as someone who belongs. Seems finally getting a NY State drivers license did the trick.  Now, with the exception of the Logan’s Run-esque 96th Subway station, it wasn’t as picturesque as I’d hoped but then again I still do kinda suck so it’s probably just me, which makes me wonder if the less-than-memorable Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues will be worth shooting at night. One is best known for a bar scene so annoying the community board of my neighborhood made it a point of trying to zone so we didn’t become “Like Amsterdam Avenue” and the other isn’t known for anything at all. It makes me think pictures of my penis wearing tiny costumes is a worthwhile project after all.

SO, WHAT YOU’RE SAYING IS SEXY ISN’T COMING BACK?

Now there was no way Justin Timberlake could have lived up to expectations after a six-year-gap, but he didn’t do himself any favors making every song 8 minutes long then dividing it up into two albums.  Better to cut out the mediocore songs entirely and just release the best tracks from both albums as one good one, but no one asked me.  Why don’t you ask Maxwell how that worked out for him after more than a decade of waiting? Oh, wait. We’re still waiting of the second part of that two album release. Have we learned nothing from Nelly’s “Sweat” and “Suit” disaster?  What I do like is “Shift To Reverse” from a singer/songwriter named N*Grandjean and part of me hopes he never succeeds thanks to that pretentious fucking bohemian bullshit name (I felt the same way about Musiq Soulchild and got my wish), but this one track is awesome. Because I’m old I had to hear it on a TV show. In this case House of Cards.  And yes, I Shazamed it. But thanks to my Pandora station I’ve discovered Michiko and Little People.  Yes, it’s all the same kind of chill music, but I’m old and this is all I can handle now.  Case in point “La Vie En Rose.” One of the oldest songs ever, but there’s a version by Duo Gadjo that I simply cannot stop listening to.

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