Friday, April 30, 2010

Random musings...

I tried the supposedly "new and improve" Domino's Pizza tonight. I was expecting some fantastically noticeable change. Instead I got the impression that they just made the sauce a littler zestier. Yes, it tasted better than the last Domino's pizza I had eaten, but it didn't knock my socks off. I'd give it another shot. Maybe I can act unimpressed enough that they put me in a commercial. Eh. Or Not.

This afternoon I went to the movies since I had the day off. I wasn't working because I saved a couple days for a long weekend, so that I could get over the fact that I didn't go to Vegas this year. *sigh* The movie of my choosing was "Kick Ass". I don't feel like giving a full review, but I can say that I enjoyed it.

The interesting thing is that I was the only one in the theater for today's matinee. That was simply awesome. It was like having a private screening all to myself. That doesn't ever happen. Gotta love Green Bay for not being into movies based on little known comic books. Well, that or the unemployment rate here isn't as high as I thought.

The Brewers lost again tonight. They were shut out AGAIN! What the hell? How can they unleash the fury one week and then struggle to score a damn run the next week? The pitching hasn't been all that bad on this dive into run scoring oblivion. It would appear that when the offense is stinking, the defense steps up. It works the opposite way as well. Ken Macha needs to get his team on the same page. That or he needs to get his coaches in line.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Passenger Side" review

                Many of you have probably never heard of an actor that goes by the name of Adam Scott.  Despite that, many of you have probably seen him on the Starz show “Party Down” or the movies “Step Brothers” or “Leap Year”.  He has had bit parts here and there in dozens of movies and shows and somehow remains under the radar.  I thoroughly believe that needs to stop.  Adam Scott is a talented actor that deserves a big break.  (Personally, I can’t wait for him to join the cast of “Parks and Recreation” for a recurring role.)
                I suppose you are wondering as to why I am gushing about this Adam Scott guy.  That is an easy question to answer for you.  I recently saw him in two excellent independent movies.  One of them, named “The Vicious Kind”, I was able to view on Netflix instant streaming.  The other was shown at the Wisconsin Film Festival and it goes by the name of “Passenger Side”.  Scott played two vastly different characters in the two movies, but it presented an opportunity for me to see the range that the guy has going for him.    I highly recommend that you go ahead and rent “The Vicious Kind” when you get the chance.  It is worth your time.  However, “Passenger Side” is not on DVD yet and still could get a wide release in theaters.  Regardless of that, I feel compelled to share my thoughts on this darling little indie gem.
                “Passenger Side” has Adam Scott playing Michael, a small time writer living in Los Angeles.  The movie opens on Michael’s birthday when he gets a call from his brother, Tobey (Joel Bissonnette), who needs Michael to give him a ride around town to complete some errands.  Michael is skeptical and initially refuses to help his brother, most likely because Tobey is a recovering drug addict.  With hesitation, Michael agrees to help his brother out.  This sets the story in motion.
                In a nutshell, “Passenger Side” is a road trip movie where the protagonists come across a cast of odd characters and engage in unpredictable acts of happenstance.  The interesting thing is that although it is a road trip movie, it all takes place with the immediate confines of Los Angeles.  Being from Wisconsin, I found it incredibly fascinating to see the different parts of the west coast’s biggest city.  Some of the people that the brothers come across would seem to be ripped right out of reality, whereas others are too good to be true.  Either way, they are amusing and exist for more than just laughs.  Every circumstance that Michael and Tobey come across allows them to display a little bit of their personal character.  It is character driven story telling that packs a punch.
                A few important things are learned early on in the movie.  Tobey starts off with no idea that it is Michael’s birthday.  He also tries to convince Michael that he has joined the church of scientology.  On top of that, Tobey does not disclose to Michael what in the world he is doing on the errands.  This last one creates a building conflict which has a payoff that propels the plot to the next level.
                If I had to describe “Passenger Side” as a comedy or drama I would tell you that is a perfect mating of the two genres.  When the movie wants to be funny, it has you laughing your ass off.  When things get serious, you start to feel for the characters.  Essentially, you are along on the road trip with Michael and Tobey, experiencing the highs and lows as they do.  The writer/director, Matt Bissonnette, does a fantastic job putting together the scenes inside the car so that they don’t feel claustrophobic.  A good portion of the movie does take place in the car, but it does not stop the movie from going somewhere.
                Adam Scott is just excellent in this movie.  He carries with him a knack for great comedic timing and the ability to display emotions with just minor changes in his facial expression.  It is real easy to relate to his character, which may very well have been the goal of the filmmakers.   There is one particular scene in the first third of the movie where Scott just shines.  I would tell you more, but I would totally ruin it for you.  All I can say is that Michael comes across quite a character and his reaction to her is worth the price of admission.  You’ll know what I am talking about when you see it.
                “Passenger Side” was not necessarily the funniest movie I saw at the Wisconsin Film Festival, but it was the most sound with narrative.  It knows what story it wants to tell and who its characters are.  That is something most big budget blockbusters could only hope to accomplish (I am looking at you “Transformers” movies).  Watch out for this one.  When it comes your way in any form, you need to see it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NFL Draft

I currently write this to you from the confines of historic Lambeau Field. I have been camped out here since 2:30 pm. Why? Well, if you have to ask, then you probably don't deserve to know. The annual Packers draft party is going on. I am up in Curly's Pub scoping out the picks, having some food, and taking in the atmosphere. I have gotten some free trinkets handed my way since I got in here. I didn't expect that much. I also was handed an autograph ticket for later on. Brad Jones and James Jones are going to be here for that. That's cool, right? I think so.

About an hour into my stay here at my command station in the corner of the pub, a reporter from WBAY Channel 2 asked me a few questions on camera. Apparently the so called interview was aired because my phone lit up.

Shit! I should have brought my James Jones jersey to be signed. Sigh. Oh well. He will be back next year. He is always at these things...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happenstancing With Myself

It is no secret to me that this blog can be pulled up by doing the right Google search. I say a lot of various “things” here. Some probably could shine a dark light on me. Crude comments, vulgarity, and the occasional politically incorrect comment could give someone a bad impression of me. I better shape up real soon. You never know when you might have a potential employer being shady and doing a Google search of you during the hiring process. It is a good thing I am not currently in a situation where a new job could be affecting by the naughty things that I say.

Oh wait. That is exactly the situation that I am in right now. Well, I really wouldn’t worry about it though. I do have to give them credit if they manage to find this blog in the first place. I can’t really judge them either. Who doesn’t Google the shit out of people when they are looking to hire him or her? If I were an employer I would be Googling people before I even interviewed them. It would probably be a good idea to keep that quiet though. There might be some law about hiring practices that prohibits the use of Facebook photographs to disqualify candidates from job opportunities.

Hold on a moment, I think one of my neighbors is masturbating in the hallway.

Nope, guess not. Who knows what that noise was? Could have been a hook handed murderer for all I know. Oh fuck. I used the word masturbate in this blog. That can’t be good if someone Googles me. Honestly, though, I should probably be worried about someone important finding this. As it turns out, it isn’t as hard to find as I thought. This was a fact that I discovered in the past couple days via Twitter and a simple search of my name. Yes, I did search my name because I was curious as to what dirt would come up on me.

This is the point where you are wondering what the hell I am talking about. A few days ago I posted my very positive review of an indie movie I saw at the Wisconsin Film Festival. That movie was called “The Scenesters” (review is here). It was awesome. I made that very clear and will continue to say as much. Well, some people found this review. First, Mid Winter Productions, the company that produced the film, started following me on Twitter. Upon checking the Twitter page, I saw that they linked to the review. Cool, right? Then tonight I was trying to see which of my skeletons would emerge from Google when I discovered that one of the stars of the movie, Jeff Grace, posted a link on his Facebook fan page. Awesome, right? The guy even put the link up on his official website.

It was cool to get some acknowledgement for something I wrote. Normally I only get acknowledgement from the customers whose emails I answer every day. That isn’t so exciting nor is it amusing in any way. None of them have ever made a movie or anything. This latest development is ten to twelve levels cooler than any of that.

There’s that noise in the hallway again. Maybe it is an omen or something. Perhaps that means I should stop writing about blogs affecting my job prospects. Hmmmm.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review of "The Scenesters"

Several months back I would have told you that I expected the funniest movie I would see all year to be “Hot Tub Time Machine”. Well, when I had seen that movie it was momentarily the funniest movie I had seen. That was until last night when it was bumped down a notch on my list after I watched a little indie gem called “The Scenesters” at the Wisconsin Film Festival. Not only was it the funniest movie I have seen in quite some time, it is also the best all around film I can recall seeing as well.

Yes. You heard me. I said it was one of the best films I have seen in quite some time. Not just comedies, but all movies I have seen in 2010. I even enjoyed it more than that over produced and overrated smurf adventure, “Avatar”. The real interesting thing about “Scenesters” is that you probably have never even heard of it. Most independent films end up never even blipping on your radar. It is a shame because there are plenty of great movies out there waiting for you to discover. “The Scenesters” is an example as to why you should personally make an attempt to seek out independent movies to view. There is a lot more heart and care put into these movies and it shows with the final product.

“The Scenesters” is a dark comedy unlike anything you have seen. You might think you’ve seen it done before, but your assumptions should be dispelled after the movie gets going. Portrayed as a legitimate documentary, the movies fuses together a patchwork of video sources including a hand held camera, court room footage, newscasts, surveillance video, and even a music video (an amusing one at that). Despite the handheld shooting, there is not a shaky sense of nausea like other films have given. The clips are put together masterfully to form a cohesive narrative.

The premise of the movie is introduced when an upstart filmmaker named Wallace Cotton (Todd Berger) has to take a job video-taping murder scenes for the Los Angeles Police Department. This is because his attempts at making his own movies haven’t been that successful, which is probably because he isn’t very good at it. His friend and producer, Roger Graham (Jeff Grace), is simultaneously working on a meta-documentary about the film making process. When Roger learns of Wallace’s new job, he decides that the best idea is to have his full production crew assist Wallace at crime scenes. This is an absurd thought, but Roger convinces his good friend by pointing out that making a full production of it will make him “the Los Angeles crime scene videographer” as opposed to just “a Los Angeles crime scene videographer”.

When the premise is seemingly set, Wallace’s crew finds the protagonist for their documentary when they meet Charlie (Blaise Miller), a crime scene clean-up worker. Charlie becomes their focus when his keen observation skills come across several key clues that the police miss at a two murder scenes. The evidence he finds happens to point to the murders being connected and being the work of a serial killer. Charlie wants to inform the police, but Roger and Wallace have different ideas. They decide that their movie is now about Charlie finding a serial killer.

During the investigation Charlie comes across several interesting personalities. Heading up the police investigation is Henry Muse (Kevin Brennan) an overzealous detective who seems to be more interested in promoting his band rather than solving crimes. His partner is Carlita Travers (Monika Jolly), who is to be the hard-nosed by the book type who doesn’t want Wallace’s crew getting in the way. These two aren’t in the movie to just for the sake of being rivals to Charlie’s investigation. They actually provide their own type of comedic relief whenever they are on screen.

Complicating things for Charlie is that he keeps running into his ex-girlfriend, Jewell (Suzanne May), a local news reporter. Roger, thinking the film needs a love story, manipulates them into spending more time together. This approach conflicts with what Wallace wants to do with the movie, so we are treated to some hilarious conflict between the filmmakers.

It sounds cliché to say that a movie delivers wall to wall laughs, but when it is true it needs to be said. This is the case for “Scenesters”. Todd Berger, who is credited as the writer and director, put together a story that builds up steam as it gets going. The dialogue is sharp and enhances by the skilled comedic timing of the actors delivering the lines. Jeff Grace stands out from the rest of the cast. He could be a big star if he manages to get a role in any mainstream project. Drop him into any sitcom on television and he would improve it. However, the rest of the cast deserves just as much credit. Every one of them is funny in virtually every scene you see.

Despite being filmed with handheld cameras, “The Scenesters” looks like a major studio film, but with the sensibilities of an indie flick. It is a combination I would like to see more of with movies. To craft a great story with engaging characters while making a good looking movie is hard to come by these days. So often do we have to sit through movies that only have two of the three (or in the case of “Avatar”, just the part that looks good).

It will be a while before most of you will get a chance to see “The Scenesters”, unless you happen to come across it at your local film festival. I ultimately hope that a major studio will considering distributing it in a wide release. With the proper marketing, it could be big hit. There is no word on when the DVD will be released, so all I can suggest is that you keep your eyes peeled for this one. Needless to say, “The Scenesters” comes highly recommended by this guy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Easier With Practice" Review

“Easier With Practice” tells the true story of Davy Rothbart (Brian Geraghty), the creator of FOUND Magazine, who receives a mysterious and random phone call while staying in a cheap motel. On the other end of the line is a woman named Nicole (Katie Aselton) who manages to engage Davy into an awkward session of phone sex. As odd as it would appear, Nicole and Davy seem to make some sort of connection with one another and the phone sex relationship continues thereafter.

This all occurs while Davy is on the road promoting his book of short stories. Complicating matters is that his brother Sean (Kel O’Neill) is along for the ride. During the course of the road trip, Sean gets suspicious of Davy’s distant behavior related to the mysterious phone calls his brother is receiving. Davy’s conversations with Nicole become increasingly personal, prompting Davy to ask for a meet-up. Nicole tells Davy that is not going to happen. She also refuses to give him her call back number. In essence, Davy remains isolated despite the intimate moments he shares over the phone.

The complicated phone love continues for Davy when he finishes the tour and arrives back at home. He is unable to focus on his day to day life because of his minor obsession with Nicole. This even affects his opportunity to reconnect with a romantic interested named Samantha (Marguerite Moreau). It doesn’t take a detective to see that the situation is nothing more than a personal mess that Davy needs to sort out. The movie follows him as he copes with the consequences of the world’s most unorthodox relationship.

“Easier with Practice” is the first completed work of writer and director Kyle Alvarez. You would never guess that it was Alvarez’s first efforts in writing or directing. The movie has a solid story that would have been difficult to shoot if the director didn’t understand the feelings that needed to be portrayed. Alvaraz manages to visually display Davy’s isolation and thus lets the film justify such a messed up phone sex arrangement. He also manages to convey an awkward feeling for nearly all 100 minutes of the film’s running time. You can’t help but wait for the bottom to fall out on Davy.

Brian Geraghty manages to convey his character of Davy as sympathetic rather than creepy. Not that someone having phone sex should be seen as creepy, but there is a natural tendency to see the act as unnatural. We are able to see the emotion and depth behind Davys actions. A lot of actors would fail to pull of this role because they would make is seem way too comedic. That is the key importance for “Easier With Practice” to work as a whole. Although the story is farfetched and unbelievable, the story comes off as plausible. As a viewer, I was able to root for Davy rather than be appalled by his actions. This is a grand accomplishment for both the actor and director.

Apparently this movie is available on DVD. If you are looking for a movie with a little depth and a quirky sensibility, then “Easier With Practice” could be a solid rental for you. It supplies a dramatic tone overall, but understands that there is some humor to be found in Davy’s situation. There are several good laughs and the story is engaging enough to follow through the end. I definitely suggest that you do watch the entire movie because the payoff is well worth it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You are a fickle bitch, insomnia

Today was a whirlwind. Well, more like some shit storm of uncertainty. I mean that in a good way though. A few options for my future were presented at realistic possibilities today. I was really hoping for one at a time rather than two being thrown in my face in the matter of minutes. But that is what happens and I will deal with it. Hopefully none of it blows up on me like a backpack of 160 year old dynamite.

Those of you I give a crap about know what I am talking about or will know sometime tomorrow. I would explain myself, but this really was just one of those moments where I wanted to free my mind by typing away. As much of a snarky smartass as I can be, I have to be honest and vulnerable here for a moment. I am a little scared and confused at the moment. Nothing bad is on the horizon, but I am plagued with uncertainty. This can only lead to a little insomnia. That’s nothing new though. I’ve been waking up randomly for the past week or so.

Insomnia is the most contradictory thing the human body does to a person. It is usually caused by stress and anxiety and is a reaction by body to those stimuli. It is a crock of shit, really. How dumb is the human body that it decides that keeping you awake is the best way to deal with psychological turmoil? Logically sleep would be a great way of creating calm. Nope. The human body has different plans. It would rather you not sleep for days until you eventually hallucinate and hold up a bus full of Mexican immigrants because you think one of them is the secret leader of an alien race sent to Earth to stop Hollywood from making any more Twilight movies. Honestly, insomnia is the human body’s equivalent of giving a box of pixi stix to a kid with ADD. It won’t be pretty.

My peace and serenity this week is that tomorrow (Wednesday) is my last day of work for the week. On Thursday afternoon I am heading to our glorious state capital (that’s Madison for you out of state people) to see the Wisconsin Film Festival with some of my best of friends. It will be good to get away from this dreary little box of an apartment. I look forward to the opportunity to be a film snob and review a bunch of movies none of you will ever see. I may even use big words and pop culture references only creepers and nerds will understand. Then I will use an arbitrary rating system that is not consistent with any other rating system I have used in the past several years. You’ll be confused as hell, but will continue to read because you know somewhere in my critical narrative will be an inappropriate or polictically incorrect comment. Some of you will be looking for a laugh while others will be looking for another reason to despise me. Either way, I come out the winner because I am getting some form of attention, one way or another. It is a fantastic phenomena and can only lift my spirits.

Holy shit, that triple shot of espresso has me shaking and sweating like Tiger Woods reading a tabloid. That probably wasn’t the best idea for me earlier tonight, but I didn’t want to fall asleep on the couch again. It is a sad existence when you waste half your night drooling on the couch until your cell phone vibrates which causes you to mumble incoherently while you pat your hand around to find it. There is that moment of confusion where you aren’t sure what time it is and you believe you just may be late for work until you look outside and see it is still dark out. Yeah, it is a sad existence indeed.

But hey, at least my backpack wasn’t full of dynamite.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My review of "Date Night"

On Saturday I went to a movie alone. Since I am a fan of irony, I decided to see “Date Night”. That was the main reason. The other reason I chose that movie was because I can’t help but like Tina Fey. Regardless of the reasoning, I did see the movie. Now I probably should share my thoughts.

“Date Night” was funny for the most part. Where it excelled was in the witty banter between Tina Fey and Steve Carell. The basic portrayal of these two as a couple was as spot on relatable as you are going to get in a movie. Neither is exactly smoking hot, nor are they by any means ugly. They look average and behave average. That believable dynamic is what works when they get thrust into an unbelievable situation.

The plot of the movie finds Carrell and Fey playing The Fosters, a New Jersey couple looking to spice up their mundane life. They do this by changing up their routine and heading into New York City to hit up a trendy new restaurant. They get there, but don’t have a reservation. This causes them to steal a reservation from a no show couple. As it turns out, that couple (played by James Franco and Mila Kunas) stole something a mobster finds very important. Long story short, the Fosters get mistaken for the shady couple. The rest of the movie involves the Fosters running away from danger and trying to find a way out.

It is formulaic. There is no secret that it has been done before. However, the difference with “Date Night” is that our protagonists react exactly how they should react. At no point do they get too brave or bold like countless numbers of movie characters have done before. In a sense, the Fosters do all the smart things. This doesn’t always work out for them and even causes a few cliché physical comedy bits.

You probably already assume that “Date Night” is a bunch of crap. I think it is fair to say that the movie will surprise you. There is some merit to having strong comedic actors in a movie like this. Fey and Carrell can carry even the most poorly written scene (something that Kevin James or Adam Sandler will never be able to do). I suggest you go for a matinee. It might not be worth $10 to you. A matinee or a future DVD rental should seem like a fair deal for most people.

If you do go see “Date Night”, I should tell you to look out for a few key elements of the movie that stand out and deliver. Early in the movie Steve Carrell has a great exchange with Mark Ruffalo’s character about the character Long Duck Dong from the movie “Sixteen Candles”. You would never think that would ever be discussed on screen in a movie, but it was and it was quite funny. James Franco comes out kicks some ass in his brief appearance. It seems that he may be the best young comedic star in Hollywood these days. I get the sense that he isn’t afraid to do anything for a laugh. That is a trait that can only be good for all of us in the long run. William Fichtner shows up later in the movie as a corrupt district attorney. Yeah, William Fichtner, that guy from that movie. You know, the guy who has small bit parts in like every movie ever. You’ll remember him as the astronaut that fights Bruce Willis in “Armageddon”. Anyway, Fichtner is gold in “Date Night”. He is creepy and sleazy in a way a lot of actors could only dream to be in a role like this.

I give “Date Night” three out of five stars. Fey gets five stars.