Friday, April 16, 2010

Jack Burton is Training His Dragon!

No, not these assholes.

This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.

Every few years or so, there comes a film that includes such a remarkable scene that it literally impacts the world around us. In 1992, everyone wanted a magic carpet ride. Five years later, everyone wanted to be king of the world. Then everyone wanted a hippogriff in 2004. Now, dragons. How to Train Your Dragon 3-D includes such an amazing scene of flight that--despite it being an animated feature--you feel a huge sense of exhilaration, vertigo, and yes, even romance. It can't help being compared to the magic carpet ride from Aladdin, and it more than holds its own. Well, the entire movie is kind of like that. It's absolutely fantastic, a thrilling film with plenty of heart, pitch-perfect comedic timing, and charm enough to make even the most grizzled, behind-his-quota movie cynic wish, at least for a moment, for a dragon.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel of this one of the few other films I enjoyed this year, She's Out of His League) spends his days working and daydreaming against what appears to be his predisposition to being a viking washout. It's a tentative issue, considering his father (Gerard Butler) is the viking head honcho, a warrior of legendary status, while Hiccup can barely lift a sword. But the kid's got heart, as he must in these films. He yearns to be accepted into viking life, and to earn his place in society. But when Hiccup manages to capture an elusive dragon that's never been seen or studied by the vikings, he discovers mercy in himself and ultimately friendship in the dragon. The dragon's been injured and Hiccup must create a prosthetic piece to go on the dragon's tail in order for them to fly. Along the way, Hiccup is put in training to fight dragons with a group of other viking teens. He has a crush on one of them, Astrid, a rough, picture-perfect viking teen. As Hiccup trains with his dragon, he learns their species' foibles and use them against the dragons he trains with, thus elevating his status among the trainees.

The trainees with whom Hiccup works are an incredibly well sorted bunch. My favorite was Fishlegs Ingerman, the fat, dorky viking (Christopher Mintz-Plasse... "McLovin") who possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of dragons and spouted out traits of each in the form of Dungeons and Dragons verbiage.

So the only downside? Well, the love story kind of develops out of nowhere, and in a superficial way. I didn't really dig that. I wanted more there. But it's a children's story. It shouldn't make you hesitate in the least.

It's a heartwarming story of acceptance in yourself, from your parents, finding love, and finding friendship. Obviously these are all themes that resonate and echo through the best of children's films, but How to Train Your Dragon really juggled these themes well. Combined with the excellent CGI, I really can't say anything more except: if you haven't seen this, go see it.

Cost Breakdown:

16.00 for a ticket
4.00 gas

20.00? I'm willing to pay full price for this on blu-ray. So yes, go. Go now. This actually topped Shutter Island as my favorite film of the year... but my Kick-Ass review is coming... how did the kid in green do? Till next time, Pork Chop Express is signing off.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Clash of the Titans Sucks.

And it started out as such a good day.

This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.

Caught the 10.45pm Clash of the Titans 3-D viewing with Hombre Lobo, Home Theater Hans, and a few other friends on Thursday evening. I'm not sure if it's my worsening eyesight or what, but this was perhaps the worst viewing experience I've ever had at a movie theater. No lie. It was absolutely unwatchable.

First of all, they showed the movie in one of the smaller theaters. For 3-D. What? And they charged 16.00. Are you fucking kidding me? The lighting in the film was already dark and "busy"--add to that the dark ass 3-D glasses and guess what? You can't see shit. This is one of the few times I wished I was in the first fucking row. Absolutely unwatchable. I found myself watching the film without the 3-D glasses, for god's sake.

And the trailers looked so promising. Alas, Sam Worthington phones in yet another performance. I really don't see the appeal in this black hole of screen presence. No charisma, no acting chops, and a generic, forgettable look. I actually preferred him in Avatar than in this mess. Louis Leterrier, the director of the Incredible Hulk (the Ed Norton one, aka the good one), helmed this affront to humanity so I guess a lot of the blame falls on him. It's weird. He was the only reason I thought this film would be any good. I really loved the Incredible Hulk and thought that Clash would be the exact kind of film that Leterrier could handle flawlessly. But no. It's uneven, the themes are not resonant, the tension isn't set up properly, and the film is fucking boring. Boring.

How can a film with huge scorpions, Medusa, Pegasuses, a city-devouring Kraken, a badass villain (Hades), and people made of bark (like on the trees) be boring? Fuck if I know. Right off the bat, the film sets up some conflict between humanity and the Olympian gods. But it's not fleshed out. We have no idea why people give two shits whether they should pray to the gods or not. Apparently the gods are such dicks that the people are rebelling against them. But we never see them be dicks. No, instead we get boring ass narration about how Zeus loves the people and he's too nice to them. Jesus fucking Christ, is it too much to ask to show us why the people reject the gods? And on top of that, the filmmakers dig themselves deeper with some theme of humans espousing the pride they find in being human. Being "a man" and all that shit. Give me a break. Throughout the movie, Perseus (Worthington) goes on about how he can complete the quest "as a man" because he rejects his demi-god status. Cue eye rolls and walkouts.

And so Argos, a rebelling city, is being threatened by the Kraken, a huge octupus/orc-like thing that eats cities and is controlled by the manipulative Hades. Perseus sets out with a band of city guards to hunt down Medusa and bring her head back so they can use it to turn the Kraken to stone. Simple enough, but boring nonetheless.

Anyway, so the tension is fucked 'cause we don't particularly hate the gods so we're not on Perseus' side, really. And lord knows Worthington doesn't have the charisma to make us like him for the sake of liking him. He's just blundering through as he always does, though I guess if I was a fan, I'd call his acting style "understated." His companions are utterly useless. The leader of their quest, Draco (Mads Mikkelsen) seems to have some interesting personality traits, but they're buried under the uneven handling of the film. He goes from asshole to grudging, Yoda-esque figure to "oh I'll die for you, Perseus!" a little too quickly and frankly he's not given much to work with. The shining point in this film is, naturally, Ralph Fiennes' Hades. Yes, Mr. Voldemort himself. Fiennes is putting together quite a list of iconic characters. I loved his take on Hades. He was creepy, dignified, and a complete badass. After learning how Zeus tricked Hades into becoming lord of the underworld after their rebellion against the Titans, I found myself rooting for him, Hades. I wanted him to wipe Argos off the face of the earth and take Zeus down off his high throne.

And that's apparently not what I should want, because it didn't happen. Maybe the film's a tragedy. Either way, this film, while epic in scope, didn't deliver. The special effects were by turns excellent and shitty. Medusa looked like something a first year college student created. The 3-D was a waste of time because the film wasn't filmed in 3-D. Word to the wise, my friends: Don't bother watching any 3-D movie that wasn't filmed in 3-D.

16.00 fucking dollars. How the fuck does this thing rate as a 16.00 dollar movie? Pretty low. Pretty low indeed.

Cost Breakdown:

0.00 on a ticket. Home Theater Hans paid and I haven't paid him back yet... sucker!
4.00 on gas

So. 4.00 dollars. I want a fucking refund.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Jack Burton Relaxes in the HOT TUB TIME MACHINE

Sometimes you make amazing films. Sometimes you make 2012.

This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.

Full disclosure: I love John Cusack. And I don't mean it in the way that I love puppies, or fat, lazy newborns, or bad Chinese food. I mean I respect him and his work. It's not easy making as many iconic 80s films as he did and coming out relatively unscathed (Neve Campbell aside). Also, I really like wearing my white tank top. It shows off my pecs and biceps particularly well.

Well, back to the topic at hand. I caught Hot Tub Time Machine with Hombre Lobo and my cousin a couple days ago. Did I go in expecting the world? Yes. Did it deliver? Yes. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. The world. And everything in it. Now, you might disagree with me. Might. But let's be real: what could this film possibly offer that would top the premise, the style, and the hijinks that the trailer offers? Nothing. Everything's laid out for you. You have to be absolutely incompetent not to figure out what this film is all about. And it hits every note.

So for the sake of the status quo: John Cusack plays John Cusack, a relatively nice guy who's fallen out of touch with his two best friends: the black dude from The Office, that bald guy that was on The Daily Show and a few episodes of the incredibly unappreciated Arrested Development. So along with Cusack's nephew, that fat kid who's boinking that super hot best friend chick (who looks exactly like porn star Jessica Jaymes) with whom he acted in Sex Drive, they revisit the ski resort paradise of their youth. Yes. It's a fucking skiing movie. I can only shake my head at the sheer brilliance of this. And I am being completely serious.

They arrive at the town to realize that it's gone through some seriously shitty times and end up in their suite's hot tub, drinking their brains out. As the trailers indicate, they end up back in time, reliving Winterfest '86, a weekend of debauchery and awesomeness. There are the must-haves for any 80s film: the douche bag ski instructors, commie hatred, a music/dance number, a concert by Poison, and legwarmers. Watching this film unfold felt like coming home to mom, only to find mom no longer there, but replaced with that hot best friend chick from Sex Drive.

So mix in some Back to the Future conflict, some Terminator logic, some seriously hilarious scenes from the bunch, and you have one of the finest comedies I've seen in years. It's irreverent, charming, and absolutely fun to sit through. Are there moments that don't hit? Of course. Every comedy has it. Does it kind of lack a heart (a la Forty Year Old Virgin)? Yes. Absolutely. But it's not here for heart. It's here to send up and pay homage to the great 80s films that we saw or were relegated to late night viewings on the USA network in the early 90s.

But what saves it then? Rob Corddry. He steals every single scene he's in, be they getting his ass kicked by douche bags or convincing John Cusack's nephew to participate in a threesome with him and a random hot chick. By the time you see the black dude from The Office curse out a nine-year old version of his wife over the phone, you're pretty much nodding to yourself and thinking, "Y'know, this is going in my collection."

Cost Breakdown:

21.50 for a ticket, a chili cheese dog, and a large soda.

Yes. Yes. And yes again. Go see this! I could have bought the blu-ray for the price. And I still have the chance. Till next time, Pork Chop Express is signing off.

Friday, April 2, 2010

She's Out of This Year's Crop of Movies' League!

This doesn't happen in real life.

This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.

Well, the year is looking a little more promising. I'm just dropping in after a horrible viewing of Clash of the Titans with a few words about the under-appreciated She's Out of My League which I caught a little while back with Hombre Lobo. Right off the bat, it's formulaic, it's obvious, it's predictable. And it's got some damn funny moments. Are any of them really original? No, not at all. From ball-shaving to premature ejaculation, you really feel like this is little more than a retread of the American Pie films. The good ones, I mean.

The story is simple enough: lovable loser, Kirk (Jay Baruchel), finds himself being wooed by the incredibly gorgeous, down-to-earth, intelligent, funny, charming Molly (Alice Eve). Along the way of their not-so-common courtship, we meet his best friends, his ex-girlfriend who has become closer to his immediate family than he, Molly's ex-boyfriend (who is, of course, awesome), and a few choice scenes with her best friend and family are thrown in. Well, we all know how this works out, right? Kirk suffers from low self esteem which (of course) sabotages their relationship at a critical moment and then they have be brought back together for the final, happy ending. Cool. We all know what we're getting, and dammit, I like these endings, so I don't really mark down for predictability.

But why watch it? Because there are some genuinely funny moments, all of which center on Kirk's friends. They're the real stars of the show. They're the characters that effect the most change, that really grab the viewers. And I don't know if that's intentional--maybe it's a side effect of the incredible charisma the underrated T.J. Miller, who plays Kirk's best friend Stainer, possesses. The story is just as much about the people surrounding a relationship and how they negatively or positively impact said relationship. So it's not really a surprise when the climax feels more about the friends "getting it" than anything to do with the main characters. And I liked that.

Cost Breakdown:

10.50 on a ticket.

4.00 on gas

14.50? Not bad. I'll probably buy it on blu-ray. Until next time, Pork Chop Express is signing off!

I'll be posting reviews of Hot Tub Time Machine and Clash of the Titans soon!