Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Campaign is Shockingly a Lame Duck

How does the combo of Zach Galifinakis and Will Ferrell fail? These two are so reliably funny, but being together in The Campaign seems to have negated each's own charms.

This movie is shockingly unfunny. The only saving grace is that the storyline of the little dorky guy with the dorky family rising up to fight the big bully has its charms.

I actually watched this several weeks ago and was trying to forget I had ever seen it. But then I thought I better write this blog now to remind myself never to watch it again.

I don't think I even laughed twice, which is almost impossible. I laugh at all kinds of dumb stuff.

Go back and watch Zach in Two Ferns or The Hangover, or Will in any of his other films.

*1/2 out of ***** stars

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Argo Was Truly the Best Movie of 2012

I admittedly haven't seen Ang Lee's Academy-Award-winning Life of Pi, but it's a crime that Ben Affleck didn't win the Oscar for best director for Argo.

Affleck is clearly a student of film. And the student has now turned master. The heartbreaking Star Wars characters and Hardy Boys books on the bedroom shelves of Affleck's son in the film. The classical music touches all the way from the Hitchcock ending-credits tune to perfectly placed classic rock like "Dance the Night Away" by Van Halen and "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin. The incredible pacing and tightly wound suspense in general.

The plot is based on a true story (almost unbelievable that it isn't fiction) in which six Americans escape from the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran as it is overrun by anti-Americans. This is set in 1979 as Iran is experiencing serious growing pains in its transition from a near-democratic state into a religious dictatorship. The more well-known hostage crisis is happening at the same time that CIA agent Affleck is creating a movie called Argo (based off a moment when he is talking to his son on the phone while they both watch Return to the Planet of Apes on their respective TVs) that will serve as the plot for rescuing the six non-official American hostages.

That it took 33 years for someone to make such a great account of the hostage crisis is amazing and perhaps a sad statement on the creativity of humanity(!) But that's going awfully negative. There is nothing negative to say about this film.

Best movie of 2012 (barely beating out Django Unchained).

***** out of ***** stars

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Best Magazine Reads: Awesome Things I Learned (or Relearned) From the Jimmy Page Rolling Stone Interview

1. Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died in 1980 in guitarist Jimmy Page's house, strangled on his own vomit, after drinking 40 vodka shots. This was the end of the band, except for a couple of reunion shows, obviously minus one of rock's very best all-time drummers.

2. Page played guitar on The Who's "I Can't Explain," which is tied for my favorite Who song with "Pictures of Lily."

3. Page never met or saw Jimi Hendrix perform, but he wished he had.

4. The Who's spastically wonderful drummer Keith Moon (perhaps rock's greatest skins man alongside Bonham and the ever-underrated Ringo Starr) was the one who actually came up with the name Led Zeppelin.

5. Page says what makes a great guitar riff is one that's hypnotic because it must be played and heard over and over again.

6. Rolling Stone routinely panned Led Zeppelin's albums.

7. Page downplays his debauchery as slightly overstated by the press and biographers. Regardless, I still love this classic tour photo of him swigging Jack Daniel's.

8. Bonus: My five favorite Zep songs, at least today, are: "Tangerine" from III, "Over the Hills and Far Away" from Houses of the Holy, "Going to California" from IV, "Kashmir" from Physical Graffiti, and "All My Love" from In Through the Out Door.

Read the whole interview here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gone Girl is a Page-Turning Mystery Thriller for Anyone Who Doesn't Have Much Time to Read

Gillian Flynn took her straight-forward style as a former writer for the non-intellectual (but great) Entertainment Weekly to compose New York Times Bestseller Gone Girl

It's excellent fiction, and the kind of T.C. Boyle-like breezy, quick-read storytelling (as opposed to that of more difficult scribes like David Foster Wallace or Don DeLillo) that I increasingly find myself drawn to at the point in my life when I'm raising one kid and have another on the way and have less time to read.

I suppose to truly conserve time, I could have waited for the movie, which is set to be produced by Reese Witherspoon's film company. But this was well worth reading ahead of time.

Nick and Amy Dunne are writers in New York City who lose their jobs and have to move back to Nick's hometown not far from Hannibal and St. Louis, Missouri. Their marriage begins to show major cracks until Amy suddenly disappears and Nick becomes the focal point of a homicide investigation.

The trick of making the story alternately narrated by Nick and Amy provides the suspense, as the reader doesn't know whose conflicting story to trust. But both are tremendously well fleshed-out characters. Gone Girl is an innovative who-done-it crime mystery.

***** out of ***** stars

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hushpuppy from Beasts of the Southern Wild Deserved the Best Actress Oscar

I already mentioned here that Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained would have been my Oscar winner. But another nominee who should have won was Quvenzhane Wallis for her role as little tough Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

I've long held a strong distaste for Best Actress winner Anne Hathaway, which makes it even more bitter to swallow this Oscar crime. But award or not, Beasts is a treasure of 2012 and a classic worthy of being ranked comparatively well with the other greatest indie movies of all time.

The large themes of global warming and Hurricane Katrina and abject poverty are captured compellingly by telling the story of this young girl and her abusive but somehow likable and sympathetic father simply trying to get by in the swamps of Louisiana. Their community is called "The Bathtub" and it's an amazing insight into a fascinating way of life that has somehow been under-explored in pop culture.

There's also a small side story of beasts being released from the melting icecaps in the Arctic. This is fantastical, and works in powerful ways that the recent film version of Where the Wild Things didn't.

****1/2 out of ***** stars