Mega Catch-up Movie Blitz (Part 5)

June 28, 2012 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (2011)

I have always been a fan of the Harold and Kumar series despite its tendency to be very hit-and-miss. And you really can’t go wrong with any film that features Neil Patrick Harris.

In this third installment, Harold (John Cho) has married his dream girl Maria (from the first film) and works on Wall Street. Kumar (Kal Penn) is still the same old stoner who failed to become a doctor after flunking a drug test. It’s Christmas, and of course, the dynamic duo team up for one more wild adventure. This time, it’s finding a Christmas tree.

To be honest, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas is perhaps the lamest of the trilogy. It doesn’t quite have the freshness of White Castle or the outrageousness of Guantanamo Bay. This is a “family” film, so to speak. But you know what? It’s still freaking funny a lot of the time.

As usual, there are some dud jokes thrown in there, but the good thing about there having been two earlier films is that you know Harold and Kumar’s personalities so well now that the laughs all come fairly easily.

Great to see Cho and Penn back in awesome form. Penn, in particular, had to resign from his post in the Obama administration to take the role, and there is a cracker of a joke about that in the movie. Needless to say, Neil Patrick Harris, who is supposed to have been fatally wounded in the second film, is back, and in peak condition. The always intimidating Danny Trejo (I last saw him in Machete…actually, in the PS3 game, The Fight) is also pretty good as Maria’s dad.

3D Christmas will probably go down as the weakest film in the series but fans of the two stoners will no doubt still be able to find plenty of amusement from it.

3.25 stars out of 5

Haywire (2011)

Okay, so Steve Soderbergh, the Oscar-winning director of Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Oceans Eleven and Contagion is a pretty big deal. No wonder he managed to get guys like Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas and Michael Fassbender to be in an action flick headed by an MMA star, Gina Carano.

Basically, Carano is a government agent who gets set up. Bad idea, because she knows how to kick some serious male ass. The story is a little convoluted for my liking but part of it has to do with Soderbergh’s distinctive style. Whenever the film gets into the fight scenes, however, the story is happy to take a back seat.

I don’t know much about Carano and I don’t care much for MMA, but I suppose the action in Haywire is pretty cool, somewhat Bourne-like in its pace, brutality and supposed realism, except with a less shaky camera and an actress that really knows what she is doing when she’s bouncing off walls, bashing heads in and choking people into submission. As a thespian though, I think Carano still has some work to do. Not horrible by any means, but could be better.

At the end of the day, Haywire is a decent action flick – but it just won’t be a very memorable one.

3 stars out of 5

Hesher (2011)

I’m a huge fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Tremendous talent and versatility. And there’s no one quite like him in Hollywood. I was recommended Hesher by a bunch of people and I had a ball with it. The big surprise is that the screenplay was co-written by Aussie David Michod, the genius behind one of the best films from last year, Animal Kingdom.

It’s a highly-random, WTF kind of movie about this dude, Hesher (played by Gordon-Levitt), who intrudes the life of a weird little boy called TJ. He’s dirty and scruffy, walks around bare-chested, has awesome tattoos, smokes a lot, and does heaps of crazy and random things. To be honest, he doesn’t do a lot, and the things he does don’t always make sense. He’s just…there.

It’s really hard to describe what this movie is about or why it is so compelling to watch. The comedy in it is jet black. It’s not for everyone but I laughed out loud frequently and ferociously. Unbelievably, it has Natalie Portman in it. And she’s funny too, in a strange kind of way.

Towards the end, the movie moves ever so slightly from its path of irreverence to toss in some unexpected poignancy. It was something I had dreaded but surprisingly, it worked, in a Hesher kind of way. It’s not the kind of movie I would put in any “best of the year” lists, but it’s one I could definitely see becoming a cult classic.

4 stars out of 5

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

This was a film that divided critics and viewers alike. Some thought it was a heartfelt tribute to those who lost loved ones in 9/11. Others thought it was a pretentious, manipulating tear-jerker that failed to hit the mark.

I belonged to the latter.

The idea, based on a 2005 book of the same name, is not bad. A kid (Thomas Horn – who, amazingly, became an actor after competing on Jeopardy) loses his father (Tom Hanks) in 9/11. He finds a key in his father’s belongings and sets out on scavenger hunt through the five boroughs of NYC to find out what it opens, meeting a bunch of people along the way.

For starters, you need to be able to buy into the whole premise about there being something magical about this kid’s adventure. I didn’t have a problem with that. What I had a massive problem with was the kid, who comes across as someone who will grow up into one of the most annoying and obnoxious adults on the planet. I’m not entirely sure if it is the character or the performance, but it’s probably a lot of both.

For me, the whole thing just felt wrong. I didn’t find it entertaining or exciting. I found it desperately trying to elicit an emotional response, one that I could not squeeze out. I was surprised, because the director, Stephen Daldry, was previously at the helm of The Reader, which had its flaws but was on the whole pretty good.

The film was not poorly made, but personally, I hated it. It must be one of the worst Best Picture nominees at the Oscars – ever.

1.75 stars out of 5

Gift Cards are so pointless!

January 5, 2011 in Blogging, Social/Political Commentary

I was just down at the post office to pick up a package that had been sitting there for a couple of weeks (thanks to the flawless efficiency of Australia Post) and noticed the incredible variety of gift cards on display.

Really, it was crazy.  According to the Australia Post website, there are over 40 brands of ‘high profile gift cards’ ranging from Country Road to Angus & Robertson to Event Cinemas to iTunes to freaking AMF Bowling, and range in value from $20 to $200.

I have received and given gift cards before, as much as I am ashamed to admit, but seriously, what is the point of them?  If you are going to be lazy enough to not pick out a specific gift for someone, why not just give them cash?

There are a host of reasons why a company might want to offer gift cards for their stores, products and services (and these are listed at the Australia Post website here), but why would anyone want to give or receive a gift card when a much better alternative (ie cash) is available?

A specific gift means you actually put some thought into what that person wants or you think they might want.  It also has the advantage of disguising how much you spent on them (provided you remembered to remove the price tag).

Contrast that to the mighty gift card.  First off, it shows you didn’t put much thought into the gift, if any.  I don’t care so I’ll just give them a gift card for somewhere and they can go buy something there.  Secondly, it tells the receiver exactly how much you spent on them, to the cent.  There’s no more passing off a $100 gift you spent $30 on (because you got it on sale).

But the most illogical thing about gift cards is that they are awfully presumptuous of the giver because they assume that the receiver would actually want to purchase something from a particular store.  Or perhaps, they think the receiver should get something from a particular store, or watch a movie, or go bowling, or read a book, or buy a song.  It locks them in.  Forces them to spend money on something they might not really want.

Which begs the question — why not just give cash?  Let’s face it — given the same value, we would all rather have cash than a stupid gift card.  It’s exactly like a gift card, except you can spend it wherever you want, whenever you want, or you don’t have to spend it at all!  It’s also less presumptuous, and unlike gift cards, you can actually get change back when you purchase something less than the full value (rather than a silly voucher for next time).

Think about it.  Are gift cards really that much less impersonal than cash?  Does the fact that you went down to the post office (or store) and thought about which card to get offset the obvious disadvantages of a gift card?  Have we all been duped by this now massive industry that is in fact completely pointless?

Merry Xmas and It’s a Festivus For the Rest of Us!

December 25, 2010 in Blogging

I still remember this movie from when I was a kid. It sucked.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Can’t believe it’s been another year.  A quick one, full of writing, reading and movies.  Lately it’s been a lot more movies than the other two, but hey, it’s the festive season!

This year we did some charity work and had a big family BBQ with the in-laws.  Lots of fun, and a great time to reflect on how lucky we’ve been for another 12 months.  Now if I can just win that mega lotto draw…

Two things I want to discuss this Xmas because I feel like it.

The first — one of my favourite anti-Xmas holidays, Festivus.  I have nothing against Xmas personally (nothing against Jesus, the economy needs it and people feel good about themselves).  I just really like the idea of Festivus — the pole, the “airing of grievances” and my personal favourite, the “feats of strength”.

Here is a video.  Gotta love Frank Costanza.

The second, is Larry Bird’s Xmas present to Chuck Person.  The Boston Celtics and the Indiana Pacers played on Xmas day.  Bird went up to Person (they had a bit of a heated rivalry) and told him he had a Xmas present for him.  During the game, while Person was on the bench, Bird caught the ball outside the three point line right in front of the Pacers’ bench.  After Bird launched the three pointer, he turned and said, “Merry F*&@ing Xmas” to Person, just before the ball fell through the hoop.

Now that’s a great Xmas present!

Couldn’t find a video of it, but here are a couple of other videos in the same vein that display Larry Legend’s greatness.

Merry Xmas!

Review the Best Christmas Movie Never Made!

December 18, 2010 in Movie Reviews

According to Wikipedia’s List of Christmas Films, there are a zillion movies made about Christmas.  There have been many good ones, plenty of bad ones, and countless more just waiting to be made.

With that time of the year approaching again shortly, Best For Film is running a very interesting competition — to review the best Christmas movie NEVER made!

First prize is £100 plus a movie poster based on your imagined movie created by the design team that did the posters for The Hurt Locker, The Last Exorcism, The Losers, etc.  Very cool.

For more information on the competition check out the details here.  They’ve even provided some examples as a guide.

Personally, I’m thinking of writing one about a Star Wars Christmas Special featuring Chewbacca’s family.  Hang on…

Happy Holidays!

December 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

About Writing wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2010!