13 April 2014

Untimely Movie Reviews: Muppets Most Wanted

I’m a Muppets fan. I grew up watching the show, and The Great Muppet Caper is still one of my all-time favorite movies.

However, the recent reboot of Muppet movies has not tickled my Muppet funny bone. I liked The Muppets just fine. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible. And that’s pretty much how I felt about Muppets Most Wanted.

The one thing that this movie did better was actually casting people who can passably sing and do basic dance moves, unlike Jason Segal. (Plus Jason Segal always kind of creeps me out a little bit for some reason.)

You might think Ricky Gervais would be a terrible lead, but to my relief he did not play Ricky Gervais. (I have no beef with Gervais, but it’s often my fear that well-known comics just end up playing exactly the same character whenever they are cast. I’m looking at you, Will Ferrell.) Plus he started his career in a band, so his voice was decent to good in the one song he sang.

With that introduction, here are four reasons to see the movie and three to not see it. Or at least three reasons to manage your expectations.

To See…

1. Costumes: Ty Burrell’s suit is absolutely spot on (bless you, Brooks Brothers) and Tina Fey’s Russian uniforms are spectacular. Even Miss Piggy was rocking it with her British houndstooth tweeds and her sequined wedding dress.

2. Music: Bret McKenzie once again wrote a handful of original songs for Muppets Most Wanted that are infectious and fun. Among them, an excellent doo-wop number and a very Flight of the Conchords number called “I’ll Get You What You Want.” Plus, the Muppets do The Muppet Show opening in Spanish at one point in the movie, including flamenco guitar.

3. The Gulag: All the scenes and actors associated with the Gulag are delightful. Tiny Fey is the perfect iron fist. Additionally, Ray Liota, Danny Trejo and Jemain Clement each bring their own brand of delight to their roles as lead prisoners.

4. Cameos: There were some seriously awesome and unexpected cameos from James McAvoy to Hugh Bonneville (with an Irish dialect!) to Saoirse Ronan to Tony Bennett. However, see blow for the other side of this coin.

Or not to see…

1. Cameos: Some of the cameos were great — the stars had lines and their appearances lasted more than 20 seconds. Some of the cameos were ok, they had lines, but it lasted about 20 seconds. Some of the cameos were wasted. I mean, who gets Tom Hiddleston to do a cameo then decides to only have him on screen for literally 15 seconds with no lines? At least he got to do a funny bit. But poor Russell Tovey got the shortest end of all the sticks. He had a line, but his face was in view for about 3 seconds and he got no comedy bit.

2. Plot:  I know, of course the plot is going to be formulaic, it’s a Muppet movie. They want to perform, they somehow divide as a group and may not perform, they have to remember to stick together as a family and work hard, and then they get to perform.

However, it always surprises me that there’s a chunk somewhere in the middle of these reboots that seems to drag on forever. I mean, they’re Muppets, tell more jokes or do more gags or something.

3. Pacing: Speaking of drag, I’m not sure how it’s possible that the movie at times feels like it jumps around too much while it drags in places. The exposition is a whirlwind and they travel from Hollywood to Berlin, Madrid, Dublin, London and Siberia, but still there is some drag.

10 March 2014

Work Rejects: "Bitman Begins"

Sometimes I write stuff or have ideas for work, but because of the often overly conservative nature of the company I work for, I can't use it. Here is such a thing. See if you can guess why I can't couldn't use it. (Hint: It's in the actual video, not the writing.)

HOLLYWOOD — There’s something satisfying and oddly endearing when Hollywood makes fun of itself, especially when they take the joke very seriously.

Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel put such a moment together with four Hollywood superstars.

According to Kimmel’s YouTube channel, adapting books into movies is tired, so Hollywood should start adapting viral YouTube videos into movies instead.

“Our plan is to escort the movie business into the 21st century, so we enlisted the help of some of the greatest talents in the world of film to help us adapt popular YouTube videos into big-budget Hollywood movies,” the YouTube channel jokingly said.

Cast: Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and brothers Chris and Liam Hemsworth
Remake idea: “Bitman Begins”

The “movie trailer” is based off “Batman Begins,” but instead of a superhero being born out of the tragic death of his parents, a revenge plot is born out of a brother being bitten on the finger. It’s all very dark and dramatic. In a hilarious way.

Kimmel has made other "YouTube Film" sketches with even more stars that aired during his post-Oscars show. You can see them all on his channel. But be warned, they’re not as good as “Bitman Begins,” and come off as much less thought out.

Other stars that participated in the series include Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Kingsley, Mandy Patinkin, Gary Oldman, Christoph Waltz and Kevin Spacey.

29 January 2014

5 Tips and a Rant about Men's Appearance

I have strong opinions. Shocker, I know. But I try to lay my thoughts in front of people as just opinions and keep the word “should” to myself. Who am I to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, after all?

That being said, I still have my peeves that drive me crazy. And if you catch me on certain days at certain times and in a certain light, I might just should all over you.

For example, the other day a male acquaintance was justifying some clothes choices because it’s “easier” and he “doesn’t want to think about it.” He was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a hoodie on his way to a work meeting in a business casual office. 

Banana Republic: Pants, shirt, jacket, done.
Now, I'm not against a casual look. I wear hoodies as much as my activities allow. But he was going to a meeting that his boss, his boss’s boss and his boss’s boss’s boss were going to be at. His reasoning, and I almost quote, “It takes me about 2 minutes to get dressed: pants, shirt, jacket, done.”

I could not let this slide, because it would take the same time and it’s just as easy to put on a pair of non-denim pants, a button up and a better casual jacket or sports coat (Well, it’s just as easy if you have them in your wardrobe.)

In the end, I believe it’s all about the old “people fear what they don’t know” adage. He knows how do dress casually, and fear keeps him from doing otherwise.

But here’s the deal, it is comparatively so easy for men to improve their appearance. I’ll probably be eternally frustrated that most men (at least most American men) just won’t spend a one-time, relatively small time investment to figure out some lifetime knowledge regarding clothing that would absolutely not make getting dressed any more difficult or time consuming or less comfortable.

So here are five general beginning tips that aren’t overwhelming and scary for you men to improve their appearance.

1. Ask for help. A sales person’s job is to help you and most of them have a lot of experience and know what will fit you best. I used to be one myself, and I would take great relish in truly helping someone find something they look and feel good in. Bonus tip: If you’re super nice, many sales people will bend over backwards to get you what you need.

2. Wear slimmer pants. I did not say wear skinny jeans. (per se) What I mean is wear pants that fit and have a modern, slim cut. You may have to try on a few pair to find what size and style are for you, but that will potentially take you only 20 minutes in the right store. And if you like skinny jeans, go for it.
3. Leave your gym shoes at the gym. There are plenty of choices that are just as comfortable but look infinitely better, from Vans to Italian leather.
Teva chukka built for comfort, looks good too.

4. Ask your wife or a trusted female friend. I bet you dollars to doughnuts that many have had thoughts about your appearance and can pull up viable choices that will not offend you in less than 3 minutes on the internet. However, I would leave moms out of this unless your mom is particularly in touch with modern styling.

5. Last, but not least, don’t underestimate the power of basic hygiene. I believe I speak for a fair number of women when I say that this is very important to how attractive you are to them. Here is a simplified list:
  • Trim your nose hairs (we do)
  • Pluck those stray hairs between your brows (we do)
  • Keep your nails trimmed and clean (we do)
  • There is no shame in face moisturizer, use it (we do)
  • Use chapstick, don’t let your lips crack or peel (we don’t)
  • If you can’t grow a beard, don’t grow a scraggly, wishful beard
  • If you can and do grow a beard, shave your neck
  • Bathe at least every other day (yes, many still must be reminded of this) 

I will happily address any specific questions you have about men’s styling, comment away.

01 December 2013

Untimely Movie Review: "About Time"

Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams, Domhnall Gleeson
Directed by Richard Curtis

Most Romantic Comedies are a dime a dozen. Cue the perfectly coiffed girl with optional awkward best friend meets tall, meaty man with optional "bro" friend(s). Insert gross misunderstanding that would be resolved in two minutes if they just talked to each other. End with a dramatic chase where boy catches girl right before she leaves town (or visa versa), and neither of them really apologizes or explains themselves, but they get to make-out as the camera moves to a wide, crane shot.

This neither resembles or represents anything in real life, and, as a matter of fact, it's not even good fantasy. 

Full disclosure: I partake in these shenanigans, especially if they're Hallmark Christmas movies, but that doesn't mean I don't recognize them for what they are. They are the over-stocked, low-quality products of Wal-Mart in the movie world.

Why am I ranting about this? Because "About Time" is decidedly not the the above-mentioned formula. "About Time" is the RomCom Gotham City deserves. (But maybe it should be a RomComDram.)

I'm sure any way I describe the film will sound sappy. You'll just have to trust me that it's not schmaltzy or cheesy. "About Time" is about finding happiness  and value in the ordinary days of living, which for most people are all the days of living. This takes form in one man's quest for happiness through his relationships with the love of his life, his father, and his sister mostly, with a few foray's into small acts of love and kindness with other people as well.

The first thing you must know is that there is time traveling in this movie. But miraculously, the time traveling is not the star of the film in any way shape or form. Plus the mechanics of the time travel is not complicated so it's not distracting. And while the main character can redo moments, days, and, in theory, his whole lifetime, the film never even has the sheen of a "Groundhog Day" situation. 

The next thing you need to know is that the movie is not about Rachel McAdams. I would go as far to say that she is barely a supporting character. Don't misunderstand me, I like McAdams and think she's a talented actor who is excellent in this film, but she is often cast as the center of attention, for lack of better phrasing.

But what's you really need to know about this movie is that it's beautiful and charming and heartbreaking and it feels realistic in feeling and how people work in and at relationships...aside from the whole time traveling thing.

I give it five stars up.

30 October 2013

Top 5 Male Celebrity Eyebrows

Everyone can agree on who has the best mustache in the biz (Tom Selleck, obviously), but have you stopped to consider the best male eyebrows?

In fact, we should consider—nay, honor—eyebrows more than any fancy, full-bodied mustache, because eyebrows serve a higher purpose than mere frosting on the face. As proof, please consider a recent outcropping of websites that delight in showing you what celebrities look like without eyebrows.

At best, those images are slightly disturbing.

Aside from GrouchoMarx—whose iconic eyebrows were mostly drawn on—here are my suggestions for best eyebrows in the biz. I based my choices on thickness, shape, grooming and expressiveness. Who would you choose?

Peter Gallagher
This choice is a gimme, since most people already associate him with his eyebrows. They are naturally arched to perfection and uber thick, giving his eyebrows an A-list star quality.
Dave Franco
Dave Franco, the for-now-less-famous younger brother of James Franco, gives Gallagher a run for his money. They are practically eyebrow doppelgangers, but Franco has the edge of being younger and more handsome. (Hey, even the best of us are “that shallow” at times.)
Zac Posen
If you don’t follow fashion you’ve probably never hear of designer and regular “Project Runway” judge Zac Posen. But take a look at the nice point atop each substantial brow. Although they arch considerably on top, they are flatter on the bottom, which is perfect for a man brow. Only cartoons villains have high-arch eyebrows. I’m looking at you, Jafar.
Lee Pace
Mr. Pace has what I like to call “caterpillar” eyebrows; they’re nice and fat and fuzzy with little arch. They give him an approachable look, which is great for the many sympathetic characters he has played. You can next view his eyebrows in high contrast and 3-D when he plays elven king Thranduil in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” But you won’t find much sympathy there.
Stephen Colbert
Last, but certainly not least, let’s consider Stephen Colbert. What makes his eyebrows great is their bananas expressiveness. Sure, he’s got the thinner, arched eyebrow of a villain, but he doesn’t use them for evil, he uses them for good. Very funny good. With one timely flick of his eyebrow, Colbert makes the world a funnier place.

20 October 2013

Reasons I Wish to Marry

I need or want to go places at night, but I supremely hate driving at night
Jar loosening purposes
For the jokes (because he’d have to be funny)
Someone to frame for my crimes
Sexy times
Financial and tax purposes
Foot warmer on cold winter nights
To dress up him up like a doll…a manly, tailored doll
Travel buddy
For someone to look after my as yet non-existent cat when I’m at work
To shut up the people who  ask me why I’m not married

06 October 2013

Casting Agent

I've always fancied that I would make a great casting agent. At least I'm always casting stories that I'm reading, recasting terrible choices in existing movies, or making lists of actors in my head that would make believable siblings, be good foils, or have some sort of chemistry. (I don't get out much.)

Once I shared some casting ideas with a college professor, who was also a writer and stage director, and he was very impressed with my ideas. So based on my word that one person was impressed with one casting conversation we had, I'm pretty sure you all are convinced of my untapped casting talents.

If that's not enough evidence to convince you of my innate casting ability, which clearly it should be, I will tell you of my latest casting wish.  I wish it because a) they look similar enough to be related, b) they all are attractive to me on some level, and c) they all are skilled and talented actors brimming with charm. I don't have a story to cast them into, but they would make glorious brothers: Tom Hiddleston, JJ Feild, and Lee Pace.

So all you Hollywood execs or BBC producers who read this blog (none), please make this happen. And not just because these three in a movie together would make my ovaries explode.

Behold! (And you're welcome.)