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Posts Tagged ‘Jesse Eisenberg’

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

In action, comic books, Fantasy on March 25, 2016 at 1:23 pm


Well, first of all, it’s been nearly two years since I have posted to the blog, here. And the reason that I’ve come back is I saw a movie today that the whole world is crapping on, and while I’m not the one to stand up and defend it completely; I am here to explain why I enjoyed it.

It’s been nearly three years since MAN OF STEEL, the first film in the burgeoning DC Cinematic Universe, appeared and while my review of that movie was fairly positive, in the time since, I have grown to have major issues with the portrayal of Superman in this new form. I still hold it’s not the destruction or even the fact that Superman kills which bothers me. It’s instead the personification of the character. His principles and the choices he’s made growing up – and from that, the principles that his adoptive (human) parents instilled within him. I think it’s a legitimate concern about an alien child falling into the Kansas top-soil, and fear of what our governments, and sects of fanaticism would do with that knowledge. But, the issue comes from how Pa Kent (as played by Kevin Costner) instilled Clark with the perspective that in order to keep his secret, he should be willing to let people die. He shouldn’t try to save everyone. In fact, in Man of Steel, there’s a continued idea of Kal-El being a god. His Kryptonian father says as much, Pa Kent thinks so. And it becomes one of the repeated, basic tenets of BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. Is there actually a god if aliens, and specifically Superman, exists; and if so, is Superman god? It’s a good question, and I feel like it works as a plot-thread throughout Batman v. Superman.

Just a warning, there aren’t any major spoilers in the rest of the review, but I do discuss aspects containing the plot. So, if you want to remain untainted, tread carefully.

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Can’t Make Billions Of Dollars Without Making A Few Enemies

In drama on October 1, 2010 at 3:11 am

THE SOCIAL NETWORK is a fantastic movie full of reprehensible characters and actions that makes me want to delete my Facebook account – found here. David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin create a fantastic and beautifully shot story about a young man that forsakes every relationship in his life because he wants to make websites that help connecting to people easier. Which makes it sound a lot more altruistic than he ever actually is. The cast is magnificent. The movie is also really funny. Which keeps it from being terrifying and depressing. (Wouldn’t it make you sad if your friend ditched you in order to make hundreds of millions of dollars, and that now, almost everyone in the world is associated with that person?)

Jesse Eisenberg uses his nerd powers for evil here, much like Michael Cera used his for hipster cool in SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. Which in both cases, works very well for seeing the actors expand on their normal repertoire, while not really acting much differently. But it’s amazing, just how unlikable Eisenberg is. He takes the aloofness that he normally exudes and just, seems like a dick. A brilliant dick, but still. A dick.

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In comedy on October 7, 2009 at 2:34 am

I seriously had way too many ideas for the title of this post, that I had to just go with the titles of the movies. So, yeah; OBSERVE AND REPORT and ADVENTURELAND. Both movies are comedies that really go down different roads to that almost take them out of that one genre of movie. OBSERVE AND REPORT, gets so dark and brutal that I almost feel like it goes into horror; and ADVENTURELAND ventures into pretty heavy dramatic territory with it’s themes and character relationships. But, I spent a great deal of time laughing at both, and feel they’re fully worth seeing, so that leads us to me writing about them (and not very well, I see). The kind of funny connection between these two movies, is 2007’s SUPERBAD – which is also a great comedy – written and directed by Greg Mottola, and featured Seth Rogen in a police uniform. Don’t worry, you’ll get the connection in a few minutes.

So, OBSERVE AND REPORT is the story of Ronnie Barnhardt, the head of security in the mall that the majority of the movie takes place. He’s a disturbed man, like “taking medication” disturbed (not that there’s anything wrong with that) who takes his position a little too seriously (not that unusual) and is just a little too obsessive about things he comes into contact with; namely Brandi, the make-up counter girl (played by Anna Faris), or becoming a police officer like his nemesis in the movie, Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta). For the first part, Ronnie gets his in with Brandi after she’s been flashed by a guy who has been running around the mall’s parking lot flashing people. This seems like it’s going to be the crux of the movie, this is also when we’re introduced to Detective Harrison, who Ronnie sees as invading his turf and just not knowing how to do his job.

After another plot thread develops where someone is breaking into stores and robbing them, after hours in the mall, Ronnie decides he wants to try and become a police officer. He goes into an office, gets the applications, gives a couple runs through an obstacle course (amazingly, tearing people to the side and running the course pretty well – considering we’re talking about pre-slimmed down Seth Rogen here), and going on a ‘Ride-along’ with Detective Harrison. Harrison takes Ronnie to the worst part of town – a street corner called the crossroads, and tells Ronnie to take a walk around. When he gets out of the car, Harrison takes off; only to then have Ronnie be approached by some kids offering him crack and the kid’s father (played in a cameo role by Danny McBride) come up and threaten Ronnie. Ronnie incapacitates – and from a line of dialogue, kills – McBride’s character and about five other guys.

During this time Ronnie’s feeling pretty good about himself. So, he manages to finagle a date with Brandi – who seemingly forgets and shows up in a car full of guys dropping her off at her place – and they go out, get lots of drinks, share Ronnie’s medication, and wind up in an awkward and much-discussed situation. Needless to say this is as far as their relationship ever gets.

Ronnie has some subordinates in his security guard detail. A pair of Asian twins played by John and Matt Yuan, jerry-curled, Latino Dennis (an unrecognizable Michael Pena), and new recruit Charles played by Jesse Plemons. For the role of Ronnie, Seth Rogen seemed to have actually put on a few pounds, shaved his trademark messy “jew-fro” and turned down the cute and cuddly for the more threatening and psychotic. There was a joke his character made in THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN about Steve Carell’s character being a serial killer. Well, Ronnie fits that mold to a “T”, in this movie. his mother (Celia Weston) is always drunk, encourages Ronnie before his date with the story of her and Ronnie’s father’s first date (she says something like, “I knew he was special and that I was going to fuck him.” To which Ronnie says he hopes that’ll happen for him. (Whether he means the someone special thing, or just having sex, who knows; and I would doubt that he’d be as thoughtful to consider the former.)

The movie takes some very dark turns, which is kind of the stock in trade that writer/director Jody Hill, seems to enjoy. There’s a moment that seems to be a nod to the South Korean movie OLDBOY, the fight I already mentioned with the drug dealers, but there’s another one with a pack of skateboarding kids that just gets brutal, and then there’s the more explicit moments. Whether it’s the questionable date rape scene (is it, isn’t it? I’m not arguing either way.), and the streaker, who in the climax to the movie we get to see running through the halls of the mall, in full glory, and then the way that chase ends really kind of sucks all the air out of the theater (although, you’re going to now be watching this at home, I’d think). But, as dark as it gets, there’s a lot of humor too. Aziz Ansari has a couple of scenes, as a kiosk employee selling those skin creams that come from like the Dead Sea or something. (He gets probably one of my favorite lines in the movie, and it refers to Chik-Fil-A.) There’s also a whole other sub-plot with a cinnamon-shop with a girl that’s got a cast on her leg, Nell (played by Collette Wolfe) and is constantly hounded by her manager, played by Patton Oswalt.

Overall, it’s a great, and funny movie. Just expect there to be some moments that might cause you to pause and reconsider what you’re seeing. But, I have to imagine that it’s a more fulfilling experience than the previous mall cop movie, about that guy Paul Blart. (No I haven’t seen it, yes I’m blindly casting aspersions at it. Don’t make me go all Ronnie Barnhardt on you!)

ADVENTURELAND, the not quite latest movie starring Jesse Eisenberg (see ZOMBIELAND – not a sequel, but both take place in a themepark, only one has zombies – for that honor), Kristen Stewart, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig and Ryan Reynolds. Much like OBSERVE AND REPORT, this is a movie that was marketed on the back of it’s sister movies SUPERBAD, and other Judd Apatow-related movies, but in reality it ventures off that side-splittingly funny track and heads down some pretty serious subject matter – along with also having some really funny stuff in it.

Jesse Eisenberg plays James Brennan, a kid who just graduated from high school and is supposed to be heading off to Europe for the summer before heading to Columbia in the fall. When his parents, tell him that James’ father is being transferred to Pittsburgh (my home town, woot!), and basaically down-sized in his company; he has to give up his hopes for Europe and find a job to pay his own way into college. James has no skills to speak of and isn’t “even qualified for manual labor” as he says in one scene. So, he goes with a job offered via a friend, named Frigo, at Adventureland – the local theme park. It’s here he meets the people in charge, married couple Bobby (Bill Hader, rocking a monster mustache) and Paulette (Kristen Wiig, being hilarious by not really doing much at all). They assign James to work Games, where he meets and befriends Joel (played by Martin Starr, who is probably more famous as the bearded friend of Seth Rogen’s in KNOCKED UP), and is also introduced to Em, who is played by Kristen Stewart – in a role quite the opposite of her now more notorious character Bella in the TWILIGHT series. Opposite, in that Em is far more developed, mature and an actual woman who makes mistakes and is fallible without being a caricature.

The movie follows these people through their summer of 1987, working at the theme park, their nights afterward partying and drinking and having (or trying to have) sex. As with any movie set during the summer when kids are away from their parents, Adventureland has it’s own idyllic idols that each sex admires, envies or just lusts after. For the girls it’s the park’s maintenance man Connell (Ryan Reynolds), who is married but is known to have wandering eyes, and an available room in his mom’s basement. For the guys it’s Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), a young girl who seemingly likes to act like she’s mature and sexually open, but really just likes to taunt the boys with her looks and Madonna-lite dance moves. Needless to say, James winds up falling for Em, and we get some hijinks related to his awkwardness in trying to woo her. (Like the swimming scene that leads to him being pointed out for having an erection – this also..ahem..comes up again later.) Then there’s the added complication of both of our young lovers being chosen by the “desirable ones”, for their own little escapades.

The major reason why this movie works is Jesse Eisenberg. He’s believable as the bumbling geek, who tries to be cool, but also doesn’t mind being different. He looks authentic in his nervousness and bumbling way of delivering lines, and doesn’t seem as goofy as certain other actors that get compared to Eisenberg a lot. But, the supporting cast also helps. Stewart, in this movie shows us again why she’s one of the best young actors right now, with the role of Em, and all the reasons that I’ve stated on why this character is appealing, engaging and in the end sympathetic. But, it’s mostly in the rest of the cast that the humor really comes from. Starr is brilliant as the iconoclastic, intellectual – who in one scene is told by a girl she can’t see him because he’s jewish, to which he responds, “but I’m an atheist, maybe more of a pragmatic nihilist I guess or an existential pagan if you will…” So, that’s the kind of high-level humor to expect from Martin Starr – and it works. Hader and Wiig, co-stars on the current run of SNL, work fantastic together. There’s a scene from the trailer – that I’m sure will be in the one posted below – where Hader is announcing the horse race game, and we see Paulette mouthing the same words that Bobby is yelling out. Then she says, “this is how we met”.

Overall, though it’s a strong contender for picking up where the recently departed John Hughes left off. It’s full of real people, with problems, wants and needs, and the characters learning their way in the world instead of it just seeming scripted and telling us the same story we’ve seen a million times. So, do yourself a favor and go see it. It’s one of those movies – like 500 DAYS OF SUMMER and THE BROTHERS BLOOM – that makes 2009 a great year for small, romantic movies that tread on a slightly different path.

And I feel like I’d be remiss in not mentioning that this movie was shot in Pittsburgh – as I did mention, actually – but that the theme park that stands in for Adventureland, is Pittsburgh’s own local theme park called Kennywood. And this movie really makes me want to go. And you should all come here and enjoy that too. 🙂

Monster, theme parks and Spring dances

In comedy, Horror on September 22, 2009 at 5:59 pm

The fall’s horror movies have started appearing. We’ve gotten THE FINAL DESTINATION and HALLOWEEN 2 – neither of which I’ve seen – and with the Halloween season coming soon, there should be a number of other scary movies appearing on the big screen (and in one example, that I want to point out, on DVD, with a movie called TRICK ‘R TREAT). But the two that I saw this week, were both horror comedies, in the vein of the Edgar Wright movies like SHAUN OF THE DEAD and sort of HOT FUZZ (it was meant more as a send-up of action movies, but there’s some great horror moments too), and more satirical horror movies like the SCREAM and “I KNOW…” series.

The first movie is the second (cinematic) effort of JUNO scribe, Diablo Cody, and she’s joined by the movie director of AEON FLUX and GIRLFIGHT, Karyn Kusama. JENNIFER’S BODY, stars Megan Fox, as the titular character (I wonder if you’ll see a pun there), and she’s joined on-screen by Amanda Seyfried, who has been a solid performer in a number of the projects I’ve seen her in (namely, BIG LOVE, and MEAN GIRLS). The two girls play best friends in the movie, and while Fox’s character is the school hottie/cheerleader/slut, Seyfried’s character is given the “metaphorical” nickname Needy, who is a nerdy girl, who has still managed to stay friends with the more popular one. And early on we learn how their relationship really works. Needy likes that she’s one of the special people that gets to be Jennifer’s best friend, and also the attention that she’s given by Jennifer; and Jennifer keeps Needy around, because she helps to make Jennifer feel better about herself, and also because she provides a stability and someone trustworthy for her to rely on.

So, it’s this relationship that forms the backbone of the movie, where the girls head off to a club to see a small indie band, from the “city”. Jennifer wants to hook up with the lead singer (played by the funny Adam Brody – who I think I might have only seen in THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, directed by Jason Reitman, who also directed JUNO – see how that works.), only the entire club burns down, there’s lots of chaos, and outside, the two girls are panicked, and Brody’s character strolls up nonchalantly and offers them a ride. Jennifer goes, and that’s what leads to the rest of the movie. Which consists of Jennifer puking black ooze, her eyes turning monstrous, some gnawing on fellow students, and a showdown in the derelict swimming pool-house right by the school – during the spring dance.

There have been some great blog posts – namely, this one by Io9’s Annalee Newitz – have commented on the acidic nature of the relationship between Needy and Jennifer – and some girls in general, and while I agree with it, I have to say, that I can see the correlation between friends of any gender. It’s been played up in movies ad nauseam (ROUNDERS, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, just off the top of my head – and weird they’re both Matt Damon movies), but it might also be that I can see that side, being that a great majority of my friends are female. (This isn’t to say that I have these relationships with my friends, but I’ve seen and been treated this way.)

Anyway, the dynamic between the girls, as I mentioned is really what forms the backbone of the movie. There’s some kind of hackneyed “psychic connection” idea alluded to, and also frequent flashbacks to the two girls as little kids, in a sandbox, and sort of the beginning of their essentially codependent relationship. And it’s in this regard that the movie works and even kind of shines. Fox, who presents us with the shallow, beautiful Jennifer, gives us a great character (whether it’s performance or reality) and is made more believable by Seyfried’s wanton looks at Jennifer, and through narration explaining how she kowtow’s to Jennifer’s wishes (in particular, what Jennifer means when she says, “wear something cute”).

Besides the main stars, there are a couple of great supporting characters – and actors – who really make the movie shine whenever they’re on-screen. One being the already mentioned Adam Brody. The other being JK Simmons (having also been in JUNO and THANK YOU FOR SMOKING), who plays a school teacher – he looks ridiculous, yet is believable in this movie world. The rest of the performers are adequate. Nothing really stands out about Needy’s boyfriend, Chip, played by Johnny Simmons (seemingly no relation to JK); or to the other few boys that appear in the movie. And the two actress’ that play the moms we see in the movie are great character actors, Amy Sedaris (who gets some great lines), and Cynthia Stevenson (who was also a mom in the show DEAD LIKE ME). Amazingly, no dads are seen.

So, overall, I’m liking what we’ve gotten from Cody. She’s a stylized writer who is at least sticking out of the pack, and (so far) isn’t just remaking other properties.

The second movie I saw, ZOMBIELAND, is a superb take on the zombie genre. I dare say even as good – if not better than the recent UK movies that have come out – the 28 DAYS/MONTHS LATER series, and SHAUN OF THE DEAD, as mentioned. The movie starts with a narration by lead character “Columbus” – as in the city – played by the rich man’s Michael Cera, Jesse Eisenberg. He goes over the rules of surviving in the apocalyptic land, he refers to as Zombieland (character says title of the movie, drink). #1 is “Cardio”, and we see some fat guys getting run down and eaten. The movie follows along with these rules as it goes on, and always to hilarious effect – especially with rule #2, “Double Tap”. We are then introduced to Columbus, as he tries to stick to another rule, “be wary of bathrooms”, and is then chased by a couple of zombies. When he gets to his car and drops his keys (another drink, horrible thriller cliche! – No, I don’t know where this drinking game motif came from), he runs around in a big circle til he gets back to the car again, only to then realize he didn’t even lock the car door. After he crashes, because he forgot to abide by another rule (“Always check the back seat” – and points for acknowledging horror movie cliche), he crashes his car, and we see him then walking down a highway.

This is where he meets Tallahassee – amazingly portrayed by Woody Harrelson – who gives Columbus his moniker, based on his destination. It also helps to not know the actual names of people who might become zombies and try to eat you. They drive off together, probably one of the greatest mismatched duos, in cinema history, in Tallahassee’s Escalade with the number 3 written on the door. (He’s a hillbilly, if you didn’t get it from the casting, and whatnot.) We learn that Tallahassee loves killing zombies and his main goal in life is to be one of the last people in the world to eat a Twinkie. Which also gives us a number of laughs, and crazy hijinks. The two eventually come upon two other survivors – who are also both girls. Now before you go getting all hot and bothered, these ladies are portrayed by Emma Stone (SUPERBAD) and Abigail Breslin (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), only one of which is appropriate for “hook up potential” with our male heroes. We learned pretty early on that Columbus is kind of a shut in, and not, well, “that successful with the ladies,” shall we say. So, he has some silly and naive ideas on romance, and how to approach women. His big fantasy is to sweep a girl’s hair over her ear – y’know, like they do in movies. And there’s one great, great line regarding this.

The crux of the movie is the girls are trying to get to an amusement park outside of Los Angeles – no idea why, other than that mythical idea of there not being any zombies there. (That would be a drink-worthy offense, but earlier in the movie, this exact thing is brought up and pointed out for the crap that it is.) So, when said amusement park is reached, obviously zombies show up, and chaos rules. There’s shooting zombies from a roller coaster, there’s dropping zombies off a high-speed falling and rising ride (worst description of a ride ever, I have to stop this drinking), and even a clown…zombie.

The cast is AMAZING. Woody Harrelson steals the show, with his crass, hillbilly demeanor and just the pleasure he takes from killing the walking dead. Jesse Eisenberg, who was recently in the movie ADVENTURELAND (second movie about a theme park, with fucked up people, drink.), and a favorite of mine, ROGER DODGER – is great as the nerdy, survivor who uses Purell after killing zombies and is the only person we get a glimpse of his life before the zombiepocalypse. (There’s a flashback to Tallahassee’s life, but that’s an imagary thing of Columbus’, so don’t even bring that at me.) Emma Stone, is gorgeous (cliched internet review by a dude commenting on the beauty of a girl, finish your drink!) and seems to relish being able to shoot guns and be the bad girl. Breslin, who is growing up quick, does great as Little Rock (as in Arkansas), and has some great moments with Harrelson, when they’re practicing shooting.

Then there’s the cameo. It’s easily available to find out who is in the movie, other than these actors, but strike me dead if I’ll reveal who it is here. But, this person makes this movie a MUST SEE. It plays with your mind, and lulls you into a sense of security, then pulls the rug back out from under you – and then there’s the final scene after the end credits. AWESOME!

The movie as a whole is stylish, incredibly funny and another fresh vision of zombies taking over the world. The guys behind the movie; director, Ruben Fleischer, co-writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, seem to be on their first major movie release, and they hit it out of the park. The dialogue is witty – whether that’s their work, or possibly a mingling of improv along with scripted words, I don’t know – the kills are fascinating and grotesque (we see a Hummer driving repeatedly over bodies, and heads), but over all, it’s just a great fun movie!

I could really see this being this fall’s THE HANGOVER (which, I have to say, I called as being the Summer’s biggest comedy – and I was right – but it was also like the third biggest movie of the summer. So, take heed in what I say!! And DRINK!!!) So, go see it when it is released in a couple weeks.