Monday, September 28, 2009

(Not such a...) Big Fan

From the writer of The Wrestler Robert Siegel comes his directing debut Big Fan. I enjoyed The Wrestler but didn't think it was quite as great as all the hype it got last year. This movie is a lot like that. It's filled with a lot of great ideas for film, but not executed as well as expected.

Patton Oswalt plays the #1 NY Giants fan in the greater Staten Island area. Him and his buddy go to the games. Oh they don't actually get in, they watch it on a TV from the parking lot. Sad face. His life basically consists of sitting in a parking lot booth, listening to sports talk radio, living with his mother and masterbating. Oh and everything Giants. Seriously, NFL bed sheets, sport figure posters. His favorite player is defensman Quantrell Bishop.

One night he sees Quantrell out in Staten Island and decides to follow him. I'm not spoiling anything because its all contained in the trailer. This isn't a movie that has twists and turns (well, maybe a little one at the end). It is a character piece. And it is a fine small little film. It's about choices. He's not unhappy in his life. Everyone around him thinks he should want what everyone else in the world wants. Family, kids, money. He just wants his favorite team to win. He is a big fan, indeed.

I don't want to shy people away from seeing this, just go in expecting a quiet film. Its not bad, just not the next great indie darling I was expecting. It's definitely better than most of the junk out there in theaters, especially this time of year.

Did you enjoy it?
Sure. Not super impressed, but if I had to go thumbs up / thumbs down, I'd go up.

Would you see it in theaters again?

Would you rent it?

Would you buy it?

Would you watch it if you saw it was on TV?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


In 1996 I met a classmate. We lived on the same floor of the freshman dorm. We had the same class schedule. We rushed the same fraternities (Yay, Rah Rah...). I didn't live with him my first year but did every other subsequent year. And then a year and a half break after college (I was done, he was not). Then again for a few years until the jerk went ahead and got married, especially when we were so close to common law! We were like Joey and Chandler from Friends (his favorite show).

While I was living with other great friends (Valentine, Signal, DVL) I suggested that he and one of my oldest friends could live together. There, enjoying freshly made pasta and pouring ragu directly onto the plate from the jar, they bonded. They honed their Mario Kart skillz (still not better than me).

Then we had city swaps. One great friend moved to the west and he sent a replacement to the midwest. This guy. He was so nice. I repeatedly nagged him to come out. Got him to join our football team. We shared our early love of Arrested "I want to know what it feels like to get my face punched in". I remember one day I casually asked him where he lived. He said around Clark and Belmont. I said I lived over there too. So, I inquired again for specifics. I always felt that my continuing to question exact location came off pretty gay, but I've never asked him if that's what he thought. Also, it turned out we lived a block and a half away from each other, so it was a fair question.

Then there's Jolly. My oldest friend. Not by his age, but by years we've been not only aquainted but dear friends. As a child, I could see his backyard from my backyard. Never lived in the same city from age 7-23, we've remained close. That may be a bit of a misnomer. His family kept a lakehouse near my home town. He spent a month back in town every year. I'd get to take trips out there. He'd come to visit in college. Then the aforementioned pairing of my roomies with each other. Then he hit the road. Years later when he'd return to Chitown to set up residency, he brought along his lady love. By my birthday the next year he was a permanent fixure on my couch (which is now located at the Car Wash on Damen, if you want to take a look-see).

With leases up all around, MGM powerhouse was born. The perfect location. Two living rooms. The "Rec Center" kitchen. First floor back porch. Completely closed off (except for bike thieves). After that year, we opened the North compound. More space to run and dig. Then we get another "oh uh, I'm in love, later, jerks" move out this summer. MGM was no more. Boo.

I've been blessed to have had great roommates since 1997 (well, I guess techincally my family is okay too). It's nice because I consider them all my family, no matter how long I've known them, or how long I lived with them. There isn't a single one that I wouldn't help at a moment's notice. I'd help any of them bury a body in the desert, no questions asked. You couldn't ask for better roommates or better friends.

So, I'm not sure how to feel that I'm getting what will likely (hopefully?) be the last roommate I ever have next Thursday. That's not true. As I watch more and more of my friends do more and more grown up things, I'm glad to be taking steps towards doing those things myself. I've never been happier.

Monday, September 21, 2009

TV Round Up
Square Down

Well, the kids are back at school. All the junk has been sold at garage sales. All the bunnies have left the beach. Sookie helped kill a bride gown wearing, claw hand having, hippy hippy shaking maeand. So, what do we have to live for? I guess fall TV.

We've started getting new episodes last week and will continue for the next month (stupid NBC always making me wait for 30 Rock). Let's just run through the days.

How I Met Your Mother. The only 3 camera laugh track show I can stand. Not great, but will have a couple laughs a week. Plus it has Willow. Double plus since they used Oxford Comma throughout the season premiere.

Heroes. I tried tried tried. I made it through season 1. I got about 2 episodes in for season 2. That was it for me. It's like Smallville, those wheels they just spin and spin and spin.

House. When I'm watching it, I like to imagine that House is played by Tobias Funke. Try it sometime.

Gossip Girl. Barf.

One Tree Hill. Double barf. How is this still on and the OC was cancelled?

Um, FYI, CSI: Miami is having their season premiere show us how David Caruso got his sunglasses. Boom.

Hey, Jay Leno is on every night. How is this different than any other time over the last 17 years? Oh yeah, because he's taking up precious primetime real estate. Barf filled barf.

Now Tuesdays--
V is coming! V is coming! Please don't blow it.
...and Tuesday is over. Seriously, nothing else is on.

Until Lost comes back and we get the chance of Scrubs and Better Off Ted, the middle of the week is a waste land.

A plethora of riches. SNL for now (until we get aformentioned 30 Rock).

The Office, woo.

Community. Hope it works. So far, so funny.

Sunny. I totally ignored this on my top of the Aughts. Don't worry, I will remedy with an addendum.

Dollhouse. Joss got past his recent one season trouble (Firefly). Now do something. You might recall season one of Buffy and Angel being pretty meh. Here's hoping he can rise to the occasion after shaking off season one blues.

Simpsons. Haven't watched it in 2 years now. I hear it's still awesome.

Family Guy. Short attention span filler. Usually only has about 7 minutes of plot anyways.

Bored to Death. New on HBO. Watched the premiere on and it was promising. Ted Danson is a foxy bastard.

Curb comes back. I definitely have watched it less religiously, but I will be back this year.

So what should I watch that's new?

Community. Joel McHale makes it a lock.

Cougar Town. I do love Courtney Cox. But the real draw is that Bill Lawrence created it.

V. Loved the miniseries as a kid. Hopefully they don't ruin it.

Bored to Death. Zach Galifinakis is in it. Boom.

That's. About. It.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Summer Rodeo Roundup

In Chicago we've had one of the mildest summer's since Almanacs were invented. That's great for a fair skinned albino like myself. But it's been nice to have hot days without immediately having my clothes drenched in sweat. All told, coming off the writer's strike last year we were expecting it to be a mild summer for movies. Thinking of a couple in particular (Star Trek and GI Joe) if they hadn't been handcuffed by the writer's strike, they could have been doubly amazing. As it stands now, they're pretty great anyways. So, let's travel back through the summer that was with our Summer Rodeo Roundup. Yeehaw.

Hey, Cowpokes! Hate romance? Tired of spending the 1st act of a movie learning all the quirks of our love birds. Spending the 2nd act watching them falling in love. Oh wait, what just happened? The second act ended with a misunderstanding or revelation that broke up our couple? OH NO! Shoo! They made it just in time for the movie to end. Barf. Well, then go see The Proposal. If that's not for you, then the winner is (500) Days of Summer. A great movie with a refreshing perspective and a couple of likable (yet human) lead characters.

I only saw one cartoon this summer. Really its the only one that would have won and counted anyways... UP. Gorgeous. Touching. It lassoed my heart and hogtied it to the ground. If you aren't touched by the opening scene then you're a robot and I don't want to be friends.

Oh my gosh! That cowboy just got bucked by a bronco. We the audience are waiting to see if he's going to get up. So dramatic, all this tension. Oh he's okay. That was worse that the Holocaust. No wait, no it wasn't. What it was might be the worst transition for me to discuss Inglorious Basterds. You'd think this would be filed under action. Well, friend, then you don't know Tarantino. Sure, there is some action in it. But what makes this little bull a winner are the quieter more, dare I say, dramatic moments.

Here come the rodeo clowns (yeah yeah yeah). Oh wow. One of them is missing a tooth. Classic. There's a short fat one wearing tight clothes. Clowns clowning around. You know where their located? Vegas. If they don't stop drinking they're going to get a Hangover. I went to the rodeo twice to see these clowns and they split my sides both times.

The horses are acting weird. They can usually sense something. Remember that one in Ring that jumped to it's death from the boat. Yeah, horses know. I feel like I should go to church. I don't want the Devil to Drag Me To Hell. That would be terrifying.

Remember that time when the bull jumped into the crowd? I was sitting next to a guy that got gored by the bull's horns. After we all got back to our seats I heard a woman say she loved all the action but felt bad for the guy who got put in The Hurt Locker. And that guy came back to his seat after getting patched up.

The most unbelievable part of this rodeo is all the aliens in the crowd. Total science fiction. Can't they read the signs? Human Only. No prawns allowed. Isn't there a can of cat food for them to eat somewhere. I wish they'd just go back to District 9 already.

The best part about a rodeo is you know what you're going to get. It's brand recognition. Every time I go, I know what I'm in for. Sure, sometimes bulls don't jump into the bleachers. Sometimes the clowns aren't funny, but for the most part, you get what you'd expect. It's like that TV show that was made into a bunch of movies. And then a bunch of spin off shows. And then some more movies. Then this summer that had a sequel / prequel / new path. You know, Star Trek. That was a good movie.

Well, summer is over. No more state fairs. No more rodeos. Eight winners in this summer's rodeo. Giddy up.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I'm a Punish for Gluttonment

For those unaware of my family roots. We're grocery store and restaurant owners. Every Sunday our restaurant would have the "Sunday smorgasbord" where I would dine as a child and work as an older child. Fried chicken was always there. Depending on Marc or grandpa's mood, other assorted meats would join the chicken. Mashed potatoes and green beans as far as the eye could see. A pretty great salad bar section was at the front, to trick people into getting their fill before reaching the good stuff.

The point being, I was raised on all you can eat. My friends and roommate in college know that my search for a great buffet was all encompassing at times. For a short while, the KFC on Merle Hay had the legendary chicken buffet. But it soon became an empty store front (probably for basically giving away chicken!). There were many a day when we'd go to Pizza Hut for their lunch buffet. I'm getting off on a tangent again. Sorry.

Anyways. In my Chicago life, that has meant the fall season. That has meant Red Lobster's All You Can Eat Shrimp and Olive Garden's Never Ending Pasta Bowl. Lucky for me, Lincolnwood has them both and they share a parking lot.

Now, depending on your waitstaff, you can win or lose at this game. Our first trip to Olive Garden a few years ago, meant our waiter would bring us our food and then apparently moved out of the country, never to be seen again. On one trip, the guy was so nice that he threw in free meatballs and sausage til our eyes bled. Red Lobster, the staff has always been super and the lady will come by and ask if we want her to put in the order for the next round because it takes a while to get to us. Fantastic.

We had a Labor Day trip to Olive Garden on Saturday. Under sauced noodles (look at me, I'm a critic for Top Chef now) and low will power made that trip a bust.

But tonight...
Oh tonight....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

World's Greatest Dad
(with Bobcat Goldthwait Q&A)

Holy s&&t. Best black comedy since Heathers. And this movie is the sister to Heathers. Let's start this way. I love the movie Heathers. One of the gems I was able to catch having pay cable as a kid. Vanguard Tuesday on Cinemax. I grew up thinking the term vanguard meant "awesome". A strange tale of a farcical high school. Kids murder, blow up, rally together. What is going on here? Shot in the "Cybil Sheppard" frost lenses, the whole movie is like a dream. That's what I thought WGD(World's Greatest Dad) was going to be. I wish this movie was coming out closer to the release of OLD DOGS, just for the chance that some idiot family were going to that and went in to WGD instead.

For the most part, black comedies don't work. You fall into two categories. Either you go too far and really lose the comedy (Death to Smoochy, Very Bad Things) or you don't go far enough and end up being tame. This movie does both. Goes to far and is too funny. Which is why it sticks the landing regardless of losing steam toward the end of the movie.

You really want to go into this movie knowing as little as possible. Here's what I will give you. Robin Williams plays a single dad. His son hates him. This is the story of their life. Most of the jokes come from the outlandish behavior of everyone involved. The movie takes a lot of shots at a lot of people. A recent event that took America by storm just happened to coincidentally be a part of the plot of WGD.

The writer /director is Bobcat Goldthwait. Yes, Hot to Trot, Police Academy 2-4 Bobcat. He was there for a post film Q&A. All the problems I had with Mike Judge not being a great interview, were not an issue with Bobcat. He said his biggest fear is at his funeral, there will be a big picture of him in a Police Academy uniform.

He started strong with his post acting career with Shake's the Clown. Anyone who has never heard of it, check it out. Bobcat said he refuses to be a part of the Hollywood machine, because as soon as he does, then he can't make fun of it. His films do suffer from small releases because of it, but he doesn't let that affect his work. If you see a post on Craigs list looking for people to work on a film and it has his name on it, it probably really is him.

Did you enjoy it?
Oh yes. Biggest surprise of the fall (don't split hairs with me, if kids are in school, its fall).

Would you see it in theaters again?

Would you rent it?

Would you buy it?

Would you watch it if you saw it was on TV?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

(with Mike Judge Q&A)

In college, I got some friends to come with me to see Office Space. This was in Des Moines and of the 6 theaters in the city limits, it was only playing at the theater on the southside. I found that curious. Especially with a brand new 16 screening theater just open. When we got down there, I was again surprised that for a Friday night show, there were a lot of empty seats.

In hindsight, the creator of Beavis & Butthead crafted a wonderful little gem about office life. Quoted still, it seems Mike Judge is destined to be unappreciated in his own time. King of the Hill has been cancelled recently by Fox. His second film was given an even worse release. I believe it was 6 cities. Chicago was one of them, I was determined to spend my cash to get to see it in theatres too. And now he's back with a new film. How is it? We'll cover that later.

First, his Q&A. He was at the Chicago Ain't It Cool screening. A soft spoken man, you'd almost expect him to blend into the background. That's not a knock against him, but it just adds to the wonder when you realize he created two of the dumbest cartoon characters to be protested and picketed in our generation. Anyone expecting him to regale us with tales of mistreatment of his films and great yarns about the Hollywood machine would leave disappointed. As he said, he's happy to get to make films, whether they make money, that's up to the studio to market and release. (As I'm writing this, Extract has just come in 10th place on it's opening weekend). He doesn't have anything bad to say about anyone. The closest he comes, is talking about the real life inspiration for David Koechner's character in Extract based on a lady who lived in his gated community. I don't have any inside secrets or stories to tell you.

Now, the movie. It's very funny. Just like Office Space, some of the laughs are based on some low brow jokes and some of them are very sharp satire. I don't know of anyone else in film who makes movies that can meld both kinds of comedy so well. Jason Bateman does a good job playing the owner of an extract plant. Surrounded by characters, he's the one grounded in reality. His best friend (Ben Affleck) constantly gives him the worst advice. His Assistant Manager at the plant (JK Simmons) doesn't know any of the employees names. So when he talks about specific people, Bateman just has to assume who he's referring to. His wife (Kristin Wiig) works at home and resents him for it. She takes it out on him by setting an 8pm sweatpants deadline. Mila Kunis, we'll she's the wildcard. Her siren song catches the ears of a few men.

One of the best parts of this movie are David Koechner, who plays Bateman's neighbor. He's like the Milton / Lumburg baby. Soft spoken, but unable to buy a clue or take a hint. Unlike Koechner's usual shtick, he plays it subtly and really knocks it out of the park. The second best part of the movie is Brad. Stupid stupid Brad. He's like anyone of the people from the future in Idiocracy, only he's here today with us. He's a real life Beavis.

What doesn't work. Well, the movie has a hard time deciding if it is a farce or set in reality. You sit there and wonder how much you're willing to suspend belief. And because it has one foot in each world, you don't get quite as invested as you should. But the same can be said for Office Space. Which is the only real test you need to decide if you will enjoy this movie. Did you like Office Space? Then you'll enjoy Extract.

Did you enjoy it?

Would you see it in theaters again?

Would you rent it?

Would you buy it?
Probably. For sure from Blockbuster in the $5 bin.

Would you watch it if you saw it was on TV?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Aught 10 is Just Around the Corner:
A List of Albums

The Shins sophmore album took their unique sounds to new heights. Song genres from pop, to rock to country influence throughout. Clocking in at 33 minutes, they don't leave room to dilly dally. They take full advantage of the time they use on the disc.

Modest Mouse gets their first radio hit with Float On. It was played for every Red Blooded NFL watching American that year. They got to play 5 tracks on an episode of the OC. Now, personally, I was not a fan of the Mouse before this album. I had a couple tracks that I liked, but this was the first one that really clicked for me. Its a rare thing when I can listen to an album from start to finish, but this is one of those cases. Each track is so distinctive from the last. Yet they are all unified into a wonderful whole that is GN4PWLBN.
Tracks to catch: "Bury Me With It" "The View" "Float On"

College kids with African influences in their sound. Pop majesty. This album is just a delight. Does it raise the bar? Not really? But they're definitely helping the indie world hold that bar up. I guess as I look at my list, its really made up of bands that can put together solid albums. Anyone is bound to make a song someone likes, but when you can craft an album that has a flow and repeat listenability, we've got something special.
Tracks to catch: "M79" "Oxford Comma" Walcott"

Band of Horses (formerly Horses, formerly Carissa's Weird) have the southern soul rock sound that I usually hate (sorry Wilco). But their mix of rock, pop and country (I guess) is in all the right proportions. They're debut album has a lot of quiet moments (again, usually something that literally puts me to sleep). But the "not your everyday" frontman voice really carries the weight of the songs on his shoulders. Their sophmore effort was no slouch either, but their debut is one I can put on at any point and still be mesmorized.
Tracks to catch: "Wicked Gil" "Our Swords" "Weed Party"

Depending on the year throughout the Aughts, you couldn't throw a stone without hitting a great Radiohead album. It's not as ambitious as OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac, but what they learned from those albums they have mastered here. They spent their longest amount of time in between albums to craft this masterpiece. Oh was it ever worth the wait. EMI would have let them do anything they wanted to release, but after putting out "Hail to the Thief" they were free of record contracts forever. Very few bands can offer any price download albums and still make money. Not only do they pave the way musically but also with the future of the record industry. I like all Radiohead albums to some degree but this is my favorite right behind The Bends (no need to start an arguement, we all have their albums listed in different orders). Online I have read that originally they were no longer going to do albums, only EPs and singles. I'm glad they didn't do that in this case. Going forward they can do whatever they want, this album will always exist.
Track to catch: "..." All of them.