Saturday, October 24, 2015

Back to the Future - 1985

"Back to the Future" - 1985
Dir. by Robert Zemeckis - 1 hr. 56 min.

Original Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I could have sworn I'd written about this movie before.  It seems impossible that I haven't.  Well, caveats out of the way - I threw this on in honor of Back to the Future Day, but only to have something on in the background while I was working on some artwork.  Usually, music serves that function, but I've seen "Back to the Future" enough times previously where it's not like I was going to miss anything.  Also, anyone of my generation has probably seen this film enough times that it's kind of weird re-watching it, since every scene is drilled into our collective brains.  And, as such, the movie goes by very, very quickly.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is a teenager with teenager concerns; getting through high school, trying to get into the talent show, sneaking away for a "camping trip" with his girlfriend.  He's also got a crazy-ass scientest buddy, Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), who may or may not resemble a character from "Rick & Morty."  His family is pretty much straight out of "Repo Man."  But Dr. Brown has an invention that requires some assistance from Marty, which leads to this:

Huey Lewis & the News - "Back in Time"

So here's my thing.  It's impossible to say much about the movie.  It made a zillion dollars.  Everyone knows every line.  I've been on the ride at Universal Studios a number of times.  Is it my favorite movie ever made?  Not really.  But I like it.  So does everyone.  So everyone involved must've done something right.  Is there anything at all that anyone involved could have jumped in a DeLorean to change, that would have made people remember it MORE fondly?  That would have this film make even MORE money?  Nah, I doubt it.  It's not perfect, but it's definitely the right film for the right time that struck the right chord with audiences.  "Back to the Future" is a broad, all-ages comedy that completely succeeds at that task, even if it occasionally deviates from my own personal tastes.

It's a lot easier to pick at the sequels than this film, because this has ascended from movie to pop culture touchstone.  So lets just say that "Back to the Future" is pretty good, and you're likely not to regret the couple of hours that it'll take to watch it.  Anything beyond that is wasted breath.  So let's take a look at that sweet ride, and if I watch the sequels, I'll have a lot more to say about them.

THE DeLorean

4 / 5 - DVD

Monday, October 19, 2015

San Andreas - 2015

"San Andreas" - 2015
Dir. by Brad Peyton -  1 hr. 54 min.

Official Trailer 2

by Clayton Hollifield

Once you've seen the trailer for "San Andreas" (and a lot of films like it), you pretty much know what to expect.  Things are going to shake and blow up and end up in rubble (spoiler!), and someone's going to have to save their family (or loved one).  What is up in the air is just how enjoyable the film will be.  Guaranteed, no one is checking out "San Andreas" for the plot.  The relevant questions are: are the special effects up to snuff, how much do I like the actors, and just how many boring parts are there going to be?

We're introduced to Ray (Dwayne Johnson) while he's piloting a helicopter for the fire department, tasked with saving the bacon of some girl who drove off the side of a hill while texting and driving, and is literally hanging off the side of a cliff.  So he's pretty good at this sort of thing.  He's also got a lot of hero baggage (an ex, a kid he's having trouble connecting with, some other dude banging his ex).  Separately, Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) is a seismologist working at Cal Tech, and he's developed a way to predict earthquakes ahead of time.  While field testing this with his co-worker, Kim (Will Yun Lee), a big 'un strikes, both wreaking havoc and confirming their predictive technology.  And guess what?  There's more big one's coming!

It's always nice when a disaster porn movie casts better than it needs to.  It's the difference between "San Andreas" and "Sharknado"; the difference between Carla Gugino and Tara Reid.  Obviously, you'd cast The Rock given the chance, and there's a good reason for that: he's awesome.  And believable as an action star.  But it's fun seeing Paul Giamatti in something that's not Oscar-bait.  I always love watching Carla Gugino, even in things that don't necessarily require a ton out of her, because she usually adds to whatever she's in.  And also, the storyline progeny of Johnson and Gugino (Alexandra Daddario) isn't hard to watch either (other than the story kind of makes you feel a little pervy for eyeballing her, but she first appears in a bikini, there are numerous lingering shots that invite you to get lost in her giant eyes, and she spends the bulk of the movie filling out a wet tank top.  So stop baiting me!).  This is part of the reason why:

Alexandra Daddario and co.

Onto the special effects, which were up to par.  Many times, in these kinds of movies, the film will settle for destroying only Los Angeles, or only New York.  But we get the bonus of watching the San Andreas Fault have it's way with both Los Angeles AND San Francisco!  Buildings are destroyed, topple, submerged under water, people are shaken, set on fire, and washed away.  And all of it looks cool.  Part of that is that we get to see some of the destruction from Ray's chopper seat, which isn't necessarily a different angle to view carnage from, but gives a reason why we're in the sky to begin with.  Just a little nod towards logic goes so, so far sometimes.  And, this might be the only time you'll ever hear me say this, the resemblance towards video games actually helped things out.  This is largely because Ray's character might as well be a superhero; he repeatedly scans a scenario, finds a way to make things go together, and then gets right to action.  There is no hesitation, no fear, just him figuring out what to do, and then, improbably, making it happen over and over again.  And that's pretty compelling!

And, thirdly, there aren't that many down parts.  There's surprising effort put into rounding out the standard hero baggage into something that gives the characters depth.  This is another area where just a little nod towards logic makes things so much better.  Johnson and Gugino actually feel like they have a past and a connection (although that might just be Gugino being awesome again), and when the movie starts working on your tear ducts, it succeeds on the basis of their work.

Carla Gugino and some dude who's trying to cock-block The Rock.

All of this adds up to a fun couple of hours.  It's probably not something that people will go back and watch years down the road (unless Daddario becomes a huge star, and this was an early work of hers), but you get to see two towns get wrecked for the price of one (and a vacation destination, too).  You get Mr. Johnson doing what he does best (and stretching his acting muscles a little bit, too).  You get to watch two beautiful actresses do a lot of jogging in tank tops (I'm not going to sit here and pretend that totally didn't happen, okay?).  And it'll probably kick your stereo's ass when you sit at home crank this bad boy.  If you want some loud, explosive, action hero entertainment, "San Andreas" will most certainly get the job done.

3 / 5 - Theatre

Monday, October 12, 2015

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story - 2007

"Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" - 2007
Dir. by Jake Kasdan - 1 hr. 36 min.


by Clayton Hollifield

There's a lot of good material in "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," but boy did it feel fresher on the heels of "Walk the Line."  That's pretty fitting, because "Walk Hard" borrows a lot (and I mean a LOT) of plot points from Johnny Cash's life (and the rest from Ray Charles' life, which was the big music movie that preceded "Walk the Line"), and he was kind of a big deal.  But it's also a very silly, very fun romp through all the rock 'n' roll cliches that we're all familiar with.  It's just that the childhood trauma that haunts Dewey is that he accidentally halved his brother while play-fighting with machetes.


Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) is Johnny Cash a rock singer who came to prominence in the 1950s, with his hit "Walk Hard."  Through his career, he hits every imaginable speed bump from "Behind the Music," from bigamy to drug abuse to losing his sense of smell.  He meets his first wife, Edith (Kristen Wiig) when he's 14 and she's 12, and they leave home to chase Dewey's dream.  And then there's a second wife, Darlene (Jenna Fischer), and she's a little more permanent.  And basically, we work through the decades of Dewey's life until a late-career resurgence brings him back into the spotlight.

Any discussion of the positives of "Walk Hard" have to begin with the cast.  John C. Reilly is funny.  Make that really funny.  He's such a goof that you kind of look forward to things falling apart over and over again so that his character will take his frustrations out on a sink somewhere.  Both of Dewey's wives have found deserved success in the near-decade since this movie came out.  The ghost of Dewey's brother is played by Jonah Hill.  His band is comprised of Matt Besser (Upright Citizen's Brigade), Chris Parnell, and Tim Meadows.  Even a one-off joke has Elvis Presley played by a hyper-active, karate-enthused, mumble-mouthed Jack White.  The Beatles are played by Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Justin Long, and Jason Schwartzman. The cameo characters are played by people like Jane Lynch, Harold Ramis, and Craig Robinson.  So the main thing to know is that if you've enjoyed pretty much any comedy movie in the last decade, you're going to recognize a lot of faces.

Secondly, the movie zips along.  Part of the appeal of "Walk Hard" is that it's a comedy trip through rock 'n' roll, and since we're all pretty familiar with the tropes, there's not much need to establish jokes.  We're on the same page before they even start talking, so the jokes come quickly, and the scenes don't overstay their welcome.  The running gags are good, too, like Dewey's aforementioned targeting of sinks whenever things go awry, and Tim Meadows' "you don't want any of this shit" refrains.

Smoking reefers

On the whole, I enjoyed "Walk Hard."  I enjoyed it when I watched it when it came out, and I enjoyed it this time, too.  I don't have any real complaints about it; this movie is fun and quickly-paced.  It doesn't aim very high, which probably keeps it from being great, but it's still really funny (particularly if you're versed in rock lore), and you'll see a ton of people you'll likely recognize.  So go ahead, give it a whirl when you're bored and want some laughs.

3 / 5 - Blu-Ray