Category Archives: Movie Madness

A look at the movies I’m looking forward to this month.

Nostalgia Double Feature

In the past week I’ve watched both The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The World’s End.  Both are movies that got me thinking a lot about nostalgia.

The-Perks-of-Being-a-Wallflower-posterWallflower takes place during the 1991-1992 school year.  It was two years after I graduated, but the world was very familiar.  I had groups of friends I bounced between back then.  I had my closest friends in John and Bill who never overlapped.  John was my metal head buddy and together we played video games and went to concerts.  We’d drive around late at night and talk about girls.  Bill and I went to the community center and shot pool or we’d go to the movies.  I also had my own personal Wallflowers.

My Wallflowers were like the Wallflowers in the movie.  They were the artsy kids.  The creative types.  The kids who in retrospect I probably should have been a lot closer with and it makes sense that they’re the ones who I am in fact closest with twenty-three years later.   Perks of Being a Wallflower made me miss those nights of hanging out at Brian Rankel’s house having philosophical discussions about life and art while The Smiths, The Cure and Depeche Mode played in the background.

Then I saw The World’s End.

worlds-end-posterSimon Pegg’s Gary King character in  The World’s End also missed those nights of hanging out with his childhood friends.  He rounds them up and reluctantly they join him in trying to complete an epic pub crawl from their youth.  When they try to go back they find that everything has changed.

His friends have all moved on with their lives and have families and responsibilities.  The town itself isn’t the same either.  The small pubs have largely lost their unique character.   If you’ve seen the trailer, you probably noticed how there’s a certain sci-fi Invasion of the Body Snatchers aspect to the movie.  It’s a great metaphor for the people becoming as homogenized as the pubs.  Trying to go back ends up being an epic disaster.

The World’s End completes Edgar Wright’s Cornetto’s Trilogy.  Like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz before, at some point in the first act, the entire plot of the movie is spelled out in a clever and throw away fashion.  The movie stands on its own, but there are a lot of little inside jokes for die-hard fans of the trilogy.  Right now it’s the one that I think I like the most.  Granted that may be because Wallflower got me feeling a big like Gary King.

I honestly wanted to write this without reference to my own stand up….but my latest album “nowadays” is largely about being present and not dwelling on the past…or worrying about the future.  The first track PROLOGUE literally features time travel to 1988.  The second track ALABAMA is about me holding on to a grudge with the entire state of Alabama.  HOLD THE DOOR is about me missing a simpler, more polite time.  DICK STRAWS is about the perversion of a mall store where I bought heavy metal collectibles as a kid.  FOURTEEN is a spontaneous riff about my parents trying to do their best to not raise a foul-mouthed child, but those plans were squashed with the first outside influence.  CREEPY COUSIN is about a fortunately avoided sticky situation from when I was a kid.  The cover of “nowadays” itself is a visual play on looking back.  I’m in a parking lot full of run down ice cream trucks looking away from them and towards the open sky ahead.  The trucks show that the epitome of carefree youth isn’t really what you remember.

So while Perks of Being a Wallflower made me miss the “good old days” because it was set during that time…since the writer Stephen Chbosky is just a year and a half older than I am….Simon Pegg (also a year and a half older) and Edgar Wright (two years younger) reminded me that Devo was right.

Maybe you should give the past a slip.

It’s good to be The King

I have a couple non-comedy things coming up that I’m really looking forward to.  My friend Jared Stroup has written a great screenplay that he’s gearing up to produce.  There’s a really fun…and sizable role in it that he asked me to play.  I’m super flattered and honored!  I’m beginning to feel my limitations as an actor.  I think sometimes people have a natural talent for things and sometimes they don’t.  

My first love is music.  I really wanted to be a musician.  Growing up all of my friends were musicians.  I was in a handful of bands to the dismay of my bandmates who had to carry my load.  I think playing with good musicians helped me get better, but I just didn’t have what it takes to be good.  I’m noodling around with a bass now and am probably as good as I was twenty years ago when I practiced a lot!  

I’m hoping I’ll find some secret talent when it comes to acting.  I just watched a clip of a thing I shot over the past year and was pretty disappointed.  I think I did a passable job in Deadpan, but those were words that I helped write…and a character that was based pretty close to myself.  Jared’s movie is going to be the thing that makes me decide if I want to keep trying this…or maybe check out an acting class.  He and I have talked about my worries.  I have a lot of confidence in him as a director though.  

posterOkay…let’s not make this all about me.  My buddies Dave Landau and Ken Kuykendall have an upcoming project too called The King.  Dave sent me the script a few months ago and it’s really funny.  It’s dark, has heart and is really good.  Production starts really soon.  They asked me to play a small role…which I don’t think I’ll fuck up!  

Anyway…I caught up with Dave and Ken to ask them about their upcoming movie The King.

Ken, I met you a couple years ago when Dave and I were in LA at the same time.  How did you guys meet?

Ken : We were pirates and Dave owned a fast boat that I was shoffering him around in. I was racing him to his destination, as he was late. He subsequently was the owner of Nascar and I was looking for a job outside of pirating and became a driver for his team…. and Scene. Dave and I met at Second City Level B in Detroit. We became fast friends after that. No pun intended.

Dave: I don’t know what Ken is talking about. I met him two weeks ago.

I’ve watched the shorts you guys have done together.  What made you decide to tackle a full length movie?

Ken: I actually made a feature film before, when I was 19. It’s called Loaded Potato 2. It’s about a Mr. Potato Head toy that goes on a rampage killing people. Dave is in it. We also collaborated on a short called Bromine that I put a lot of effort into. I seem to do something very involved, with lots of people in it, about every 5 years or so. It seems like it’s that time again.

Dave: Once I experienced watching our short film Rub That Lamp with a theatre crowd. I became interested in making a feature as it will give me something else to persue besides stand up.

Ken: Showing a comedy film with an audience is on par with riding a roller coaster.

bromineBromine looked great by the way. What did you guys learn from that experience that you think will help on this one?

Ken: Thanks, Mike. I had a lot of fun putting that together. I think I learned that it’s better to film your movie all at once, rather than over a period of months as your actors can suffer from depression causing their weight to fluctuate. Thin in this scene, fat in the next.

Dave: Fuck you.

What were the differences you noticed between audiences watching your act versus watching Rub That Lamp, Dave?

Dave: If a stand up show is not going well. I can switch gears and try other material. If a film isn’t going well… I can’t go home and re-edit it and bring it back that night. The butterflies I got when showing the film for the first time, I haven’t gotten since doing stand up in the early days.

Ken: Right before it played. Dave looked at me and said. “If this doesn’t go well. We should probably just leave.”

How did the story come about?

Ken: Dave, Sebastion Oberst and I basically wanted to write scripts to sell in L.A. This is one of several things we wrote together during that time. We just sat down one day and began writing. Obviously, it’s based on Dave’s early Detroit days. From there it seemed to organically come out on paper. We had a really good time. I remember laughing at how crazy some of the stuff is we were writing. I just thought we’d maybe sell it and at that point, somebody else would have to deal with how crazy it is. Now here we are doing it.

Dave, in your stand up you talk about your wild days growing up.  How much of The King is autobiographical?

Dave: It’s based on my early days of traveling from the suburbs to Detroit to buy booze illegally. All the characters are based off of real people i know or are people you might meet in Detroit in real life. This story is a heightened collection of everything that can go wrong in Detroit when cultures clash. I think this is a story that most people from around the Detroit area can relate too.

I dug the script a lot. Dave sent me an early version of it. It reminds me of a darker, but still very funny Superbad. How would you describe it?

Dave: That’s cool that it reminds you of Super Bad, because we want this film to remind people of the teenage years and that’s what Super Bad did.

Ken: I can see that. I also think it’s something like a smaller scale Dazed and Confused or American Graffiti but set in 1999. Where a couple of recent high school graduates go on that one last adventure together, except things get really messed up, like a Tarantino amount of messed up.

What was the writing process like? Did you guys sit in the same room and one person dictates? Were you on the phone? Do you bounce dialogue back and forth out loud with each other?

Ken: Dave had the beginnings of a script idea called New Car. We for the most part wrote it together in L.A. Coming up with ideas and trading typing when one got stuck or the other had something amazing to add. Like wrestling tag teams. Later, back in Detroit we re-wrote the ending and touched it up.

I’ve collaborated on scripts in the past and while the stuff I’ve written as a collaboration is the stuff I think turned out best, during the process it can be terribly difficult. How did you guys manage writing together?

Ken: We seem to write well together. Like we always used to do improv sketches well together. We’re just on the same page I guess. Like referring to your first question of how did we meet. That’s our first 5 minutes of meeting. We just kind of clicked.

Dave: Yeah, I guess when we write. We kind of follow the rules of improv of agreeing and heightening what we’re writing. We both enjoy heightening stories to the point where they can’t be heightened anymore. So much so that some Second City instructors felt our scenes went too far. We both feel that the best comedy is taking things as far as they can go. i.e. South Park, Shaun of The Dead or anything Rick Gervais does.

king_carThe car, a Chrysler Le Baron, in the story seems to be one of the characters. Why is this car so important to you?

Ken: The car represents freedom. Because you can go to new places and do all kinds of things that you can’t do without a car.

Dave: My experience with my first car went from being my greatest experience to my worst experience in one night. The story is based on that feeling, Where new and exciting territories can become dangerous when not explored causioutly.

The script is written. You’ve raised some production money through Indiogogo (I donated as well)…what’s the next step?

Ken: We’d both also like to thank you, Mike, for your donation!  We’ve currently finished pre-production. There are a few more things here and there to do. We have the car, the camera, the cast and we’re ready to go. We’ll be filming some stock shots and small scenes starting as early as next week.

Ken, marry, fuck, kill…Dave Landau, Martin Landau, Lando Calrissian?

Ken: Marry Lando Calrissian, because he would provide a nice home in Cloud City. Though we’d probably get divorced after he stabs me in the back. I wonder what frozen carbonate feels like. Fuck Martin Landau, because with out viagra it’s probably an impossible mission, which I chose to accept. Kill Dave Landau, so that I can just take all the millions that The King makes for myself.

Where can people go to find out more about this movie?

Dave: You can “like” our Facebook fan page for The King here.

Film incentives or not, these guys are doing it.  That’s the great thing about artists.  They create art.  It doesn’t matter if there are big backers or anything like that.  What matters is there’s a vision and a drive to make it real.  I know I’m really looking forward to The King!  

My Favorite Films of 2012

There were a lot of huge popcorn films this year, but my favorites are made up largely of smaller films.   For me in order to really enjoy a story I have to care deeply about the characters.  While I recognize The Master as a great film it just didn’t click with me.  I thought the world was interesting, but it followed my least favorite character in that world….much to the dismay of Jared from the Man in the Movie Hat website.   The Master does follow the same theme that makes up my top five favorites though.  It’s a story about friendship.  So here’s my list.

21_jump_street_poster_(2012)_wallpaper_02#5: 21 Jump Street.  Yeah, I know.  I had so many movies to put in this slot.  Moonrise Kingdom, Goon and Frankenweenie could have all easily been here instead.  Ultimately the reason I chose 21 Jump Street is because if all four movies were sitting on the shelf and were the only thing I could watch, it’s the one I’d put in the Blu-Ray player.  It’s fun and Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill have real chemistry together.  You get the feeling that it was just a fun film to make.  Nick Offerman has a great scene where he basically goofs on the whole idea of rehashing an idea from twenty years ago.  It’s self aware.  There are a couple of great cameos that will probably take you by surprise too.

I don’t know or care about hockey at all, but Goon was great.  The final scene is cringe worthy.  Moonrise Kingdom is your typical quirky Wes Anderson film where every frame is a work of visual art.  Frankenweenie had me really caring about an animated character and pleading near the end to just let the film entertain me and not remind me of any life lessons.  All three films are ultimately about friendship.

looper#4 Looper.  I’m always a sucker for time travel stories.  I’ve worked on the idea on stage about how if I could go back in time to meet with my younger self I don’t think we’d like each other very much.  That’s definitely the case here with Looper.   Ryan from the aforementioned Man in the Movie Hat website saw this before I did.  I sent him my prediction of what I thought it would be about.  I was way off.  So I went in excited to be surprised…and surprised I was right up to the finale.  Maybe it’s not really a movie about friendship as much as it’s about self preservation….but hey…that’s pretty important too.  Filmmaker Rian Johnson gets better and better with each project.   the fact that he glosses over the mechanics of time travel has been criticized, but it’s just not important to the story.  He does a great job of imagining a near future and creates it with a pretty limited budget.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt keeps proving himself as an amazing actor.  Just look at his range when you compare something like this to Hesher from 2010.

safetynotguaranteed#3 Safety Not Guaranteed.  I haven’t been able to get into the whole “mumblecore” thing so I didn’t really have high hopes for this thing starring Mumblecore Lord and Savior Mark Duplass.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s a small story about two people getting to know each other.  One of them is either nuts or a time traveler.  The story could have easily been a big film, but I think the fact that it stayed small really let you get to know the characters as opposed to inserting unnecessary big action pieces.   Mark Duplass is seeking a travel companion to time travel and Aubrey Plaza interviews for the position.   It’s a really sweet film.  Aubrey Plaza does really nice subtle things with her face that’s proving her as a really good actress.  I look forward to seeing her do something completely different in the future.

django-unchained-fan-poster-foxx-waltz#2 Django Unchained.  I just saw this yesterday and fell in love with it and the leads.  Christoph Waltz plays a character so unlike his Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds…but maybe a little similar in some ways.   Jamie Foxx is just plane cool.  to borrow from my friend comedian Mikey Mason, Django is Han Solo cool.  Samuel L Jackson is almost unrecognizable at the start and plays a role I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play.  It’s epic.  The music is amazing.  It’s poetic.  It’s funny at times…particularly the scene where Don Johnson’s posse is dealing with the eye holes in their lynching hoods.  The blood and carnage are over the top leaving one of the sets looking like the house from Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive.  I loved it and can’t wait for the Blu-Ray….and I’m not really a big Tarantino fan at all.  This is definitely my favorite film of his so far.  Again, the friendship between King and Django really clicked with me.

Silver-Linings-Playbook-poster#1 Silver Linings Playbook.  I saw this last week and loved it.  I’ve heard mixed reviews about how it’s all over the place and the ending is trite.  I don’t care.  I thought the acting was great.  I love the way the story telling was frenetic because it matched the characters.   The friendship that forms between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence was engaging.  It’s arguably Lawrence’s first grown up role and she really pulled it off.

Some honorable mentions for me are a horror movie triple threat with The Innkeepers, Silent House and Cabin in the Woods.  All three take the scary movie format and twist it to make for interesting films.  Silent House is shot as one continuous shot….although not really through the magic of film making.   I loved some big pictures too like Hunger Games, Argo and the Dark Knight Rises.  Sleepwalk With Me was enjoyable and really captured what it’s like to be a comedian while diving into Mike Birbiglia’s sleep disorder….coincidentally, I’m typing this at a La Quinta Inn…people familiar with Birbiglia’s story should get the significance.  I’m on the third floor.  Luckily insomnia is my only sleep disorder.

In Bruges is a perfect film in my book so I really had high hopes for Seven Psychopaths.  I think my expectations were too high maybe.  It’s a fine film, but doesn’t capture was In Bruges did for me.  Hmm, In Bruges is another movie about friendship.

I haven’t seen Beasts of the Southern Wild yet, but from everything I hear about it, I have a sneaking suspicion that it will probably end up in my top five.  We’ll see.   I was a little underwhelmed by Prometheus.  I think I just fell victim to all the hype and speculation.  The Avengers was fun, but I’m not really a big superhero guy.  In fact I missed Spider-man completely and have no intention of seeing it unless it pops up on HBO when I have nothing happening.

30 Minutes or Less: A classy broad’s review

When I first saw the preview of 30 Minutes or Less, I knew I wanted the movie to be awesome.  In fact, I was afraid of how awesome I wanted it to be.  The cast looked amazing: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, and Nick Swardson. And the premise was ridiculous and a little violent: two weird, dumb, criminal, best friends, Dwayne (McBride) and Travis (Swardson) kidnap a pizza delivery guy (Eisenberg), strap a bomb to his chest and force him to rob a bank so they can pay off a hit man to kill Dwayne’s lottery winning father to claim his inheritance.

Nick Swardson plays an unlikely straight man in his role as Travis, whose bomb making expertise is essential to the heist McBride’s Dwayne concocts after a money hungry stripper, Juicy, played by Bianca Kajlich, hints that she knows a guy who could get rid of his problem father and make them both rich.  The only problem? Dwayne needs 100 grand to pay off the hit man and chaos ensues.  Travis is somehow the voice of reason several times throughout the film, being a good person at heart and not really wanting to hurt anyone, yet still fearful of the strong and dumb minded Dwayne.

Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg also play a pair of best friends, Chet and Nick, respectively,  since high school who are struggling as one has gotten his life together (Chet) and the other (Nick)  is content in loserdom, delivering pizza’s and working for a total asshole.  Nick (Eisenberg) is also hopelessly in love with his best friend’s twin sister, who just got a job in another state, sending him into a hopeless tailspin of self hatred that he projects onto Chet (Ansari) and after a particularly brutal fight, filled with harsh truths about their friendship, the two part ways.  But their separation is brief after Nick  is kidnapped,  strapped with a bomb and realizes he has no one else to turn to but to Chet.

Both sets of friendships are put to the test in this intense and hilarious comedy, which, while it’s premise is about a dude who gets forced to rob a bank, it’s also about  sometimes tumultuous friendships that develop and how in truth, you can tell when you’ve got someone in your corner, because they’re there when shit gets crazy.

The performances in this film are truly what make it work so well.  While initially, Jesse Eisenberg delivers his lines with the same cadence and intensity as he did in The Social Network, he ultimately wins you over with the honesty of how his character got to where he is.  Aziz Ansari brings the same, sharp tounged, wit that dazzles me to no end on Parks and Recreation, all the while bringing real emotion to the hesitation and liberation he feels as he helps guide his friend through a life or death situation.  Nick Swardson and Danny McBride work so amazingly well as team, clearly headed up by McBride’s Dwayne.  Their idiocy and uneven friendship work so well as their performances are, while brash and broad characters, still subtle and believable.

I wanted this movie to kick ass.  I wanted it to be funny, and violent, and goofy and awesome.  And it was.  There’s even a little love story that includes Dilshad Vadsaria as Kate, Chet’s twin sister.  So there’s a little something in there for everybody.  I should also mention, the film was shot and set in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was fun to spot the scenery I recognized.  It also made me love the film even more.

Official Movie poster

30 Minutes or Less

Rated: R

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, and Nick Swardson,

My Rating (On a scale of A to F): A

Woody Allen Made Another Movie About Comedy?

Over the weekend I went and saw Midnight in Paris.   I think the beauty of that movie is that it’s going to speak to different people in different ways.  I know it does.  There were moments where I was the only person in the theater laughing.  This is how it made me feel.

We’re trying to swap two rooms in our house around.  In that process an old flyer I made for a Christmas show popped up.  On that bill were people like me, Brent Sullivan, Mike Kosta, Mike Stanley…just a great line up of talented people who are gone now.  Today, people might look at that as the golden age of the new Detroit comedy scene.  It didn’t feel like anything special at the time.  It felt like stage time.

I like to think that I’m living in a golden age right now.  I was at the club the other night with a whole slew of great people like Kris Peters, Lauren Uchalik, Jeff Scheen, Mike Green, Jeff Dwoskin, Trevor Smith and Mike O’Keefe.  Maybe one day people will be amazed that all those people were together in one place.  It’s all perspective.

So the take away from Midnight in Paris for me is to enjoy life to it’s fullest because you are living in the best time of your life.

On to the review…

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Knights of Badassdom Trailer!

I’ve been so busy these past few days that now I’m finally catching up on all of the San Diego Comic-Con news.  When I got home last night, Christine was telling me about the buzz from the Knights of Badassdom stuff at the Con.  It looks pretty awesome!

It’s a pretty amazing cast.  Ryan Kwanten is perhaps my favorite part of True Blood.  The brilliant Aussie plays the earnest and dimwitted Jason Stackhouse so well.  Peter Dinklage is another one of my favorites.   If you’ve never seen Station Agent, you totally should!  Nerds of course will recognized Summer Glau from a number of genre franchises…for me, Firefly is the biggy!  Danny Pudi is my absolute favorite part of Community…which is a tough thing to pick out because I love absolutely everything about that show!   And look at the supporting cast too.  There are so many people who are awesome when they show up in things like Jimmi Simpson (Party Down),  W. Earl Brown, (There’s Something About Mary), Michael Gladis (Mad Men), and Josh Malina (just about every Aaron Sorkin project).

Wow!  This looks like a fun movie.  I can’t wait to see it.

 

Spoiler-Free Captain America Geekout

This summer, I loved Harry Potter and I really enjoyed Thor, but Captain America is what I’ve been waiting for since I was 7. I am an unabashed Cap fanboy, and have been for as long as I can remember. This summer has been a countdown to Cap for me, and my wait finally ended this last night. Holy crap did I love this movie. Do not expect a blow-by-blow story breakdown or analysis of the finer points of technique. I am about to geek the fuck out.

This movie made me giddy, like I wish the Star Wars prequels had. Every frame on the screen was my childhood coming to life. The special effects were phenomenal, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear they starved Chris Evans and shrunk him to play skinny Steve Rogers. The shield slinging was so cool, which was important, because without it, this wouldn’t have been a true Captain America movie.

The character were all spot-on. Captain America has always been my favorite because he was just a regular kid who was given the ability to be a hero, and always knew the right thing to do and how to do it. They pulled that off perfectly. Chris Evans was awesome in the role, both as the determined, awkward weakling, and as the great hero. Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull was brilliant, too. He was evil, menacing, and not too over-the top. The Howling Commandos were great, though I wish they had mentioned them by name.

I didn’t mind any of the little changes they made to the original story, everything worked for me, and I think allowed them to tell a cleaner story, rather than having to explain a lot of unnecessary back stories.

There were some cool nods to the comics, too, like the way we first see Arnim Zola. The Stan Lee cameo was quick, but funny and didn’t take away from the story. The use of the comic style Captain America uniform was also a great nod, and made great sense in the context of the movie.

The only complaint I have is that the movie was over too quickly. As it was wrapping up, I suddenly realized it was about to be over, and very much wished it was longer. Also, don’t forget to stay after the credits. The post-credits sequence is awesome.

One final note, I have never been to a movie where I have seen more people wearing T-shirts featuring the character from the movie. There was even a little kid wearing a full Captain America costume, who had his picture taken with me because he liked my Cap costume hoodie so much.

The Last Circus

I just saw this trailer on Ain’t It Cool!

July Movie Madness!

I feel good that I managed to see three of the eight movies I really wanted to check out last month.  The other five will go in the Netflix queue.

There are five movies coming out in July I’m looking forward to seeing.  Two are big summer event movies, but the other three a small ones that you might not know about.  Let’s start big.

Of course I want to see Captain America!  Hugo Weaving is super amazing, so to see him as the Red Skull will be a treat.  I wasn’t so keen on seeing Green Lantern.  Thor surprised me by being so good.  I have a feeling Kobe and I will have to see how many cliches the ol’ Captain hits.  I’m not expecting anything ground breaking, but I bet it’s going to be a fun romp!

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Happy Birthday, America!

Wait, they're making a new movie? What about me?

Woo! I was going to post the Team America theme song, but decide maybe we should be the only web site that doesn’t do that today. Instead, enjoy the trailer for Captain America, which is going to kick ass all over the place in a couple of weeks.

God damn, i can’t wait for that movie.

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