Leaves of Grass – Two Eds Are Better Than One?

What up, Buttercups?

This is really a film of two parts. It follows the stories of a pair of twins (Brady and Bill) both played by Ed Norton.

Brady is a weed farmer with a relaxed attitude and Bill leads a buttoned down life as a professor and renowned philosopher. The plot is basically Brady wants to go clean and needs Bills help to do so. Hi-jinks ensue.

But there are moments of brilliance. Kerri Russell plays a poet with a beautiful world view who can also noodle a catfish. Reciting Walt Whitman while gutting a catfish is odd but a perfect juxtaposition for a character that his this unique world view while living back where she grew up.

Whereas Bill would rather be away from the small town life and his family.

It’s stated early on in the film that Brady is the smarter of the two and it shows. He has his own ideas about the world. It’s a simpler view than his brother’s. He is filling the film’s role as a permanently stoned philosopher. A man who has the ‘mojo’ to talk people into doing things they don’t want to, or more accurately, talking them into doing things they don’t think they want to.

Its a story of how two people so alike can be comfortable in different skins. Brady is happy in his little world. He his friends, his girlfriend and is about to become a Dad.

Bill, on the other hand, is living this single almost lonely life in Rhode Island. He’s on the career fast track and can talk beautifully about his subject but everything in his life is skewed towards discipline. He teaches the classics and during the first few minutes of the movie he espouses the notion that logic and passion are irreconcilable. That for the few fleeting moments that we think we have a balance between the two of them we are pretending to be God and are heading for a fall.

So the comedy in the film is very formulaic. Two people forced into a situation while they have wildly different attitudes. It’s very much in the vein of the Odd Couple. Then they add in a “It’s not what it looks like” subplot between Bill and one of his students and a blackmail subplot.

It’s not Hollywood’s finest movie. There are times when I was watching this film that I was overwhelmed with the feeling that when this film was being made they weren’t sure what they wanted it to be. There are moments of comedy, romance, deep thought and crime.

This is an odd film. One that I’m not sure I’d watch again considering I struggled to get through it the first time. There were moments of brilliance sprinkled throughout the film but it quickly dissolved into a mess that left me feeling so much of the potential in this film was wasted. It feels like nothing gets resolved.

The epiphany comes at the very end. There are murders and some romance and acceptance in some form but it all feels hollow in a beautiful way.

It’s a film about acceptance; of where we come from, of who we are and the life we find ourselves living. There is an element of facing our fears and, by facing them, realising there is nothing to be scared of in the first place and continuing to be afraid of them is pointless.

There are a lot of setups for jokes and comedy moments that don’t pay off in the way you’d think they should and I can’t decide if that’s bad writing or something new that didn’t work out as first intended.

Richard Dreyfuss plays a Jewish drug kingpin for a handful of minutes and Susan Saradon plays Brady and Bill’s hippy mother again in a role that feels more like a cameo.

There is plenty talent in the picture but the story feels somewhere between a life changing movie and a crime caper.

My biggest feeling after watching this is that there was so much potential that went untapped.

RTJ

Ted 2 – Romancing the Stoner

What up, Buttercups?

I saw Ted 2 when it was in cinemas way back in 2015. I saw it as part of a date and night out with my then girlfriend.

My first impression of the film was that it was an unnecessary sequel. The original Ted was almost an adult version of Toy story. What happens when the kid grows up and so does the toy?

It was interesting and this was back during a time when Family Guy, American Dad and, by extension, Seth MacFarlane could do no wrong.

Ted 2 is part of the fall of Seth MacFarlane. It came a year after A million Ways to Die in the West; which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly pure gold and Ted 2 follows in that vein.

I rewatched it before writing this and the first thing that struck me was the entire unnecessary dance number right at the beginning for the opening credits.

From there the rest of the film is almost a set of loosely connected skits and cameos before we get to about the halfway mark where it feels like someone finally asked: what’s the actual story? Whereas Ted had a fairly well put together story that had well-placed comedic moments that fed into the plot and enhanced the story.

Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) wants to adopt a child with his wife but can’t because he is a living teddy bear and has no rights because he’s technically property. This means that he and his newly divorced best friend John Bennet (Mark Wahlberg) need to go to court to get him his rights back.

They are joined by their lawyer Sam L Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) who loves to get stoned but is completely oblivious to their pop culture references.

The best part of the entire film for me is Sam’s rendition of Mean Ole Moon in the middle of a field after Ted crashes the car into a barn. Considering she was in Mamma Mia I’d completely forgotten she could sing. It’s a beautiful mellow moment after all the jokes about a dick shaped bong and a rip off of Jurassic park where, instead of dinosaurs, they stumble across a field of pot. Ted reciting the line “They do move in herds.”

There are cameos aplenty; Sam Jones, Tom Brady, Liam Neeson, Jay Leno. All of whom are the centre of a little one-off joke that does little to further the plot. There’s also a bizarre music video segment in the middle of the film that feels much like an homage to the Breakfast Club and Seth MacFarlane’s known love for EVERYTHING from the 80s.

The humour in the film comes in a few different flavours:

1) Gross out (John getting covered in jizz at a fertility clinic).

2) Ridiculously, stupidly offensive (See the first courtroom scene where Ted likens himself to the “fags” before changing it to “homos”).

3) Pop culture references that Sam doesn’t get (mostly jokes about the size of Amanda Seyfried’s eyes – Like we didn’t get enough of that in a Million Ways to Die in the West – and Gollum references).

4) Stoner humour (mostly in the vein of funny names for various blends of pot and the effects they have).

There are a few meta moments. My favourite is Guy (Patrick Warburton) at Comic Con dressed as The Tic – a reference to him being playing the character earlier in his career.

Considering the film deals with big themes of humanity and civil rights, so much of the writing in the film feels lazy. There are jokes that seem to have been yanked straight out of rejected Family Guy episodes. They bear (pun intended) the same fingerprint as any Pete Griffin story from the show.

Maybe that’s another meta riff to follow up on a throw away joke fropm the first film that Ted’s voice sounds like Peter Griffin but if so it’s poorly executed.

And yet…

And yet.

I still enjoyed this film.

After all that you might think I hate it. I don’t. It’s an enjoyable film if you just want to get a little drunk and turn your mind off. Maybe it helped that I was drunk when I rewatched it but it was enjoyable enough that I wasn’t actively throwing my head back and wishing God would make it stop. It will never be in my top ten list of films… but it’s also not a film I’d turn over if I found out it was on.

RTJ

Jennifer’s Body – Teens, Murders & Demons… What’s not to like?

What up, Buttercups?

I first saw this film way back in 2012. The only reason I watched it was because I’m a fan of Panic! At the Disco and I absolutely love their song New Perspective which was used in the movie soundtrack.

That being said, it is a low key musical film. Especially if you like indie and alternative rock. There are music posters in a lot of background shots (Of course there are, it’s a teen movie) Fall Out Boy is one of them but my favourite is from my favourite band, Motion City Soundtrack’s poster for the album Even If It Kills Me.

It’s a weird film. While Needy (Amanda Seyfried) is the protagonist of the film it almost feels like a teenage boy’s wet dream in parts; Namely the parts where Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy have a hot make-out session and Needy’s boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons) is fought over by Jennifer and Needy.

Lots of the dialogue between Jennifer and Needy does sound like it is written by a teenage boy. Period and sex jokes and Chip’s ecstatic expression when asking if he is “too big” for Needy when they try to have sex.

The premise is hilarious. An evil indie band doing anything they can to make it. There words of Nikolai (Adam Brody) ring true “If you don’t get on Letterman or some retarded soundtrack you’re screwed. Satan is our only hope.”

Not sure what else I should’ve expected from a Horror-Comedy.

There were a few decent jump scares and enough creepy screeching noises to set you on edge. There are also a few heartbreaking moments in there too. Personally, going from the happy vibrancy of one of Jennifer’s victims on their way to meet with her. Then moving through uncertainty as you realise the address she gave isn’t for her house. To the almost sick and sorrowful call of “Hello?”to a houset hat is still obviously half building site hit close to home and is one of the better emotional sections of the scene. Who hasn’t been excited for something – be it a date or not – only to begin to wonder if things are really what they seem and then the crushing disappointment that comes when it finally falls through.

In a movie about the occult it’s a surprising moment that can still wrench a response from me.

The core of this movie is all about friendship and choices. There is the famous saying that “We can choose our friends and not our family.” This film is a study of choosing friends. Needy and Jennifer have been friends for years. So long in fact that Needy is blind to the horrible person her friend is before she gets turned into a boy killing demon.

One of the scenes we see of the two of them together is Jennifer pressuring Needy into spending time with her instead of her boyfriend. Jennifer is controlling and jealous and revels in being the centre of attention. She uses her sexuality – and the lust she inspires in men – to manipulate people and situations to get what she wants.

The biggest choice of the film is almost one we never get to see. Jennifer Chooses to go after Chip and that prompts Needy to kill her friend. It’s almost implied that if Jennifer hadn’t gone after Chip, Needy would have left her alone; even after learning what her friend is and has done, Needy doesn’t act on it until Jennifer goes after her boyfriend.

I watched this film again recently and I’m not as enamoured with it as I was back in 2012 and it will probably be a while before I watch it again but I didn’t hate it. Adam Brody played a great smarmy character, although I doubt I’ll ever be able to see him as anyone other than his character for The OC. Megan Fox played a convincing bitch and Amanda Seyfried plays off of her well, encapsulating the long-suffering friend perfectly. Johnny Simmons does amazing work in another musically related roll though this time as a drummer and not a bassist.

It is a teen movie and very much of its time. It tries to do a few things differently but not enough for it to be memorable. The best I can say about this film is that if you’re trying to entertain teenagers over Halloween, this might do the trick early on in the evening before moving on to something with a bit more bite to it.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World – Game Over. Continue?

What up, Buttercups?

For those of you paying close attention you may have noticed that my posts are all connected. For the smarty-pants in the back snickering because they’re all late or reviews of movies, you’re wrong. Well, wrong and right. They are all late – that is my shtick after all – and they are all review but its something a little less obvious.

This post is no different but you will be able to notice the connection more easily.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World. It was, for a while, my favourite film of all time. It had elements that appealed to me. It is, at its core, the story of love conquering all.

Who doesn’t love that?

There was a time, before I ever knew of Nick and Norah (Hint hint at the connection) where this was the film I watched religiously. I had to watch it with subtitles because when I bought it the laptop I owned wouldn’t play sound. So I’d sit alone, in my flat, watching a movie with the sound off like something out of a horror film until I could recite it word-for-word.

I loved the idea that a down-on-his-luck loser like Scott (Michael Cera) could win the love and affection of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Aside from the story – personally I think more people should have to face their new partner’s last seven evil exes it might make us think a little harder about who we date and how we break up with them – the music is spot on. The original songs in the script were penned by Beck.

It is also a film packed full of little nods and Easter Eggs that once you notice will make you smile. For example, once you notice all the Xs dotted around the place you won’t be able to unsee them.

The fight scenes are amazing and the comic book details are laced throughout the entire film lending it a sense of continuity. It is a comic book film that is perfectly happy with being a comic book film. It doesn’t try to be much else.

Fidelity is a big theme in this movie.

Scott – when we meet him – is dating a girl called Knives (Ellen Cho) but that doesn’t stop him chasing Ramona after she appears in a dream but doesn’t end the relationship with Knives until after he spends the night with Ramona.

There is a sense of realism to that. While he is the hero of the film he is not some painted white knight. He is very much a hero with feet of clay. The first hint of this is the way Sex Bob-omb bandmate Kim (Allison Pill) reacts to the news that Scott has a girlfriend.

He lacks purpose, drive, ambition… most things that typical comic book heroes have in spades.

He’s indecisive, scared, selfish… There are two theories to how to create a novel or a film. One is putting an extraordinary person in an ordinary situation the other is putting an ordinary person into an extraordinary situation.

You don’t get more ordinary than Scott Pilgrim. A whiny 22-year-old who doesn’t know how to move on with his life, is still hurting from an ex who dumped him and learned to fight from video games. And you don’t get more extraordinary than all seven evil exes of your newest girlfriend trying to kill you so that Gideon (Jason Schwartzman) – Ramona’s newest, most evil and founder of the League of Evil Exes – can control her love life.

The film is an over-the-top, Easter Egg crammed, full throttle action film with romance and enough jokes and pop culture references to keep even the geekiest of dedicated Comic Con goers happy. From Legend of Zelda music in the background of scenes, to reaction shots overlaid with error sound bytes from Mac and Windows PCs, all the way down to hidden numbers or signs marking out which evil ex is which.

For many people I doubt this will be a film they re-watch as religiously as I did but rest assured that if you were scrolling through late night TV and stumbled across this on Film 4 I doubt you change channel until it was over.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Repeat All!

What up, Buttercups?

This is one of my favourite films of all time. One I watched every day for a solid week after a break up. It is just so good.

That being said, I’m gonna try to review it with at least some stab at being impartial. I apologise for failing in advance.

So. It’s a simple story set out over a single night. It follows Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) and their friends as they try to find the band Where’s Fluffy who are doing a secret show somewhere in New York city.

The premise doesn’t sound like much but it is the foundation for the rest of the film that covers topics of body positivity, sexuality, one-sided unhealthy relationships, love, heartbreak and friendship.

The heart of this movie is the music. It holds everything together. Whether it’s Nick’s band arguing over their name, the mix CDs Nick makes to help him get over his ex or the songs woven throughout the night’s adventure.

Things get complicated when Nick’s ex Tris (Alexis Dziena) turns up and Norah’s on-and-off again semi-boyfriend/friend with benefits Tal (Jay Baruchel in the only role that has ever made me dislike him. Congrats on that Jay!) turn up.

At it’s core it is a movie about acceptance and moving on. From lost love and relationships that hold us back to sexuality and body positivity. Norah feels that because she isn’t the perfect size zero little model that Tris is she has no chance with a guy who doesn’t know who her father is.

Nick spends most of the film pining after Tris and the imagined perfect relationship that he thought they had – which is something we’ve all done from time to time when we’ve donned the rose-tinted glasses.

It’s only by the end of the film, the search through New York for Norah’s drunk friend Caroline and the many adventures that happen while trying to track down Where’s Fluffy that Nick realises Norah is the girl for him. And Norah realises she doesn’t have to settle for the life that’s been planned out for her or settle for the guys who only want her because of her who father is and the influence he can have over their careers.

Aside from the heart-warming romantic story it is a masterpiece of acceptance. Of the group of six characters we spend the majority of our time with, and root for, three of them are gay; including Nick’s bandmates. This isn’t a major plot point but is instead a brilliant example that diverse characters don’t have to be centre stage for them to matter to the film and that being gay is not the be all and end all of their characterisation.

While it ends with in the way many romantic comedies do with our young lovers getting together and realising that the journey of the night was a different one from the one they thought they were getting.

It’s a journey of discovery wrapped up in a light-hearted race through the quirky New York indie music scene.

Like I said at the start, this is my favourite film. I would listen to the soundtrack on repeat for the rest of my life without hesitation. There is nothing I don’t love about this film. From the first awkward moments of Nick leaving a pathetic voicemail, through the trails of the night and Norah’s recording room orgasm (which is equal parts honest, sexy and cringe worthy) through to the satisfying finale of Tris getting her comeuppance and The Real Tuesday Weld’s Last Words playing over the ending. Which is so satisfying!

It’s a film that I see more that the more I watch it. Including once where I noticed that a piece of gum makes a complete circle from the guy who originally had in an early scene to Caroline to Norah to Nick and then back to the gum’s originator in the finale.

If you haven’t seen this film I urge you to watch it. Then watch it again and possibly a third time just to track the gum from person to person.

Begin Again – A True Musician’s Movie

What up, Buttercups?

I came across this movie during the start of 2016. It was a dark time for me and this film was the beginning of me pulling myself out of it.

Being totally upfront about it, this is one of my favourite movies. I’ve watched it a couple of times and there is something about the energy they put into making this that make me want to pick up and instrument, write a song and try to take the world by storm.

At its heart Begin Again is a story of self-discovery. It paints a lovely glossy picture of musicians and the creative process. A somewhat truncated and idealised version but there is nothing sexy or fun about someone umming and arring over a chorus for a week until it comes to them in the shower.

That issue aside. It is a fantastic film if you love music.

It centres around Gretta (Keira Knightly) and Dan (Mark Ruffalo) and their attempts to put together an album as well as their lives. Gretta’s is falling apart after her boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) is signed to a major record label and cheats on her. Dan loses his job, his wife had an affair and his relationship with her is strained and next to non-existent with his teenage daughter.

During the recording of the album using the city as a studio Gretta gets over Dave and Dan manges to piece his life together, rediscovering his love for the music business through Gretta’s idealism.

I should mention that James Corden plays the role of comedy sidekick; breaking out a kazzoo to amazing effect. At first, I questioned his role in the film but he provides a few good laughs and more than that he is the essential anchor that keeps Gretta in America instead of returning home to the UK.

There are a few famous musical faces that pop up throughout the film Mos Def plays a drawling record company executive who’s only goal is the bottom line. CeeLo Green makes an appearance playing Troublegum who I assume is a version of his real self.

The film is shot with real love and care – even down to the scene where Dan sings Gretta’s song in the shower – and there are some amazing set pieces. The first being Dan seeing Gretta perform in a bar and all the other instruments coming to life around her even though she is the only one on stage as his imagination fills in the rest of the arrangement.

The next being the absolutely stunning rooftop recording session. While it is only maybe ten minutes long at the outset it is one of my favourite scenes in the film and in cinema altogether. There is such a sense of energy to it that makes you want to pick up a guitar of beat a drum or just dance. It captures how music should make you feel; that sitting still is the worst possible thing you can do at that moment.

It runs at barely more than an hour and a half and it is totally worth every moment.

It is a seriously good film if you want something to make you smile and if you are in need of something to inspire the musician in you, then this is definitely the film for you.

Liberal Arts – Josh Radnor’s Love Letter to College

What up, Buttercups?

As the title implies, this film is Josh Radnor’s love letter to his college days.

It is written, directed and stars Radnor and it made me wonder how much of himself he poured into Ted Mosby. Or how much Jesse Fisher was based on Ted because the two are hard to tell apart sometimes.

For example. Both Ted and Jesse are from Ohio, they’re both misty-eyed romantics who see their college days through spectacularly rose-tinted glasses and they both have this grand love affair with New York City. Minor similarities between the characters include: a professor they love and cite as their inspiration, notions that they’re intellectuals while not being as refined and sophisticated as they think they are and an attraction to the wrong girl.

Another usable subtitle for this review could have been Liberal Arts – The Ted Mosby Movie. Essentially that is what it feels like.

Now with that said. There are things about this film that I love.

The opening is not one of them though. It has this weird cold open that is filmed documentary style for no logical reason. Apart from an information dump that he works for a college and he lives in New York.

The introduction of a love interest (Elizabeth Olsen) and the building of their relationship through hand written letters, I like. The use of classical music to underscore the letter is also great. I love the juxtaposition of classical music played through modern technology while reading old-fashioned snail mail. The clichéd voice-overs reading them out… not so much. It’s a technique that has been done to death.

I also love the hesitation he shows once finding out his lady love has yet to have her first sexual experience. I can’t state that enough. That is a moral choice that I don’t think is made much in films. Ether through conscious choice or through the female characters keeping it as a secret until after the deed is done.

There is also the subplot of a suicidal student genius. It allows the film to give a subtle nod to Josh’s How I Met Your Mother Past. The book they discuss is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace; who was played amazingly by Jason Segel in End of the Tour.

The major problem I have with this film is the second love interest. The one that feels tacked on to the end just to give it a happy ending. It comes completely out of nowhere from a couple of characters that barely speak to each other for the entire length of the movie. The entire romance is shoehorned in and feels completely see through.

It is in many ways a feature length episode of How I Met Your Mother… but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it.

It may lack the panache and punch of a big summer blockbuster or traditional romantic comedy there are some very human moments. The letter scene between Jesse and Zibby (Olsen) where they discuss music and life and love is solid. We gifted with a sense of excitement that we all feel when someone we like texts us. I love that instead of it being texts or emails it if the old fashioned letter and more power to Josh Radnor for writing it that way. It would been way too easy to have Zibby be some typical college student who is into hip-hop and never off her phone and have Jesse be this guy stuck in the past trying hard to relive his glorious college days through a relationship with a younger woman.

What Radnor does is show us what happens when you’re old enough and mature enough to realise that what you want may not in fact be good for you.

While the cast isn’t star-studded there are some big names here Allison Janney plays a cougar professor showing us that the fantasies we have in our youth can be attainable but sometimes they’re better left as fantasies. Zac Efron’s turn as the oddball, free-thinking, free-living Nat is the perfect counterpoint Jesse’s over-seriousness. Elizabeth Reaser is the shoehorned in love interest and while that does annoy me – mostly because there is no real development between Reaser’s Ana and Jesse – sometimes that is the way of life you fallout of something bad into something good. So my objection to that may be nothing more than not accepting something in film I’d have no trouble accepting in life.

Overall; the film is a solid one and one that is definitely worth a re-watch whenever you wish you could go back and have your time again.

RTJ

The Idea, the Execution & the Reason behind it all

So, I’d like to think that you’re there.

Somewhere. Out there in the big wide world. Sat in front of your computer. Maybe you’ve got your laptop on your lap, novel though that idea may be. Or maybe you’re sat on the train reading this on your tablet, an I-pad or a Samsung or a Kindle Fire. Possibly, most likely given the age we’re now living in, you’re reading this on a Smart Phone, again your iPhone or Samsung, I doubt you’d have a BlackBerry, but you could surprise me.

So, if you’re reading this, whoever you may be I’d like to take a moment to say: “I like you, you can stay.”

Right. Down to business.

As the name suggests Past Due Reviews is my attempt to give something back to the world. My way of putting my spin on the things; be it the books I read, music I listen to, TV programs and movies I watch. Only, here’s the deal. Not new stuff. That way the hype dies down and I’m not caught up in the swell of emotion and excitement and I can cut through the bullshit.

So, if you’re expecting my opinions on Logan (I have them trust me) or anything brand new you’re going to have to wait awhile.

So, I hope that this isn’t the last time that you’re here.

RTJ