Thursday, December 06, 2007

Witz Flickz: Tis the Season

The start of December, Chanukkah, and Christmas songs can only mean one thing: you're about to have a relatively plentiful amount free time. You don't need to make excuses for it, you don't need to call in sick, or take a mysterious personal day, or buy a 49 dollar ticket to Baltimore on Southwest Airlines for no apparent reason and run until you can't anymore. You have free time because Jesus was born, Oil lasted longer than people originally believed it would last (ironically the opposite of the oil crisis in the world today), and because it gets balls cold (just above tits cold and just below death by frostbite) in most parts of the country right about now, and if people didn't have some time off to cheer up, we'd probably all be dead.

So I know you're going to want to watch a lot of movies. Even with the abundance of holiday movies on the networks and even with the abundance of bad action movies and dramas on USA, TNT, FX, etc., you'll still have some time for movies-- especially if you get snowed in. So here are some movies to see and movies to avoid during your time off.

The Dog Problem: I just finished watching this film written, directed, and acted in by underappreciated Scott Caan. Starring Giovani Ribisi, the film follows a depressed writer as he tries to feel better about life and make some money in the process so he can pay off his debts. Don Cheadle, his therapist, suggests he get a pet, and the dog is the answer. I didn't have too high hopes, but the writing, acting, and lightness of the piece, along with the good pacing and brevity of storytelling (coming in just under 90 minutes), made this film an easy-going enjoyable film to watch. I'm actually interested to see what Scott Caan has for us next and Giovani Ribisi is always terrific.

Transformers: Honestly, wtf? I was not one of the people excited for the movie when it came out. I didn't see it in theaters, but I heard good things from friends. Plus, I'm a fan of Shia The Beef, and hey, I played with the toys as kids, so why not? One of my older friends who never played with the toys or watched the show/animated movies saw it and said he knew right away that he had gotten in over his head. He wanted to walk out after the first ten minutes, but then everybody around him would know he was the idiot who expected something more out of Transformers the movie. "It was bad man-- there's this part where they uncover an alien language, right? Like, nothing we've ever seen before. And the kid's like, 'It's some kind of alien code...I'm gonna hack it!' Oh man. It was bad, but as my friend told me, 'Dude, it was a movie based on a tv show based on a toy that you didn't play with. What did you expect,' and that's true." So I didn't go into the DVD (on a bigass tv mind you) with high hopes. I was stil baffled. Transformers had some genuinely purposefully hilarious and entertaining moments, but it also had some of the absolute lowest, worst jokes ever, unintentional comedy, boring action, absurd plot, illogical cuts, characters, and dialogue I've ever seen and heard. It really felt like the writers had no idea what they were writing-- they couldn't decide between an action movie, a self-deprecating comedy, a satire, a British comedy, or who knows what else. What I think probably happened was that somebody wrote the initial script as an action movie with some of the main phrases like, "More than meets the eye," but lacking comedy. Then, the producers probably said it needed to be funnier, and paid some other writers to come in and punch it up. That's the only way to explain the random comedy riffs that come out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. There's no real way to explain the extended 5-10 minute comedy sequences like when the Autobots are sneaking around Shia The Beef's house or when the transformer Jazz drops a, "What's up bitches?" to the assembled group. The acting was all over the place, especially the romantic interest, who changes personas by the minute, at first appearing dumb and boring, then suddenly she's a comedian, then suddenly she's in love with a guy who barely knows's car. Baffling. To his credit, Shia LeBouf does a great job and pulls off both the action and especially the comedy. I also think it's unfair to say, "who cares" about the acting and assume it's going to be bad, just because the movie is Transformers. John Turturro makes a guest appearance and does a good job, and a few other actors pull their weight. It was the writing and directing (Michael Bay has a lot of explaining to do...and for Michael Bay, that says something) that made it so shockingly bizarre. I can't say it's not worth seeing, I just wouldn't have any expectations at all when you see it.

Tin Man: The miniseries based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz just finished airing on the Sci-Fi channel a couple nights ago. It's a three part series 2 hours a piece and it's re-airing this weekend, so check your listings. Starring Zooey Deschanel, Alan Cumming, Kathleen Robertson, and Neil McDonough, the series is a re-imagination of the story rather than an adaptation. It takes the framework that Wizard of Oz laid out and plays with it, changing character backgrounds, goals, story, and result. It is supposed to take place in the same universe as the original, but not at the same time. I have to say that while I was never very invested in the plot or the characters, it was interesting to see the ideas and twists. Zooey Deschanel made me loath her as an actress, reminding me more and more that she only has two acting moods-- sullen and morose. "Happy" for her is more of an "Un-Morose" than it is truly joyful. If it wasn't for her deadpan delivery and huge blue eyes and great singing voice, I'm pretty sure she'd be working at a Walmart right now. Alan Cumming on the other hand, surprised me and played a character outside his norm for a change. Most noticeably, he uses a deep voice instead of the thin, higher pitched voice he usually projects. His acting was also interesting and very nuanced which is to say, "just see it and figure it out, I can't really explain how he acted." You won't be blown away by the series I don't think, but you will find it interesting and clever.

Lost on DVD: In preparation for the new season of Lost, I would suggest watching the first two seasons on DVD...then it gets terrible. You're gonna have to wade through those next bits until it gets decent again and then you'll be ready for this season. I suggest baking, cleaning, or sorting change while watching the rough patches.

House on DVD: Fantastic. Season four appears to be over, possibly on account of the writer's strike, so catchup on the first three, checkout season four reruns and online at and you'll be all set when season five rolls around.

The West Wing: I think that the West Wing Christmas episodes get more emotion out of me than actually celebrating Christmas. They are quality television and I suggest getting the DVD's from your local library and watching a few episodes to help you celebrate life.


All I Want For Holidays Is Rock Band...But I Also Need A Gaming Console...And a Big TV...And A Friend Who Can Sing Like Professionals...,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

James wanted to post a comment tonight, but the "Lead Pipe" was crying his eyes out at the Liza Minelli show