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Flim New York: Live Free and/or Die Hard

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 5, 2007

LOL command centers

So I had previously expressed my misgivings about seeing Live Free or Die Hard due to the film’s heretical PG-13 rating, but certain images shown in the preview–namely the one pictured above–made me realize that I still had little to no choice in the matter. I held off on opening night, but when I didn’t have any plans for the afternoon of 4th of July, I figured there’d be no better way to celebrate our country’s independence than watching John McClane save it once more from the forces of evil and oppression (and Timothy Olyphant’s sneer!)

Anyway, turns out just about every fear and hope I had for the movie turned out to be justified. Live Free or Die Hard, like Knocked Up, is almost exactly what you’d expect–an incredible action movie hindered by an unfortunate choice of sidekick (Justin Long) and a far more unfortunate choice of rating. So while it’s likely to rank among the top action flicks of the year, it’s still unlikely to reach the legendary cable TV re-playability status of Die Hards 1 & 3 (best not to mention 2 in these discussions–it’s sort of the Rocky V of Die Hards)

So yeah, those action sequences–it’s some breathtaking stuff. Picture the first scene of Casino Royale, that sort of how am I watching this? incredulity-inspiring combination of amazing stunts, breakneck editing and brilliantly directed and choreographed chases, stretched over the course of an entire movie. It even throws back to some of the MacGyver-esque ingenuity that McClane showed in DH1, especially in my favorite scene in the whole movie, when he runs over a seemingly incosequential fire hydrant, only to use the ensuing spray to knock someone chasing him above head out of their helicopter. Geronimo, motherfucker!

But that hinderance of suggested Parental Guidance–it damn near ruins everything. The action sequences survive in tact, but the dialogue doesn’t stand a chance. Consequently, the dark, world-weary humor that was half the appeal of the original Die Hard movies, is almost entirely absent (even McClane’s signature line–which they acutally used to promote the movie–is unforgivably clipped). Instead, we get a bunch of predictable “I’m getting too old for this shit”-type humor (including one particularly painful scene involving Creedence) and strained father-son chemistry between Willis and Long, who is about as out of place in a Die Hard movie as Dennis Franz would be in a Merchant-Ivory flick.

Combined with a lack of truly memorable villains–Olyphant, evil lady sidekick Maggie Q and bizarrely agile henchman Cyril Raffaelli–and a lack of truly asshole-ish authority figures (Paul Gleason, you are dearly, dearly missed), the movie just doesn’t quite feel like a Die Hard movie. It’s worth watching just as a great action movie, but as an entry in the Willis canon, it’s just more melon farmer than motherfucker.

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Flim New York: Knocked Up

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 26, 2007

“It’s a girl. Buy some pink shit.”

Yeah, so this movie happened, and I saw it. Generally speaking, I couldn’t have been less surprised with my reaction to it–it was exactly as good as I expected it to be, which is to say, it was consistently enjoyable, made me laugh out loud a couple times, and should have been at least 20 minutes shorter (has there ever been a romantic comedy that needed to be over two hours long? Save some for the DVD, guys). This is one of those times that pretty much everyone was right–the people who said it was one of the freshest and most original comedies in years, the people who said it was going to be huge and going to make a star out of Seth Rogan, even the people who said it was overrated (‘coz it was, a little bit–inevitable). So while I don’t have much new stuff to say about it, I thought a couple points were sort of worth making:

  1. I found it sort of fascinating how totally apolitical this movie is. And I don’t just mean in terms of the subject matter, but in terms of what this movie says about its target audience–which is absolutely nothing, because the target audience of Knocked Up is everyone. Going to this movie says absolutely nothing about yourself–it implies not gender, party affiliation, sexuality, social standing, religion, favorite color, not even whether you prefer the original Law & Order or SVU. It’s completely neutral, and I don’t think I know a single person (all right, I’ll be fair–not a single person under the age of 50) about whom I could say “That person would definitely not like Knocked Up“.
  2. The movie’s attempt to resurrect, however briefly, the legacy of Haircut 100’s “Love Plus One” does not go unappreciated. What a cool, totally inexplicable, semi-lost classic.
  3. Katherine Heigl’s solid, if not particularly remarkable or committed, performance in the movie sort of makes me curious about what her return to the cast of Grey’s Anatomy must have been like afterwards. It’s sort of like the pretty, popular girl going back to hanging out with all her jock and cheerleader friends after spending a few months hanging out at the stoners’ lunch table, no? Do you think she started making fart jokes and and instigating water balloon fights once she got back, eliciting stern, disapproving glares from Ellen Pompeo and T.R. “That’s not funny!” Knight? Or was she too relieved to have finally gotten back to the land of attractive, adult human beings? It’ll be very interesting to see where her career goes from here.
  4. Paul Rudd = unlikeliest The Man ever. But, here we are.
  5. The scariest thing about Knocked Up was probably the Ryan Seacrest cameo, the semi-metaness of which comes dangerously close to implying that the American Idol host is aware of–and even possibly in control of–how much he sucks. Ryan Seacrest being self-aware would be sort of like Nickelback saying “Yeah, we know our new album is fucking ass, but buy it anyway ‘coz we like making money.” I just don’t know if I could handle it.
  6. This movie has two big, huge unanswered questions behind its central premise, only one of which is interesting. The boring one is the easily ignorable one–why didn’t Heigl just get an abortion, or at least explain her reasons for not getting one? Whatever, she didn’t, who cares. The really troubling one to me–how the hell do five post-grads afford a house together in LA, limitless amounts of weed and ridiculous quantities of useless juvenile paraphernalia (I want one of those ping-pong officiating chairs so fucking bad) when its clear that none of them have anything resembling steady employment? I don’t ask this because the lack of realism bothers me, but rather because I fear that this Utopian set-up will validate a generation of college students’ ridiculous fantasies about the realities of what post-grad life is like, including my own. Why get a job when you can just stay at home with your friends all day getting high, giving each other pink eye and dancing to Ol’ Dirty Bastard? Movie should be rated NC-17, at least.

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Flim New York: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 15, 2007

So you thought that you might like to go to the show

I felt a certain obligation to see Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters the weekend it came out in theaters. I’ve written before on this blog about my problems with the latest season, but for at least two years, the show was one of my very favorites, and I probably have more episodes memorized front to back (or close enough) than of any other show since The Simpsons. Moreover, part of me definitely wanted to believe that the reason the last season had been so lackluster was because they’d saved all their good ideas for the movie–at least that was the go-to excuse for the show’s defenders.

Not like I really need to tell you, but this definitely wasn’t the case. ATHFCMFFT starts out impressively (and somewhat misleadingly) hilarious, with a parody of “let’s all go to the lobby” type ads that I refused to believe was actually a part of the movie until the heavy metal food band showed up and the lead singer headbutted the hot dog. This leads into an equally funny pre-credit bit that actually sort of explains (key words: sort of) the show’s credits sequence, with the three escaping from the pyramids in ancient egypt, and Abraham Lincoln strapping the three to a wooden rocket and blasting them off into space for some reason. It’s ridiculous, but it’s actually one of the more logical things that happens in the movie, and definitely one of the funniest.

From there, it’s just about anyone’s game. The plot very, very loosely involves the Aqua Teens building some super-exercise machine that goes insane and ends up (maybe?) trying to take over the earth, while the roommates try to uncover the mystery of where they come from (or at least Frylock tries to, kind of). Along the way they run into pretty much all of the show’s regular antagonists–the Moononites, the Plutonians, the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future, Dr. Weird and Steve, even a brief cameo from attic-dwelling onion man Willie Nelson (though no Frat Aliens, I’m very sorry to say). There are even some new friends, in the forms of Walter Melon, the watermelon slice who carries around a mini Neil Peart (yeah, that Neil Peart) who brings people back to life with his magic drum solos, and the Much Fabled by No One 4th Aqua Teen, the Bruce Campbell voiced Chicken Bittle. Good times are had by all.

Ultimately, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters is exactly what you’d expect. The show’s creators said that the movie would be about “an origin story that unfolds in a very ‘Aqua Teen’ way,” and that description really couldn’t be more accurate. Frylock comes to several revelations about his and his roommates’ origins, but none of them make any sense and all are undercut by a further twist five minutes further into the story. Ultimately it turns out (spoiler alert, maybe, possibly) that Walter Melon created the Aqua Teens, that Frylock is Dr. Weird’s dad but is actually a lesbian trapped in a man’s body, and that the Teens’ mother is a big-breasted bean burrito voiced by Tina Fey. Really, though, the whole thing is basically just an excuse for reapated usage of the intro to Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight.” Fair enough.

Even though there are sporadic laughs throught ATHFCMFFT, it’s basically just an episode of the show stretched to 96 minutes in length, and considering most of the recent episodes ran out of steam six or seven minutes through as is (and that the movie doesn’t keep it up for much longer than that), it’s kind of a wonder that this movie ever got greenlit in the first place. At the very least, the movie’s probably the most surreal and disorienting thing I’ve ever seen in theaters, and for at least a half hour after the movie was over I was unable to have a logical converstaion with any of the people I saw the movie with without thinking something was horribly strange or wrong. Bizarre stuff.

Or, as one of my friends straightforwardly put it, “There was absolutely no reason for that movie to have been made.” Yeah, pretty much.

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