Saturday, December 25, 2010

True Grit: "Looking back is a bad habit."

If you haven't seen True Grit, you need to stop reading and buy a ticket right now. I mean it. If you're reading on, I'll be upset if you haven't bought a ticket already. Hands down, this is one of the best films of the year-- really fun and really well done: well-paced, well-written, and well-acted.

Before embarking on this adventure, I worried that this western (which one critic compared to Treasure Island-- WTF?) would be too contrived; but my worries were put to bed within the first 10 minutes of the film. The way in which Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld delivered their lines blew me away, each snarky remark perfectly timed and full of sincerity. (I could have done with or without Matt Damon-- he was clearly outshined by both his castmates.)

I was in the moment and along for the ride throughout the entire film, swept up by the story and charmed by the dialogue. However, the last 15 minutes of the film pull a flash-forward, which almost always bugs me on principle. But alas, it's a small complaint for such a great experience. I'm already excited to own this film, so I can repeatedly rewatch and chew on the dialogue some more.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"There's us and the dead."

Okay, so this is a little late coming and it's kind of a no-brainer (no pun intended) but if you're not watching The Walking Dead, you're missing out on the best zombie story ever put to screen. I love zombie movies, but The Walking Dead puts them all to shame (yes, I'm talking to you, Romero). This television experience shows you what a zombie story should be.

Not to get too gushy, but this show continually blows my mind. From the first episode, I was hooked on not only the writing and the story, but the way it's shot. It's one of the most cinematic shows I've ever seen-- pure gorgeousness (amongst all the guts and gore). All along the way, there are brilliant and beautiful decisions made in the framing, juxtaposition, and angles of shots. This is the first zombie story to take itself seriously.

If you're not particularly gripped by the cinematography, I promise you the story will grab you. It's packed full of interesting, complex characters, dramatic irony, and writing that gives you a perpetual sense of anxiety-- I feel like they will kill off whoever they please, with no respect of persons. Not to mention, the gore is pretty fun.

If you're not able to catch it Sundays on AMC, watch it online. You'll be sorry if you don't. And if you didn't hear, the show has officially just been renewed for a full 13-episode season next year. Oh yeah!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Social Network: "Drop the 'the'"

Not surprisingly, I give two thumbs up for The Social Network, which has gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews. First and foremost, Aaron Sorkin’s writing blew me away. He transformed a dialogue-heavy film into a rare treat that made me laugh and think at the same time. Aside from the writing, Jesse Eisenberg’s performance was fantastic, and I’m glad he’s been able to prove himself as something more than the poor man’s Michael Cera.
So we all agree it’s a great film, but I think it’s interesting that there’s a lot of talk about the accuracy of the film’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg. Certainly, I could see why this wouldn’t be Zuckerberg's favorite film. However, I think people realize that the story is slanted for the sake of making a dialogue-heavy film exceptionally interesting. And even though Zuckerberg's character is not particularly likable, he is still presented as a complex individual—good and bad mixed into one. The film definitely presents him as a sort of genius (even if it also presents him as a socially inept schmuck). I readily I admit that some of his comments (although definitely rude) made me feel satisfied and made me wish I were the kind of person with the guts to ask a lawyer, "Did I adequately answer your condescending question?"
The conversation at the beginning of the film serves as a summation for Zuckerberg's character—for better or for worse. On the one hand, he’s quick, witty and has no trouble following three conversation threads at once. On the other hand, he (perhaps innocently) says some things that makes your jaw drop. And it’s this conversation that sucks you in and sets the tone for the rest of the film.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Town: "We're gonna hurt some people"

I'm gonna go ahead and jump on the bandwagon and say that you should see The Town. It's a pretty good Boston crime film (Affleck surprised me with his ability to write) and the cinematogrpahy makes it worth seeing in theaters. It's not jaw-dropping astounding, but it's a good film through and through. And let's face it: there really isn't much else out, unless you're planning on seeing that cartoon owl movie or that cartoon dog movie. The good news is Let Me In comes out next weekend! Eeee!

Easy A: "A is for Awesome"

I've gotta say, Easy A surprised me. I fully expected to be bored to death with another teen movie's oversimplified dramatics and cheesy one-liners. But this was a rarity in its genre: a smart film. From the beginning, Olive Penderghast (played by the likable Emma Stone) is much more interesting than most teens portrayed in films. She's smart, seriously witty, and she pokes fun at herself (and at the movie itself in a strange meta-narrative that surprised me with its sophistication). As a bonus, the plot took some turns that I didn't see coming, which is a rare luxury indeed in a teen comedy, and the journey brings you to a pretty meaningful place in the end. I didn't feel hit over the head with sentimentality, but I appreciated the film's final message.

The last complimentary thing I'll say about this film (I don't want to sound too much like I'm gushing here) is that I really liked the relationship between Olive and her parents (played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci). These parents weren't written as typical teen-movie parents. They were full-fledged characters in themselves, and they treated Olive as they would an intelligent adult. You could also see where Olive got her intelligence and spunk, as her parents had some of the best lines in the film.

When all's said and done, this is still a teen comedy. It has its problems, just like any film in its genre, but I think it's above and beyond most of its competitors. The film has a lot more meat to it than the trailers imply, and it's definitely at least worth a rent.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Logitech holding contest for new host

If you geeks haven't heard, Logitech is holding a contest to find the "Host with the Most" for Google TV.

My friend, the talented Austin Craig is in the running. You probably know him as the face of Orabrush on YouTube: . If you liked what he did with Orabrush, just imagine what he could do with Logitech!

Land him the gig and send him to LA by voting for him at . It's as easy as a click of the button. Thanks guys!

Rental Release: The Art of the Steal

The Art of the Steal was the most engaging documentary I've seen in a long time. It's about the Barnes Foundation, which houses the most priceless art collection in the United States. When Dr. Albert Barnes died, he left specific instructions in his will for how the art should be displayed and protected, but many people and organizations had other ideas for his collection.

Like any good documentary, this film had me angry and up in arms by the end. As a warning: it's definitely a slanted telling of the story, but it's a slant I happen to agree with. With its simple premise, this film explores complex themes of the meaning of art, how art should be displayed, principles of private ownership, and moral obligations as a society. It's definitely worth a rent. I dare you to not feel passionately about the Barnes Foundation by the end of it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs the World: I'm in lesbian with you

You can say a lot of things about Scott Pilgrim vs the World, but you can't say it isn't fun. This film was unlike anything I've seen, straddling realms of video games and comic books, with bits of reality thrown in. Video game icons and comic book expletives garnished the screen, which was weird, to say the least. But I think it worked for the feel of the film, and every once in a while they were used in a clever way.
There were lots of good moments where the film's cleverness surprised me. The character banter had more wit than anything I've seen in a while. Having said that, there were a few things that bugged me a lot: one of the exes breaks into song (ugh), Pilgrim waits by the door right after making an Amazon purchase, and there are a few parts where swear words are bleeped out. I thought all these elements pushed things too far, and because they weren't funny, they didn't carry enough weight to support themselves. There were also times when the film felt like it was a person trying really hard to be cool.

Despite its faults, this film left me with overwhelming fuzzy feelings of geekiness (it might have been the old-school Sega and Nintendo sounds scattered throughout). In the end, I liked the way it was written, and I thought it was much funnier than the "comedies" that have plagued theaters recently (Dinner for Schmucks, The Other Guys).

I definitely recommend seeing this in theater, especially because there isn't anything else coming out until the end of October (Let Me In). It's a sad year, folks. Better get your ya ya's out while you can.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How could you lie to me, Internet?

I naively thought I had stumbled onto one of those things that gives you a glimmer of hope in the world when I saw Jenny's wonderful method of quitting her job through a series of photos that she emailed to her entire office. If you missed this beautiful display of whiteboard usage, here's the link: (where she calls her boss out on the carpet in awesome ways). I thought, "What a gutsy move! I want to be more like her!" I looked up to her like little girls look up to Disney princesses. 

Alas, then I found out it was a hoax from The Chive, and it upset me more than it should have. When I thought the whole thing was real, I felt so happy and proud for this perfect stranger. Now that I know it's fake, it's lost all meaning, and it's not nearly as funny or clever.

But there's good news! Meet Steven Slater, (former) flight attendant for JetBlue. 

Although his name sounds suspiciously fake, he's the real hero of this story. On Monday, he kinda snapped when a passenger rudely argued with him over his luggage. Instead of continuing a pointless argument, Slater simply got on the PA and told all the passengers where to shove it. Then he proceeded to pull the lever for the emergency evacuation slide (which blew up in seconds). He grabbed a beer from the beverage cart, slid down the chute, and ran to his car. Don't believe me? Here's the link: .

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dinner for Schmucks: You say I'm a dreamer

In Dinner for Schmucks, most the humor was built around making situations more and more over-the-top. If you ask me, that’s a pretty cheap way to do a comedy (see Meet the Parents). It ignores the need for witty dialog, the element of surprise, or clever writing.

This film definitely had some funny moments scattered throughout (in the few places where it didn't just rely on its pure silliness), but it was difficult to contextualize these moments or to care about the movie as a whole.

To sum up my very short critique, I wouldn’t recommend this movie. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t good. I don’t know what else to say about it. It was perfectly underwhelming.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wonder Woman's New Threads

I'm a little late to this conversation, but I just want to say that I really like Wonder Woman's new outfit. People have been complaining about her new threads and arguing about whether a demi-god needs a jacket.

You can check out DC's blog to see the original reveal and commentary from fans.

Ever since the reveal, geeks have made harsh comments on the DC blog. One wrote, "I'm just going to pour a double vodka and go to bed and check into Arkham in the morning. This is the worst thing I've ever seen!" Another fan wrote, "This has to be a joke. I am literally sick to my stomach right now." Others simply wrote, "I hate it," and "Epic fail."

Sure, the cropped jacked circa 1990 is a little weird, but I like to think that she can take it off. Jacket aside, I really like the modern twist on her crown and wrist bands. And all I can say is it's about freaking time the woman has some pants. The poor girl has been wearing an overly patriotic swimsuit for the past 60 years.

I think everyone has been overreacting. Maybe the costume isn't the best it can be, but it's lightyears ahead of her old costume.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Locke & Key: My new favorite comic


While waiting in never-ending lines at Comic-Con I had some time to catch up on actual comic reading. Locke & Key quickly became my new favorite comic, and I devoured the first two graphic novels, only to become frustrated and unsatisfied when I went to order the third one on Amazon and saw that it's not out yet. I've been thinking about the story and wondering about what's happening to my beloved characters.

I'll be the first to acknowledge that the name of the comic is pretty lame-- it doesn't convey the striking images and gripping story that await in its pages.

Here are some illustrations that blew my mind, especially in the context of the story.



The story is gripping, sophisticated, and unlike anything I've ever read before. The plot is complicated enough to keep me wondering, but straightforward enough to keep me reading. There's a perfect balance of suspense, dramatic irony, and nonlinear storytelling.

It's about a family that moves to a house and they keep finding keys that do unusual things. As the family falls prey to some pretty twisted people, they try to figure some stuff out-- like ghosts, echoes, and the human mind itself. It sounds innocent enough, but it's a dark story. There's death, murder, manipulation, sinister characters, disturbing images, and a whole lot of "WTF?" moments... but in a good way.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More Comic-Con Goodness: Megamind & Cowboys and Aliens

It's going to take me forever to post all the cool stuff at Comic-Con, so I hope my readers will bear with my self-indulgence. Here are two panels that I wasn't excited for, but that won me over with their Comic-Con charm and super-cool movie clips.

If you couldn't tell from the picture, Will Ferrell dressed up like Megamind for the movie's panel, which I have to say, was pretty charming. There weren't as many people who dressed up this year, and it was fun to see an actor go the extra mile and do something that took time and effort. Not to mention, his banter with Tina Fey and Jonah Hill made the panel the funniest at the Con.

The clips also made the movie look better than I'd thought. I'm going to give away a little bit of a spoiler, but I think it's worth sharing because it made me want to see the movie. It was clear that Megamind kills Metroman at the beginning of the film, and that the rest of the film deals with Megamind coping with the boredom that comes after killing his archnemesis. It seemed like a much more sophisticated plot than the previews had shown.

The Cowboys and Aliens panel was a surprise hit. First of all, it was Harrisson Ford's first appearance at Comic-Con (hence he made it look like it took handcuffs and an escort to get him there). Since Ford is a geek god between Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Blade Runner, it was the most insane reception I've ever seen in my 5 years in Hall H. Between the screaming and roaring applause, it felt like the walls were going to cave in.

The panel also included Daniel Craig and Sam Rockwell. What could be cooler than Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Justin Hammer all in one place? I acknowledge the dumbess of the title Cowboys and Aliens, but the actors were impressive and the clips looked pretty awesome-- like a classic western with some aliens thrown in. I was sold.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Comic-Con Sunday

My last day at geek mecca. However, this isn't the end of my Comic-Con blog posts, because I have lots of stuff to fill in.

The cast of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia unveiled their premiere for next season. It's entitled, "Who got Dee pregnant?" and needless to say, it's hilarious. Kaitlin Olson, the actress who plays Sweet Dee, actually showed up to Comic-Con with a bun in the oven. The main characters also had Cricket on stage with them and assured us that the gang is not through torturing poor Cricket.


This was one of the highlights of my day-- these two girls "dressed up" like Hall H victims. In case you haven't heard, on Saturday, two guys got into a scuffle over a seat in Hall H and one guy stabbed the other in the eye with a pen. I was there, and I can tell you, the seat wasn't even good.


The final hurrah of Comic-Con was the screening of the Buffy episode "Once More With Feeling," which is a sing-along with a Rocky Horror vibe to it. I yelled "Shut up, Dawn!" so many times that I lost my voice. We also yelled, "Bite me!" whenever Spike appeared on screen and "Liar!" when Buffy tells Spike she's never going to be with him and when Xander tells Anya he'll never leave her. If that wasn't enough fun, we were given clever traffic tickets (which I'll post later) and little monster finger puppets (so we could say, "Grrr! Arrrgh!" during the closing credits).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Comic-Con Saturday: Mostly Marvel Madness

So I've been a bad girl, and I didn't update my blog yesterday, which means I'm bursting to get tons of cool stuff off my chest. The last two days have been insane. Let's start with what blew my mind the most.

THE ENTIRE AVENGERS CAST WAS REVEALED! Not only was the cast revealed, but everyone showed up, along with the film's writer/director Joss Whedon. I kid you not, I had geek chills. I lost my voice screaming. So the big reveal everyone's been waiting for: The Hulk will be played by Mark Ruffalo. And surprise! Jeremy Renner will play Hawkeye.

I have the highest hopes for The Avengers movie. It would be difficult for most writers and directors to juggle so many strong characters and actors at one time, but Whedon has experience doing exactly that with Firefly and Serenity. And I can't wait for him to write some snarky lines for Tony Stark (snarky wit is another of Whedon's specialties). I think he's going to blow people away.


The highlight of the Green Lantern panel, believe it or not, was not the film footage (which was short and didn't show much-- it didn't even show the suit). In fact, the highlight was when a young fan asked Reynolds to recite the Green Lantern oath, which he had refused to do on many other  occasions. You could see the kid brighten up and renew his love for comic book heroes as Reynolds said the lines in his best heroic voice.


Unlike the Green Lantern panel, the Thor panel showed a lot of polished footage. Visually, it looks great. The color palette, set design, and other-world feel was done well. Plus, I'm a sucker for Natalie Portman. What geek isn't?


The Captain America footage was more like a teaser. It's definitely going to be his origin story, set during WW II. What we saw, clearly showed what Marvel has already hinted at-- that they're carefully interweaving all their different characters into one universe, which isn't an easy thing to do. The stories overlap slightly, and all the characters exist on the same plane, culminating in the big movie everyone's waiting for-- the Avengers. Pretty effing cool.

As a side note, there was a stabbing in Hall H today while I was there. It was pretty crazy. I guess a fan got into a scuffle and stabbed someone in the eye over a seat. The whole thing was so unexpected. Nothing like that has ever happened at Comic-Con. Geeks are such a peaceful people.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Comic-Con Thursday

So here's the scoop on what happened at Comic-Con today. I'm not gonna lie, some pretty freaking awesome stuff went down.

Jaw-dropping moment today: Guillermo del Toro announced he'll be directing a remake of Disney's Haunted Mansion. He beamed as he made his announcement and explained that he has an entire room in his house devoted to the spooky Disneyland ride. He says this film will not be a comedy; it will be scary but fun. He also assured the crowd, "Don't worry, we have not been returning Eddie Murphy's calls." I love Guillermo del Toro.

At the Tron panel, they showed some amazing footage. I now have more faith in the film than I ever did. The film shows the Jeff Bridges you see before you, but it also shows a digitally-altered Jeff Bridges, who appears 27 years younger. The effects are seemless. Check out the exclusive Comic-Con trailer here  http//

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Comic-Con Preview Night

In case you haven't heard, I'm at Comic-Con. The geek fest leaves me tired at the end of the day, but I'm going to try to leave little blog posts everyday, and I'll fill in the blanks later. So here's the coolest stuff from today.

Light cycle from Tron.

Set piece: throne room from Thor.

True Blood is coming out with a comic.

Tron Wii remote.

Prop from the Green Lantern movie: Abin Sur (the alien who gives Green Lantern his powers).

Got trapped in an action figure package.

Predator head.

Played with zombie movie props. Yes, that's two chainsaws ducktaped onto a paddle.

While I'm at the Con, I'm constantly tweeting, and I upload photos to my Twitter first, so follow AshleyGeekGirl on Twitter if you want all the juicy details.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inception: "What's the most resilient parasite? An idea."

Inception was delicious eye candy. I’m not ashamed to say it, and I’m not ashamed I liked it. But I don’t intend to watch it again, unlike many others who have seen the film. The story was interesting, the writing was good, and the acting was par. But it was the visual aspect that grabbed me—I’m glad I saw it in IMAX.

I’m gonna cut to the chase—the visuals had me drooling the entire time. It wasn’t too over-the-top or incohesive (like a Terry Gilliam mess) and it wasn’t what the layman labels “creative” (like M. Night Shyamalan or Tim Burton). It was actually different and interesting.

Between the beautiful shots of people fighting while floating and cities folding into themselves, there were certain inconsistencies within this world that did not make sense to me. But that goes with the territory when you see a film like this, and it’s almost unavoidable. You just have to set all your logic on the shelf before the film begins. Luckily, the story and the visuals will soothe your logic-less brain. And after walking away, don’t bother wasting time pondering the film’s contradictions or lapses in logic.

I recommend a one-time must-see. It’s the film everyone’s talking about, and you’ll be shunned from social circles and awkwardly ostracized at parties if you don’t see it. But you don’t have to succumb to peer pressure and pretend you’re going to see it twice.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Real Avatar

The skeletal structure of The Last Airbender is fantastic. It has a story rich in mythological background, a riveting and sophisticated plot, and beautiful visuals. Having said that, it has terrible pacing and jarring dialogue, which I blame on the master massacrer of film, Mr. Shyamalanalan.  

When I saw the film, I was able to set aside the fact that everyone pronounced Aang’s name wrong. I was even able to set aside some of the out-of-place dialogue. But the pacing and editing was unbelievable. At times, it was so choppy that it was difficult to follow what was going on. It moved so quickly to try to fit in an entire season’s worth of plot that all character development and deeper plot development was lost. There were few scenes that lingered on one shot for more than sixty seconds, and the shots that did take up more time were baffling ones of meaningful glances instead of plot explanation.

As badly as Nighty Night butchered the adaption, the story itself is so appealing that it did shine through to a certain extent. I enjoyed watching the world that was created and the live-action benders. I just wish the film had let me enjoy it a little more.

When all is said and done, I would recommend this movie to fans of visual effects and epic fantasy tales (and obviously to anyone who watched the animated show on Nickelodeon—which company changed its logo by the way, and the logo's premiere in the opening credits interested me almost as much as the film itself). Otherwise, I think you’d find yourself lost in the complicated plot and hating life.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan's Hope

So don't hate me, but this post isn't a movie review. It's about Joss Whedon and Morgan Spurlock's upcoming documentary "Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan's Hope." I think the title's pretty self-explanatory. 

They posted several calls to action, asking geeks to write them for a chance to be in the documentary. So I did. And I just got an email from the casting director and we're supposed to have a phone interview this week, so wish me luck!

Below is my little blurb I submitted, explaining my undying love for Comic-Con.

A little about myself

Name: Ashley Walton

Age: 23

Location: Spanish Fork, Utah

Occupation: Copywriter

Favorite ComicCon Memory: Dancing with Tim and Eric at the 2008 Adult Swim Party

Hobbies: Going to concerts, reading graphic novels, throwing LAN parties, playing Buffy on Xbox, watching Firefly for the fifth time, playing Star Wars monopoly, collecting DVDs, and watching every horror movie I can get my hands on.

Somewhere around April, I begin to feel giddy anticipation for the end of July. My first time at ComicCon, I was fourteen, and the reasons I loved it then are the same reasons I love it now— and it’s not just the super cool merchandise like zombie teddy bears and obscure T-shirts (although I do love my Fruity Oaty Bar tee). It happens to be the camaraderie, that and the sheer absurdity and whimsicalness of it all.

Every year I make the pilgrimage to geek Mecca with my brother. Together we battle lines snaking all the way to the ocean to enjoy panels featuring the pantheon of geek gods and watch 2-minute peeks of movies that will come out a year later. We accumulate geek points by playing our private game “Name That Obscure Cos-Play Character” and I knock his socks off with my vast knowledge of Hoth and Miyazaki. We wake up at unholy hours to beat the crowds and snag a coveted parking space beneath the convention center. We have long conversations about comic book writing and argue over the merit of The Big Bang Theory. We trek all over the gas lamp district of San Diego and find ourselves in sidewalk cafes or grocery stores inhabited by superheroes and steampunk gents. And there’s something really beautiful about the whole thing.

I run around trying to soak up everything I can. I don’t have just one obsession—I love it all. After deciding which day to wear my Beatrix Kiddo track suit and which day to wear my Jayne Cobb hat, I walk the immense distributer floor several times, yes, even completing vendor scavenger hunts to win Emily the Strange souvenirs and running through the crowds to be the first to snatch tickets to exclusive movie screenings, and of course, collecting the daily Warner Brothers' bag to hold all my schwag. I test out the video games, peruse the artist’s corner, get snapshots with actors (and people with awesome costumes), have comics signed by writers, and wait in insanely long lines for the good stuff in Hall H (although braving the Twilight fans is the scariest thing at ComicCon).

I love ComicCon. Comic Con is a gathering of 150 thousand of my peeps. It’s amazing to find yourself in this realm where everyone cares about the same things you do, everyone gets your obscure references and jokes, everyone is comfortable with each other. There’s an unspoken code of acceptance. The guy who spends his nights barricaded in comic book stores playing Magic the Gathering fits in here. The insomniac who’s obsessed with beating Mass Effect 2 while buzzed on seven energy drinks fits in here. The fanatic who insists on always wearing their Star Trek turtle neck under their clothes fits in here. The casual blogger who hasn’t read a single comic book, but loves movies fits in here. Everyone has a neat little space. No one is turned away (well, unless you didn’t grab your ticket far enough in advance—then you’re screwed).

ComicCon is time set apart to bond with my fellow man, including my best friend, my brother. It’s a consecrated time of peace and unity, when everything feels right. It’s a time to put the world aside, and connect with your inner-kid. In my case, it’s a time when my entire family (all of us grown with jobs across the nation) takes a vacation and meets up in San Diego, because no one wants to miss out on the fun.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Kick-Ass: With no power comes no responsibility

Kick-Ass is not your mom’s superhero movie. It’s better.

Based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., this film is about a kid who decides to dress up like a superhero, fight evils of the world, and get his ass kicked. From the beginning it teems with dialogue to make you chuckle. By the end, you can’t suppress long-winded laughter.

Our main hero, affectionately called Kick-Ass, is played by Aaron Johnson— an actor made tabloid-famous for knocking up the director of his to-be-released follow-up film. But he owns Kick-Ass. Playing the geeky awkward kid, it would’ve been easy for him to slip into faux Michael Cera mode, but he doesn’t. He makes the character his own, and he’s relatable and likable.

As much as I love the title hero, the show-stealer is Hit Girl, played by my official favorite little actress: Chloë Moretz. Previously, she stole scenes in 500 Days of Summer. In Kick-Ass, this girl delivers her lines with such dry wit, you can’t help but adore her. Plus she’s the character who really does kick ass. As she swore like a sailor and brutally killed villains, my friend sitting next to me said, “Awww. She’s so cute.” Now that’s talent.

Putting aside the awesome actors, there’s only one word to describe the plot: fun.

At one point, the plot takes a turn that’s a little too over-the-top for my taste, but it’s a detail near the end that doesn’t hurt the film much.

Catch Kick-Ass in theaters with friends. It’s a blast.

Monday, March 29, 2010

RIP Hollywood

Hollywood Video is slowly dropping off the face of the earth. When I stepped in to rent my weekly dose of TV shows and movies, I was shocked to see that their entire inventory was for sale. Of course, this elicited mixed emotions—I bought some awesome DVDs at killer prices (The Hangover, Away We Go, The Invention of Lying, Zombieland, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Roger & Me*), but my beloved video rental store was going out of business (and some of the movies I bought, though cheap, were the crappy rental versions that never include supplementary material).

Not only is my neighborhood branch closing, but also the branch a couple towns over and several other branches all over the state and the rest of the country. This leaves me with only one other local video rental store: Blockbuster. When I was younger, I had fuzzy feelings toward Blockbuster for their cutesy sing-songy liners like, “Blockbuster Video! Wow, what a difference!” and “Please be kind, rewind.” But with age and wisdom, I’ve come to abhor it. The dreaded place doesn’t even carry Tales from the Darkside or Let the Right One In. Not to mention, they only recently added Dollhouse Season 1 to their repertoire (their selection is abysmal). What’s more, Blockbuster also censors some of their DVDs without any sort of warning that they’ve been edited for content.

But enough of the Blockbuster bashing. One of the movies I had wanted to pick up from Hollywood Video was Up in the Air, but I was told they weren’t getting it in, as they stopped bringing in new inventory. Dazed and confused, I wandered to a tawdry Red Box down the street, and using it made me feel cheap and dirty. When Up in the Air popped out of the cold machine, it didn’t even have a proper case. I couldn’t look at the cover design or critique the summary on the back or make fun of the quotes from critics. The naked DVD just stared out from a sad, sterile clear case. That’s when I started to panic. I’d been so concerned with bookstores dying out that I’d neglected to worry about video stores dying out, and I like both these stores for the same reason: tangibility.

I’m going to miss my regular chums at Hollywood. I’ll miss the geek shop talk with one clerk, who stares out behind his black horn-rimmed glasses that match mine. And I’ll miss bashing chick flicks with that other clerk, who was surprisingly cool, despite her Bridget Jones t-shirt. I’ll even miss the sociopathic blonde kid who consistently ruined various plot points for countless movies that I rented. More than anything, I’ll miss walking down the black-tiled rows past the unbeatable horror collection, a really respectable TV collection, and a great documentary section. I’ll miss meandering around the store several times and getting lost in the details and memories before making my final selection. I’ll miss the feeling of being in a place and knowing that I’m surrounded by people who love movies as much as I do.

*Note: I also bought 500 Days of Summer, but I’m still coming to terms with my embarrassment and whether I should openly admit this.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Crazies: "This is really happening."

Before you see this film, the less you know about the plot, the better. I sat down in the theater armed only with the expectation that I would see crazy people, and I walked away from the experience pleased with the structure, pacing, and style in which the film unveiled the plot. So I’m trying to refrain from spoiling anything, in hopes that you’ll see this better-than-expected refreshment.

The Crazies is a remake of George A. Romero’s forgotten 1973 film by the same name. (I’ve never seen the original. In fact, I’d never heard of the original until recently, but George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is one of my most cherished DVDs.) I sensed some of George A. Romero’s playfulness shining through in The Crazies, but for the most part, the film took itself pretty seriously. Sure, this film fulfills a lot of stereotypes (the far-fetched scenarios, some predictable deaths, the hopeless romantics), but it is also much more sophisticated than most films in its genre.

From the very first scene, I was hooked by the storytelling. Not only did the film waste no time establishing tension, but from the beginning the characters were fleshed out and more multi-dimensional than most horror representations. As the plot progressed, the storytelling only became more refined—clean, intelligent, satisfying. When I wished for a character to do something smart, it was like they heard my thoughts and took heed.

Aside from the writing, this film was shot as a masterpiece in tension-building. My favorite scene starts with people talking in a dark room where they have no escape. Pretty typical horror stuff, right? But the scene sets itself apart as something special when the characters start to hear a peculiar noise—an unsettling scratching of metal. Instead of jumping to the action, the scene allowed just the right amount of time for the audience to sit in the dark and hear the metallic noise come closer and closer, finally culminating in something much more disturbing and awesome than I could have imagined while waiting in the dark. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire movie.

With most true-blue horror movies, I don’t recommend them to people unless they’re actually into horror for its own sake. But this film pushes the plot and writing into the realm of “good,” where most horror films fear to tread. So, fear not.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jennifer's Body: "Hell is a Teenage Girl"

My vote for the most underrated film of 2009 might shock my readers, but please, hold your rotten tomatoes until you actually see Jennifer’s Body. Like most discriminating movie-goers, I felt the film’s ad campaign worked hard to convince me this was your run-of-the-mill sexy teenage horror romp starring Megan Fox. Let me set a few things straight. First of all, contrary to what the previews imply, there are zero scenes with nudity. Yes, Jennifer uses her skankish charms to lure boys into her professionally-manicured grip, but the movie is much more concerned with exploring strong female characters than it is with teasing horny teenage movie-goers. After I saw the film, I wanted to beat up whoever was the film’s director of marketing. Every time I rave about this film, I have to combat the expectations set by its terrible previews.

Written by Diablo Cody (the writer of Juno), this film teems with crunchy dialogue that’s funny, surprising, witty, and smart.
The writing and cinematography strike a nice balance of paying homage to classic horror films and toying with the expectations of the horror audience. Above and beyond most films in its genre, it has some unexpected plot turns, great pacing, delicious irony, and even a satisfying ending.

Another secret that the previews keep from you is that A
manda Seyfried steals the show. Sure, Megan Fox makes a great high school villain, but the story really follows Seyfried’s character, Needy, and it’s her sharp narration and endearing demeanor that pushes this treat into a sophisticated, delectable concoction.

With such empowering fema
le roles, this is not a film targeting puberty-riddled boys looking for a little T&A. If anything, this is a horror film geared toward women— a rare specimen indeed. Don’t get me wrong, the gents will love it, too. But the characters, humor, and restraint in gore have a slight female-minded slant. Like in Juno, the women are strong, witty, relatable characters in a realistic high school environment. In this case, there just happens to be supernatural forces at play.

Now that I’ve let you in on this gem of a secret, it’s time to find some friends and watch this baby, pronto. You have my personal guarantee that it will surprise you, make you laugh, and leave you with feelings of anger toward certain marketing departments.