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Archive for May, 2010

The best way to parody a certain genre is to be committed and nonchalant. Movies such as Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans spend so much time making poorly deliberate jokes that they fail to establish any grounds for themselves. The characters in these failing films even know that they’re in a foolish and embarrassing environment, but they can’t seem to grasp how vapid the joke actually is. If they can’t take themselves seriously, how should we?

In contrast, MacGruber, is a successful 80’s action movie parody, whose deadpan approach makes it as compelling as it is hysterical. While the audience knows that the plot is ridiculous, the characters take it with the utmost severity. This concept works comedically and narratively; by treating itself as if it were an 80’s action movie, we can connect with the ridiculous notion of everything without having to roll our eyes.

The film follows MacGruber (Will Forte) and his team–Vicki St. Elmo (Kristin Wiig) and Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe)–as they attempt to thwart the destructive plans of arch-nemesis Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer). With the exception of maybe Kristin Wiig, everyone wholeheartedly commits to their role, and a great comedic bond is formed throughout the movie. Unfortunately, the first act does meander. We spend a bit too much of unnecessary time with our characters, but the film eventually moves forward with acceptably brisk pace. Humor gets cruder, and character arcs, as limp and cliche as they are, are nevertheless developed.

The second and third acts take some time to veer from the already thin narrative, and some needless plot points are visited. Furthermore, the action sequences that do come up are shoddily constructed, but they all have good intentions.

Yes, the film does have numerous flaws, but it’s undoubtedly hilarious and fun. The humor is relentlessly vulgar, but sarcasm, parody, and deadpan are seen percolating throughout the film’s various comedic moments. Ultimately, MacGruber, has a big heart, and it does as much as it can with a $10 million budget. Will Forte, Val Kilmer, and Ryan Phillippe add appreciated fervor with the comical yet professional commitment they lend to their roles and to the film as a whole.

7.5 out of 10

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These new posters for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming cerebral thriller, Inception, give some insight to the characters’ specific roles. Great stuff.

Click to enlarge.

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That long awaited final image of LOST…Would it be a sunken island? The death of our beloved LOSTies? The demise of the Man in Black? The reveal of something completely mysterious?

Well, it was none of those…

Instead we got an eye. It was that same eye that first captivated us 120 episodes ago. It was an eye that eloquently symbolized farewell and acceptance, poetically giving magnitude and contrast to that visual motif we’ve been familiar with all series long. With emotion and tactfulness, the series finally proclaimed the ultimate point of its very existence. LOST is about a core of individuals engaging against an adversary that isn’t defined by black smoke, polar bears, or other hostile island inhabitants. Instead, this adversary is the all pervasive past that belongs to each and every one of our haunted protagonists.

In short, it’s about moving on and letting go. It’s not about the destination but about the journey. It’s about the realization that, “The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people.” And that’s essentially it. The island, the time travel, the Dharma Initiative, the smoke monster, and the numbers…None of it really matters.

A thesis such as that is, yes, poetic and poignant, but it sure is problematic. In some ways, it is a cop out. The mythology that has uniquely enriched the show these past six years is now inconsequential. The End‘s ostensible disregard for the island’s mystery was rather unfair since the island, itself, has always been a pivotal character. Giving all of our human characters the most sentimental and happy of endings was uneven without a proper salutation to the island, the sole entity that brought these characters together. Of course, tying every single loose end would have been impossible, but seeing several components of the show’s mythos go unnoticed in the finale made the overall narrative less complete.

Now I don’t mean to discredit the finale; high expectations could only be derived out of deep admiration and respect for such a great show. As a singular episode, The End was entertaining, well paced, and highly epic. Michael Giacchino’s masterful score percolated perfectly into each action sequence, each nostalgic flash, and each warm embrace. All emotions were superlatively expressed by the clear direction of Jack Bender, LOST’s most trustworthy director. By the end, The End subtly transformed into a sort of “Best Of” epilogue, but it never became tedious. Due to our love for these characters, seeing Lapidus and Richard survive, Sawyer and Juliet reunite, Vincent prop himself next to a dying Jack, Locke forgive Ben, Hurley become the new Jacob, Jack finally square off against Locke, and all of those reminiscing flashbacks only brought joy. Genuine joy. This was the happiest finale we could ever receive.

The finale clearly attempted to be a fair retelling of everyone’s stories, and thus, some concluding character arcs were narrowed. For instance, Desmond and Ben had great development during What They Died For that led me to assume they’d be key figures in the finale’s events. However, their roles became pedestrian halfway through the The End. Even Jack’s plan to kill Locke was tenuous when he, himself, ha no clue of what to do with Desmond, the supposed ultimate weapon.

As is every episode in LOST, I am etched with duality. I am happy for those who thought the finale was perfect, and I sympathize with those who still desire a lot more. For now, I’ve come to accept it for what it was. The End was unexpectedly straightforward and simple. Its final revelation that the flashsideways was not an alternate reality but a purgatory didn’t raise eyebrows because every event that ever held any meaning to our characters already happened. The only thing left for them to do was to move on and to live happily together in an afterlife. In The End, they did.

And we, too, must move on. Yes, the finale was a cop out that disregarded several elements from the later seasons (time travel, the origin of the Island, Jacob and the Man in Black), but it was still the most elegant and heartfelt cop out- one that resembled the earlier seasons’ emotional storytelling (not the cop out part). It was an unbalanced finale to a typically balanced show, and for that, one part of me says, “Son of a bitch,” while the other part of me says, “That’s alright, brotha.”


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Sometimes, Community makes odd decisions. What normally makes these decisions inoffensive, though, is the strong conviction that comes from the show’s writing and acting. Fashionably, the first season ends with an odd choice, but this time, it lacks courage to make any impact.

For the entirety of Pascal’s Triangle Revisited, Jeff is confronted with the love triangle that has entangled him for the last few episodes, and he solves it by opting for neither of his two pursuers, Britta or Professor Slater. Instead, he concludes the finale by sharing a tender, albeit unexpected moment with Annie, a third love interest who has been the proverbial dark horse in the race for Jeff’s heart all season long.

I’m still unsure of what to make from Community’s finale. The love triangle’s intriguing setup for complexity is overly simplified by Britta’s uncharacteristic proclamation of love and by Professor Slater’s immature nature. Furthermore, Jeff’s resulting silence towards the two is both a lazy and ambiguous way to sidestep an interesting arc. Having him eventually go with an outsider, Annie, is not completely out of the blue in the context of the season as a whole, but their chemistry and development in this particular episode are neglected by the writers.

I don’t want my cynicism to get in the way of my sentiments towards Jeff and Annie because I do love the two of them together. Their relationship simply deserves a much better constructed setup.

And so, an excellent first season unexpectedly ends without any clear resolution. The show, once again, strives for something unordinary, but that something mostly feels questionable and, therefore, a tad bit underwhelming.

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Season finales can be difficult for sitcoms such as Modern Family. I say this because the show lacks an overarching narrative, and it must be forced to achieve a sense of finality out of nowhere. Season one was given the great opportunity to end with its perfect and surreal two-part family vacation (Airport 2010 and Hawaii), but writers chose to end more appropriately-with chaos, frustration, and a little bit of love.

Although Family Portrait is a weaker episode than Hawaii, it more realistically depicts this television family as one that we can call our very own. From Claire and that problematic step to Mitchell and the frightful pigeon, the finale includes relatable situations that further illustrate the neuroses (and admirable selflessness) that’s not only prevalent in fictional families, but also in real ones such as my own.

The episode’s biggest gags are nowhere near the cleverest we’ve seen from Modern Family; Phil’s guilty dilemma and Mitchell’s yelling aren’t too unique, but they still produce heartfelt laughs. Furthermore, the conclusion to the finale is a bit more manufactured than usual; it’s immediately clear that the family portrait will end with dirt somehow getting on their clothes, and Claire’s transformation from anger to acceptance is too quick. However, the buildup to the entire mess is worthwhile. Big family moments such as portraits are meant to be perfect and transcendent, but, of course, they are always ridiculed by acts of nature that only make them stressful. Yet, at the end of the tiresome day, the payoff includes a realization that being part of a family is one incredible concept.

That’s why Modern Family works. It provokes reflection upon our own lives that usually concludes with a “That’s exactly like my family” or a “How embarrassing” or even a “Man, I love my family.” There are highs, lows, fights, and group hugs, and the show captures all of them-sometimes with finesse, and other times with clumsiness. It’s all part of the process that goes into developing a premier season, and I think Modern Family will only blossom from here.

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For the past two months, Kick-Ass has amassed critical attention for its unrelenting violence and satirical splendor. Director Matthew Vaughn has been lauded for integrating several elements of the super hero genre to create a whole new experience of action, and several viewers have compared him to the likes of Quentin Tarantino. After finally seeing the film the other day, I fail to see the credibility in that comparison. Kick-Ass is undoubtedly a fun movie experience, but it ultimately succumbs to the cliches it’s trying so very hard to parody.

The film follows archetypal nerd, Dave Lizewski. His passion for comic books and his desire to help others leads him to put on a costume and independently fight crime. His attempts at vigilantism are amateur at best, and the following consequences cause an uprising of two better equipped heroes, Big Daddy and his daughter, Hit Girl. Together, they all challenge New York’s most dangerous crime syndicate.

Immediately, Kick-Ass makes it clear that it is an anti super-hero film. Yet, it fails to counter or improve the genre by telling an origin story that is bland and uninteresting. The brisk pace of the first act disconnects us with Kick-Ass’s motives and intentions, diminishing the believability of his otherwise realistic characteristics. His overall arc doesn’t push boundaries or satirize familiar super-hero characters. Rather, it follows the exact same cadence as the material that inspired it.

It also doesn’t help that Kick-Ass’s story is surpassed by his supporting characters Hit-Girl, Big Daddy, and Red Mist. Their unique and almost tragic situations make Kick-Ass’s passivity a severely weak component to his character. Furthermore, Kick-Ass’s love interest is, at first, an entirely unique situation, but the its progression proves the film lacks the audacity it claims it has.

The film manages to balance all of these uneven elements together whenever these heroes share the screen. The best way to describe the action sequences is to say that they are FUCKING awesome. They are choreographed with such creativity and fluidity, and the way that each henchman is dismembered is astoundingly unique. At first, the film’s cartoonish action juxtaposes well with its message of consequence and reality, but the third act collapses into a messy hodgepodge of unintentional cliches and outlandish moments.

Kick-Ass is a highly polished action film. The gore and violence are highly entertaining, but there isn’t much else to latch onto. The script never capitalizes on its great premise, and the movie feels all too comfortable in the genre it’s trying to poke fun of.

7.5 out of 10

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Unbelievable!

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