Monday, August 30, 2010

Grumpy Movie Review: The Expendables

Holy shit. I really don't even know where to start with this movie. It's been two days since I've seen it and I keep winding up back at the thing I said when the credits first rolled: That was a fucking train wreck.

I honestly don't know whether that was the worst movie of the year or the best movie of the decade. At this point I'm sure everyone knows the premise: Sylvester Stallone gets hired by Bruce Willis (after a brief encounter with Arnold Schwarzenegger) to take his band of mercenaries played by Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews and fight a corrupt general whose being controlled by drug lord Eric Roberts and henchman Steve Austin. If the plot seems to have gotten lost in a list of current and former action stars, well that's pretty much the point. The plot is basically "Hey, if you're a guy you know all these actors, so come watch them kick ass." So of course I was pretty much obligated by my male chromosomes to see this movie ASAP.

I wasn't going into this movie looking for Shakespeare. I can only assume that when writer/director Sylvester Stallone started accumulating every major action star from the past two decades, he wasn't intending to write a potential contender for Cannes. So plot structure and character development probably high on my list of necessary parts of the script.

But judging by the pacing and scene structure, I'm 99% sure that Sylvester Stallone drank a half-gallon of tequila and edited this movie over the course of 48 hours in Tiajuana. For one thing, with a cast of half a dozen leading men, each guy gets about 2 lines worth of back story. And Stallone must have written characters into the movie as he hired each actor, because it's obvious they have no natural place in the script. Jet Li, for example, gets 3rd billing in the credits, only below Stallone and Statham. But at gunpoint I couldn't tell you his character's name and he has about 4 or 5 more lines of dialogue than the key grip.

But again, fully-developed dialogue is not why anyone went to see this movie. They went to see muscle-bound dudes spout one-liners while blowing shit up. And here The Expendables paid off big time in this department. Within two minutes of the title credits the audience is washed in a tidal wave of all the essential B's: blood, bullets, bombs, and bad acting. The thing is that Stallone actually gets a little greedy, and by trying to jam 3 hours of violence into a 2 hour movie, I found at times my brain couldn't keep up. Scenes eventually just turned into a jumble of fists and blood on the screen.

The only advice that I can give you if you're pondering whether this movie for you is to trust your instincts. If, when you saw the trailer, you instantly knew that you pretty much had to see it, then you are in for a treat. You will love the shitty plot and will have a blast watching people die in creative ways. If your first thought when you saw the trailer was that it looked stupid, then it will be far worse than you could imagine. Ms. Grump, for example, would probably try and push her head through the seat in front of her within the first act of the movie (that is if the movie even had coherent acts). I, however, will definitely be there if and when The Expendables 2 ever becomes a reality. If nothing else, I can't wait for the chance to again witness the funniest thing I've seen at the movies in months: Sylvester Stallone trying to run.

Grade: Either F- or A+

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gov. Perry Mum On Texas Ranger Double Secret Probation...Er, Missions

I always love stumbling on a story involving Texas Governor Rick Perry. I already told you about his showdown with the the coyote from hell. Now he's at the center of some super secret missions involving the Texas Rangers facing off with drug dealers trying to cross into Texas. How super secret? Apparently the governor refuses to tell anyone more than they kick Mexican druglord ass (I may be paraphrasing here).

Asked to quantify the progress made by the Rangers, Texas' Department of Public Safety refuses to give any details on the basis of preserving "operational security." So you can't even give us numbers of arrests amount of drugs seized? I'm pretty sure the guys who recently found themselves in jail and without their drugs are aware of your operations guys.

And don't think I'm saying that it's a bad idea to have your state's elite units fighting the the drug smugglers at the border. Illegal immigrants who are just trying to find a better life for themselves are one thing. But make no mistake, the drug cartels who run their wares across the borders are really just not good guys, and every step should be taken to keep them out of the country.

I just think it's really goofy that Gov. Perry is bragging his ass off about these secret Ranger missions but he won't lay out any detail to show more to show the cause and effect of his work. No, all we seem to get are small leaks, such as one given by public safety director Steve McCraw, who claimed that "the program doesn't want to brag." He then "grabbed the most recent mission report and read that in one day, a team arrested 22 people and seized 1,739 pounds of marijuana. He offered no other details." OK, so you're giving a random bunch of numbers with no context and no corroborating evidence. That doesn't sound like bragging at all.

Now for all I know these missions could be doubtless successes. They may be single-handedly squashing the drug trade along the border. But neither I nor anyone else will know about it if you don't tell us. And no, simply saying they're doing awesome and forbidding any follow up questions is not the same thing. The AP ponders whether or not this whole thing is just a political ploy meant to beef up his image as being tough on border defense, and maybe that's what's going on. Or, he may just really believe that super secrecy is the only way to keep these missions successfully. I just like to think he's apeshit crazy, and I really long for the day when he just gets on stage and let's his freak flag truly fly:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grumpy Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

UPDATE: Check out another favorable review by my Canuck buddy at badkidsgoodgrammar. Be sure to make fun of the way she adds the letter "u" to words that don't need it. Silly Canadians.

I should not have like this movie at all. The basic premise is that Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) has to fight the 7 evil ex-boyfriends of new girlfriend Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), which is a good set up. But the trailer mainly featured a bunch of eccentric kids having eccentric conversations about their eccentric lives....all to the soundtrack of eccentric music. I probably wouldn't have even bothered seeing it if not for hearing a pretty funny radio interview with stars Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman. But I didn't have my hopes set too high, lest I get stuck watching a movie bogged down with actors trying to out-quirk each other.

I actually like Michael Cera. He was awesome in Superbad, and although he plays the same semi-emo character in pretty much every movie he's in, he still manages to be funny in the movies I've seen him in, and Scott Pilgrim was no exception to either rule. Plus, in the aforementioned radio interview he talked about the training he had to go through to pull off the fight scenes in the movie, and I defy anyone not to laugh at the thought of combat training for what looks like the lovechild of a 70 year old woman and a frog.

Jason Schwartzman, however, is one of those indie rock dudes that I usually can't stand. For some reason, though, I can't help but like the guy. He's definitely the epitome of the hipster culture, but he's one of the few hipsters I've seen that doesn't have to kill himself trying to be the coolest guys in the room. And he wasn't afraid to completely douche it up as Gideon, the leader of the ex-boyfriends. I can appreciate over-the-top douchiness (ask pretty much anyone who knows me), and Schwartzman nails it. In fact, all of the exes were pretty much spot on, from Chris Evans' lunkhead actor to Brandon's Routh vegan-superpowered musician.

The guy who steals the show, however, would have to be Kieran "The More Talented" Culkin as Cera's gay roomate, Wallace. His basic purpose is to provide wise-ass commentary with a string of one-liners and to patiently converse with Scott about his new predicament with Ramona in bed, as Scott cannot afford one of his own. And I'll be damned if I didn't get a kick out of every second of it. My only disappointment is that Wallace becomes rather under-utilized in the second half of the movie.

I would complain more about the lack of background of most of the other characters, especially the other ex-boyfriends, except that's kind of the point of the movie's plot structure. The whole story breaks down like a video game, with the exes serving as bosses. And when you think about it, when you played video games did you ever really give a rat's ass about character development? Hell no, you just wanted badass villains that looked cool and that you could eventually beat the crap out of. And that's exactly what you get here. In fact, the movie is loaded with nods to video games fans, especially the Street Fighter-esque fighting games of the nineties.

So needless to say, my fears about Scott Pilgrim being a hipster mess were unfounded, and I really dug this movie. I guess I should have guessed it would be good when I found out it was directed by Edgar Wright, of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame. It's a shame that the movie doesn't seem to be doing well at the box office so far, because it's a blast to watch. And it actually managed to portray the lives of low- to mid-twentysomethings with enough realism to resonate with me an remind me that I'm not as far removed from them as I'd like to think I am. Hopefully, word of mouth will give it a second life when it comes out on DVD because deserves to do well.

Grade: A-

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Floods In Pakistan

Hey everyone. I hesitated putting this post up because I usually try and keep things pretty inconsequential on here and I hate it when people try to get attention by talking about how much they care about the latest worldwide disaster. But from everything I've read about the floods in Pakistan, the problem is that a lot of people really aren't paying as much attention to it as recent disasters in other locations. This is for several understandable reasons:
  • Everyone in the international community has their own economic problems at the moment.
  • We're just getting done with a big push for aid in Haiti.
  • Many countries, especially America, don't have a lot of faith in the corrupt government in Pakistan and worry if money would even get to the people who need it. In fact, the government's inability to mobilize a response seems to be part of why we haven't gotten a lot of data about what things are like on the ground in Pakistan.
Unfortunately, this could mean that the approximately 15 million people who have been affected so far by the floods may get the shit end of the stick. I say this not to lay a guilt trip on anyone (hence no pictures for this post), but rather to remind folks that even though we may not be on the best terms with Pakistan as a country, there are people there who are in a pretty bad way.

If you are in fact worried about giving money that will be squandered by the Pakistani government, here is a list of outside organizations that are mobilizing in Pakistan that might be a good way to help. And be smart about who you give to. If you're not sure about the organization, then do a little background research on them first and make sure you're comfortable before you give.

OK, that's enough making myself feel noble for one day. I'll get back to posting about irrelevant miscellanea soon.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jeff Bridges To Follow Up Success Of Playing A Grizzled Drunk.....By Playing Another Grizzled Drunk

In what looks like an attempt by Jeff Bridges to get in another movie role without having to cut his hair or shave, he will be taking on the role of Rooster Cogburn in the Coen Brothers' remake of True Grit. While I loved Bridges in Crazy Heart and I have yet to see a Coen Brothers movie that I didn't like (although Burn After Reading was a bit odd), I just don't really see the point to making this movie. According to Ethan Coen, they wanted to make the movie a more faithful to the 1968 novel than to the film made famous by John Wayne:

It's partly a question of point-of-view. The book is entirely in the voice of the 14-year-old girl. That sort of tips the feeling of it over a certain way. I think [the book is] much funnier than the movie was so I think, unfortunately, they lost a lot of humour in both the situations and in her voice. It also ends differently than the movie did. You see the main character — the little girl — 25 years later when she's an adult. Another way in which it's a little bit different from the movie — and maybe this is just because of the time the movie was made — is that it's a lot tougher and more violent than the movie reflects. Which is part of what's interesting about it.

Alright, well then why don't we just let people read the book? I think I'm just disappointed to see the Coen Brothers entering remake territory. Plus, I think it needs to be said that John Wayne is overrated. He made an entire career out of acting manly and speaking with what can only be described as a mild speech impediment. So I really don't think we need a remake of any of his movies, especially considering that most of his diehard fans will probably be outraged at the idea.

That being said, I'm sure if I can get over my general distaste for remakes and anything associated with John Wayne, I'll probably like the movie. After all, we remember what happened the last time Jeff Bridges teamed up with the Coen Brothers, now don't we?

Monday, August 16, 2010

In A Just World I Would Be Able To Buy And Sell All Of You

I got some interesting information about my paternal great grandfather today. His name was Joseph Brophy, and I already knew that he was the son of an Irish immigrant and served as the mayor of Elizabeth, NJ in the early 1900s. Today, however, I read an email from my aunt that included a blurb about great grandpa Joe from a book called Prominent Families of New Jersey (hurry up and get to Amazon before it's sold out). In this blurb, I found out that on top of his duties as mayor, Joe served as the Secretary of State for New Jersey, fought in France during the first World War, and he also took over the family coal business.

If you look at the 3rd man from the left in the second row, you'll find that my great grandfather is nowhere to be found in the picture I found on Google.

This information, while incredibly interesting, pains me on two levels. Firstly, it seems that I'm going to have to live to be about 300 years old it I'm going to achieve half of what my ancestor pulled off. I mean, I'm pretty happy with what I've accomplished in my first quarter of a century, but someone with much of the same DNA as me managed to achieve positions of heroism, prestige, and wealth during an era of American history when being an Irish immigrant was about as pleasant as having potatoes and shamrocks shoved up your ass.

And, speaking of positions of wealth, why the hell do I not own most of the state of New Jersey? My great granddad was a politically connected coal monger for Christ's sake. I should be living in Tony Soprano's house, hanging out with John Gotti's kids and getting hit on by Snookie. OK, in reality none of that sounds any good at all. But I should be rich right? If things were as they should be then I would

Okay, this is Ms.Grump interjecting here with my own ancestor story which is much more engaging than this whole "coal miner" thing. I'll keep it short and sweet. Grandfather on mom's side: IRA member. Yup. Great grandparents on my dad's side had to flee Mexico in the early 1900's. From what exactly changes every time you ask my Nana about it but still MUCH more interesting right?

Hey, screw you lady get your own blog. And he wasn't just a coal miner. He owned a frigging coal company. His dad's name was the name of the company! And it's true, not the just the ramblings of a crazy old lady!

Right. They're "true". Like those stories your Dad tells you about his adventures in Florida back in the 70's?

What does my dad have to do with anything? And yes, the stories are true. Why would he make up a story about jumping a pool on his motorcycle?

Or the one where he may have run drugs on a fishing boat. Or the one where he ate a plastic plant. OR the one where he showed up at his old house after your grandma had moved like months ago? Oh, and by the way Snookie? Really? I am not one of your 3 readers, I know when you're trying to boost your hits. I'll help you out: Justin Beiber, Brittany Spears, Glee, boobies.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy Friday The 13th!

Hey everybody, I almost didn't realize it's one of my favorite holidays, Friday the 13th! Ok, so it's not a national day off or anything, but it does give me an excuse to watch one of my favorite trash horror franchises of all time. After making the lady pick a number from 1-9, it looks like we'll be watching part 7 this evening, making me one happy....camper. Get it? Cuz campers get brutally killed in Friday the 13th movies.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Top 7 Scenes That Made The Movie

Yay! I finally got around to doing a list! I hope you're as excited as I am. For my first ever list, I wanted to explore movie scenes that makes a bad movie good, or even a good movie great. These were just the seven that Mrs. Grump to Be and I could think of in one afternoon, so feel free to mention any of the scores of others that I'm sure we missed. Oh, and these are in absolutely no order what so ever.

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
--"Two men enter! One man leaves!"

This scene, quite frankly, marks the final good scene in this movie. If they would have just ended the movie here and skipped the following hour or so of Mel Gibson talking to a rabble of really annoying orphans, I'd be perfectly happy. I know the movie would only be around 40 minutes long, but it would be a worth-while 40 minutes, with some great back and forth between Mel and Tina Turner leading up to the epic battle below. They could even change the title to simply Mad Max: Thunderdome.

A Life Less Ordinary--"Shoot him in the back of the head."

This entire movie is actually pretty good, but this is the only scene that pops into my head when I think of it. Between Holly Hunter's disgusting bounty hunter/angel (I don't feel like explaining that just watch the movie), a really great R.E.M. song called "leave", and Ewen McGregor's classic reaction to having a body fall on him (2:35 mark), I could watch this 5 minutes of a movie over and over again with a big smile on my face.

The Dark Knight--"Excuse me, I want to drive."

OK, now before you start shouting (or typing in all caps) that The Dark Knight is too complete a movie to be made by just one scene, let me say that I thought the same thing when Mrs. Grump to Be suggested the below scene for the list. Yes, the entire movie is a fucking masterpiece. But think back to when you first saw it in the movie theater, as after watching one of the most epic chase sequences in cinematic history you take in the climax: a full-sized tractor trailer does a somersault and lands upside down. Batman, instead of just hitting the breaks and turning around, decides he's so badass that he's going to turn around by having his Batpod climb up and down a fucking wall and slam down on the pavement. And's your mind? Blown? So yes, this scene pushed the movie from great to all-time great.

Role Models--"It's a crown!"

OK, I've been trying to find the right way to describe this scene with no success, and the trailer below using the scene to spoof Lord of the Rings is of little use. So I'm just going to tell you why this scene is so awesome: during the final "battle," Bobb'e J. Thompson, a 10 year old black kid dressed like Gene Simmons, cheers on friend Christopher Mintz-Plasse's character with an inspiring cry of "Fuck his shit up, Augie!"

Mother--"Hello?" "It's still me, Mother."

I actually tried to watch this movie recently because I remember really liking it. But about 30 minutes in I realized I was getting pretty bored so I gave up on it. What never gets old, however, is the sequence featured at the end of the trailer where Debbie Reynolds tries to use her call waiting (2:15 mark).

Manhunter--"Stop it!"

This scene is actually what inspired me to write this list. This whole movie is great, but this scene is what makes it a classic for me. William Peterson crashes through a window kamakazi-style into the waiting arms of mutant-looking serial killer Tom Noonan, all to the soundtrack of Iron Butterfly's "In A Gadda Da Vida." Try finding that in the weak remake with Edward Norton. You will not find it, and that is why it's crap.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wyclef Jean Has No Business Running For President, Sean Penn Has No Business Giving His Opinion On Absolutely Everything

I don't really know why Wyclef Jean has decided to run for the president of Haiti. It's pretty ridiculous, but honestly I can't get too high and mighty on the subject. I don't think someone from the country that spawned the political careers of Jesse Ventura, Sonny Bono, and Conan the Barbarian really has the right to look down their nose at, well...anyone, really.

But I really have had it with Sean Penn. I have yet to meet anyone who seems genuinely interested in what this self-important schmuck thinks, yet he's got to shove his rather sizable nose into anything to do with foreign relations. Yes, we get it Sean, you've been to Haiti. And when you're done there you'll go back to the expensive house where you probably cheated on your ex-wife, repeatedly and vigorously. Shut the fuck up, Spicoli.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Grumpy Movie Review: The Other Guys

I'd been waiting all summer for this movie to come out. It all started when I first went online and saw the new "motion poster" that was going to be featured in London subways. I'm pretty sure I watched that thing 5 or 6 six times and I couldn't stop laughing. The previews were also promising, featuring Mark Wahlberg's overzealous police detective trying to drag partner Will Ferrell from their roles as "B Squad" cops into the limelight.

Unfortunately, the movie wasn't quite able to live up to the expectations I'd set by the poster and previews. The main problem comes from today's trend of comedies where the script tends to give way to endless improvisation. Now, I'm all for improvisation, if for nothing else than getting to watch the endless variations on a scene when the DVD comes out. The problem, however, is that when you make a movie based on doing take after take of various improvisations and then pick the funniest one, the movie starts to lose its rhythm.

Plus, there are so many different jokes being thrown at you that attempts to return to recurring jokes don't have the same resonance. One bit, for example, features a couple of minutes about Mark Wahlberg explaining how he learned ballet in order to make fun of feminine guys in his neighborhood. Towards the end of the movie, after another hour or so of filling all empty space with jokes, some of which worked and others that didn't, they came back to the theme of Wahlberg learning something feminine in order to make fun of feminine guys. And honestly, I can't even remember what the hell the actual joke was.

Now, even though I was let down a bit doesn't mean the movie wasn't funny. I had quite a few laughs from Wahlberg and Ferrell, although you could tell Wahlberg was trying just a little too hard to be funny. Michael Keaton has some great lines as the put upon captain, and hopefully this is another step towards the comeback that I was pushing for back in my review for Toy Story 3. Samuel Jackson and The Rock were great in their 5-10 minutes onscreen as the hotshot cops that Wahlberg aspires to, and without giving too much away their exit was a great take on the stupid risks that most action heroes take without giving a second's thought to the consequences.

So the movie wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but I think part of the problem is for some reason that motion poster had me expecting more than I should have. The movie was good, although nothing about it requires you see it in the theaters so I'd say feel free to wait for it to come out on DVD. That way you'll get to watch what I'm sure will amount to another movie's worth of outtakes.

Grade: B-

Friday, August 6, 2010

Like Father Like Son...Ah Shit, Really?

I know this is a cliche topic, but fuck it I'm writing on a blog called "Grumpy Old Man" so I think the originality ship sailed a long time ago. Anyway, have you ever had that moment as an adult where you realize just how much of an impact your parents have had on the person you've become. I mean, I've always known that my dad (Master Grump? El Grump Grande?) had a lot to do with shaping my point of view, but I think I forget the scope of that effect until I spend time with him.

Take today. I got off work early and my dad, a truck driver by trade, happened to be in the area. So we decided to meet for lunch. Being the sophisticated fellows that we are, we decided to really live it up and eat in the parking lot of a nearby Wawa, which is basically 7-11 on steroids for those of you unfamiliar with the chain. And without the presence of either of our significant others to keep us in check, it wasn't long until we began doing all of the things that we love yet seems to annoy the living shit out of everyone else.

A good 50% of our conversation, for example, dealt with observing the driving habits of other people in the parking lot. Actually it was more like shitting on the driving habits of other people in the parking lot. Because according to my dad and I, no one else on the planet is any good at driving. At all. And it's not enough for us to simply know that. We need to reinforce it whenever we get a chance by complaining aloud whenever someone else on the road does something that displeases us, even if that means we're talking to ourselves. But when we have each other as an audience, things get ten times worse. Once we get rolling who knows when our pompous bitching will end?

Usually, the only thing to break our concentration is when one of us lets loose a good fart. Because farts are hilarious.

Plus, farts are the perfect segue into our other favorite activity: retelling stories that we've already told everyone about three thousand times, including each other. Today's classic tale was from when we went to eat at a respected buffet in Lancaster County with less than subtle religious undertones, and Dad farted in the gift shop. And we laughed a lot. That's the whole story. I've heard/told it more times than I can count, but I'll be damned if I didn't get a good five minute laugh from telling it again. Hell, I'm actually laughing to myself now. I mean, come on. He farted! Right in the gift shop where everyone could hear it! Ah, what do you know from funny.

So I know that it's no grand revelation that we have a tendency to wind up having traits in common with people that we've spent most of our formidable years with, but next time your with your parents take note of the similarities that you might not have even noticed before. Even if you'd like to think that you're the exact opposite of your parents, I guarantee there are at least one or two things that cross over between you. Heheh.....farts.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Think Philly Sports Fans Are No Good? You've Obviously Never Had The Pleasure Of Having One Regurgitate On You

People living in Philadelphia likely already know about this, but if you haven't then you're probably not from around here and it's vital that you learn about local treasure Matthew Clemmens, a 21-year-old from New Jersey who was sentenced today to 30-90 days in jail.

Ladies, you may want to start writing him while he's still in prison because obviously he won't be single very long once he gets out.

But why, you may ask, would anyone incarcerate this delightful cherub? Well, it's because at the Phillies' home opener a couple of months ago, Matthew here disagreed with fellow fan and off-duty cop Michael Vangelo's decision to have security eject his friend from the stadium. Actually, "disagreed" might not be the right language here. I think "stuck his finger down his throat to make himself vomit on Vangelo and his two young daughters" would paint a more accurate picture. Honestly, folks, if you're rage is so uncontrollable that you have to literally spew it out on to pair of 15-and11-year-old girls, you might have an issue that requires some attention.

Don't worry, though. The judge really stuck it to Clemmens with the zinger of the year when he sentenced him: "You have invaded the opportunity to enjoy the American pastime of baseball. You struck out." Gee, guy, you really let him have it there. Nothing stings in the courtroom quite like an analogy that seems likely to have been written on the back of your hand while taking a shit a few minutes before court was in session. God...leave it to my town to produce a textbook lowlife like Clemmens and then follow him up with an authority figure so lame that he actually manages to kill the joy of seeing Clemmens get his comeuppance.