When I first started ding this blog in 2007, one of the first movies I reviewed was Hot Fuzz.  What I enjoyed then was a parody of action movies that was also an homage to the genre.  What really stood out was the amount of care and attention to detail that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost put into the movie.  It wasn’t simply enough to mimic famous scenes; they felt the need to throw in obscure references.  Sadly, I missed a lot of those until I watched the DVD months later with the trivia track turned on.  After working on other projects, Simon and Nick turned their attentions to the world of science fiction.

I met up with my buddy, Russ, for the cheap showing at AMC Altamonte.  After grabbing drinks, we headed in to grab seats.  I was surprised to see so many people there for a Wednesday morning showing, but it was better than sitting in an empty auditorium.

While Paul is the name of the alien, this movie is really about the friendship between two people.  Our heroes leave the comforts of England to come to the US for Comic-Con.  After Comic-Con, they embark on a road-trip to see the sites related to UFO activity.  Like many road-trip comedies, you have the predictable run-ins with law and rednecks.  What takes our heroes by surprise is the encounter with an alien.  Paul is trying to escape the government and get home, ala ET.  Our heroes agree to help and the comedy jumps up a notch.

The cast supporting Pegg and Frost is top-notch.  Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wiig once again prove that comedy is so much more than delivering good lines; it is also personality and timing.  Seth Rogen probably has the toughest job since he is the voice of Paul and does not actually get to be on-screen with everyone else.  I am very happy that they did not feel the need to make this movie in 3d – that would have ruined it.

The references are there, and I do not want to spoil some of the best ones.  Suffice it to say, Spielberg: The Early Years are featured, as is some small franchise made by a guy named Lucas.  I really can not wait until the Blu-Ray comes out – I hope it has a trivia track similar to what Hot Fuzz had.

My advice: See it at full-price; hands down one of the most entertaining movies out right now…


Red Riding Hood

At a very early age, we are introduced to stories that seem, at one level, to be appropriate for kids.  We do this because the stories often involve elements of make-believe that we know will be destroyed as the child grows older.  However, when you examine the stories, they are not innocent kiddie fare, nor were they intended to be.

We label them as fairy tales so that we feel better about subjecting kids to images of death, betrayal, and abuse.  As much as people have given Disney grief over the years, old Walt & Co. knew they had to rewrite some endings to justify appealing to kids.  Heck, even Stephen King wrote a famous article for TV Guide, where he made the very credible argument that Bambi was more horrific than some of his more famous novels.

Then the late 80s came, and with it, the need for everything to be darker and closer to real life.  We saw it in our comic books and started seeing it more in movies.  To make a fairy tale in the traditional sense meant to sugarcoat everything and have a happy ending.  However, throw in period sets/costumes and blossoming special effects, and now you can get into the cool, scary part of the tales.  This also applied to traditional monster movies.

However, much like other genres, movie-makers became so reliant on effects and looks that the story suffered.  How many were disappointed by the 90s’ versions of Dracula and Frankenstein?  Van Helsing didn’t derail Hugh Jackman’s career only because he was in the middle of his run as Wolverine.  Throw in a movie about the Brothers Grimm a few years back and The Wolfman last year – is it any wonder that most sensible audiences roll their eyes when they hear the marketing wheels turning about another movie that has a “new spin on an old classic?”

Enter Red Riding Hood.

I had not planned on seeing this movie, but an old high-school friend, Jackie, and her daughter, Alex, were in town checking out colleges.  I met them and another high-school friend, Jimmy, at Universal Studios for the day.  After the fun was done, we headed over to the CityWalk 20 to see what was playing.  Red Riding Hood fit the start time and in we went.

The plot centers on a village that has been plagued for years by a wolf.  After a senseless death, the townsfolk rise up and start hunting the wolf.  What seemed to start off in an interesting fashion soon devolved into predictable story-telling and poor pacing.  I liked the introduction of the idea that it was a were-wolf, not a normal wolf, haunting the town.  As much as I enjoy Gary Oldman onscreen, he was unfortunately given very little to do that was interesting.  The story comes to a tragic end, and I realize that even the writers got lazy.  Rather than crafting a good story, the writers and director ended up pulling in plot devices geared to attracting the “Twilight” crowd.  As much as I have actively avoided those movies and books, I couldn’t help but feel like I had been suckered into watching Twilight Lite.  The main positive is that the cast executed what it was given in a good manner.

My advice:  Check it out on cable; save the money for some other real gems out there…

Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011

When the Cross household finally entered the days of home video in the mid-80s, my parents sought out movies they had enjoyed in their younger days.  Interestingly enough, they could not locate some they wanted to see featuring Elizabeth Taylor.  They had lived through the days of media reports regarding her many affairs and remembered the stories of her and Richard Burton.  Sadly, the first experience I remember clearly of Ms. Taylor was when she made appearances in the 80s with Michael Jackson.  I remember how a big deal was made of her becoming Maggie’s voice on an episode of The Simpsons – all over one word, “DaDa.”  The first time I saw her on a movie screen was in the live-action version of The Flintstones.

I know, pretty daggum sad for me to admit these travesties.

While I may not have experienced her work at the high-point of her career, I do know that she was a star that transcended generations.  At least we are privileged enough to be able to view her body of work any time we like…

Review Block

What is review block?

It is similar to writer’s block, in that I have seen movies and watched DVDs, but I have not felt like writing.  Part of that has been that fact that nothing I had seen seemed all that great to write about, and the other part is that I was being lazy.

Well, time’s a-wasting and there’s work to be done.

What’s in the pipeline?

  • Movie Reviews – Rango, Paul, Gnomeo and Juliet, and Red Riding Hood
  • DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews – North By Northwest, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, All-Star Superman, Grindhouse
  • Obits – Elizabeth Taylor

The movie ones will be done before the DVD reviews.  Have fun reading and feel free to comment on everything…