Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Operation: Endgame/Rogues Gallery

This is a first for the blahblahblahgay movie review blog, a review of a movie I have only just watched and haven't been wowed by.

Another first for the blog, a review of a movie that has had it's name changed. I got the film when it was called Operation: Endgame and it turns out that it has since been renamed Rogues Gallery apparently. Both names are a bit meh, Operation: Endgame wins out in my opinion as it does have some slight reference to the actual movie whereas Rogues Gallery puts it firmly in the sub Smokin' Aces genre of movies about people who kill each other. And essentially that is how this movie is pitched, although I get the impression it really would rather be an office based situational comedy.

As a side note the script for this movie under the name The Rogues Gallery was apparently winning awards back in 2004 but was only produced this year. Perhaps the DVD success of Smokin' Aces helped get it made? I'd say this was definitely worth seeing but perhaps isn't as good simply because it doesn't allow for any one star to shine in the same way Smokin' Aces did.

A misleading poster to be honest, look at how big Zach Galifianakis and his beard is, how centrally he has been placed, you'd expect him to be onscreen for more than the 5 minutes he is if you viewed Operation: Endgame based solely on this poster.

I particularly like the optimistic title on that Youtube trailer. Whilst you may have heard of these actors they are most definitely not stars. What it does have however is a large collection of excellent character actors that bring a whole heap of charisma and talent to the screen. This is most definitely an ensemble piece with no one character given a significant amount of screen time and for me it loses something because of that.

You may remember me mentioning the excitement I felt about watching this film in the review for The Vicious Kind primarily because it features the excellent Adam Scott and the always entertaining Zach Galifianakis (He has a great name, starts with a Gal and ends with a Kiss - Check out Zach doing stand up Live At The Purple Onion) but neither of them are really given a chance to shine in their bit parts. Big letdown for me to be honest.

So a quick synopsis for you: New guy at some covert American government agency stumbles into an ongoing inter agency feud between two rival teams of spies. The boss is assassinated and before he dies he initiates Project: Endgame, a self destruct sequence set to blow up their office multiple floors below ground with only one secret escape hatch. What follows is a series of set pieces as the spies seem intent on killing each other as they fight for survival.

OK so with that out of the way I will make reference to something i've discovered in other reviews of this flick; Americans really don't seem to understand the humour. Being originally from the UK I found this to be a very funny movie in parts but it seems that the subtlety of some of it has gone straight over the heads of a lot of American reviewers. I'm not gonna sit here and tell you it's an excellent comedy because some times it really seems to miss the boat BUT it's a much better comedy than it is an action movie that's fer sure.

Rob Corddry who seems to have a double D in his surname and was recently seen being very funny in Hot Tub Time Machine steals the opening segment with his alcohol fuelled ranting at and about his colleagues in the office. The majority of the great dialogue throughout the film can be found coming out of his mouth. The writing is at times superb and at other times a little too contrived, entire scenes apparently written to allow one line of 'clever' dialogue to be spouted by one of the spies merely serving to highlight the superfluousness of the line, bringing the viewer out of the moment instead of allowing you to enjoy the ride for what it is; a fun comedy with some comedic violence.

The action is a bit of a letdown, especially after Shoot 'Em Up and Smokin' Aces amongst others set the bar for this kind of comedy/action hybrid, but on the same level it's pretty much on par with more recent flicks RED and Wild Target. It's currently a popular genre that hasn't really managed to provide us with a 'classic' just yet so perhaps O:E shouldn't be judged too harshly.

If there's a central character it's New Man, Fool (UK actor Joe Anderson who was apparently in Musical Britflicks Control and Across the Universe,) with the most amount of screen time and the man the 'plot' weaves around. It is his first day in the office, it is through his eyes that we meet the rest of the cast and his presence allows for the expositional dialogue to feel a bit more natural. Joe Anderson is pretty good in the movie but when you have Adam Scott, Zach Galifianakis and Jeffrey Tambor in a film you would hope that they would be a little more present, again I think this fact detracts from the film for the viewer, whether you want more Zach, more Ving Rhames or more Ellen Barkin, you're still wanting something that the movie just isn't providing.

Another possible detraction is the rejection of the three act structure that typifies Western storytelling. There is no real beginning, middle and end here folks. The first part of the movie plays like a live action Archer (Fricken awesome show, watch it all right this second if you haven't already) with squabbling spies in an office environment leading to some very funny conversations whilst the second half removes that personal touch and concentrates on getting those one-liners out as often as possible whilst people die in imaginative ways. What plot there is takes a backseat until the end of the movie and then shazaam death and destruction, there is a winner and the credits roll.

Overall I actually quite liked it and I recommend watching it for a number of reasons.
1) You're a fan of this type of comedy-action movie, although if you've seen one you've seen them all at this point.
2) You enjoy the subtle humour found in a lot of British films such as Shaun of the Dead
3) You don't take your action films too seriously, don't expect amazing effects or set pieces and just accept a bit of silly never hurt anyone.
4) Rob Corddry

Operation Endgame (2010) DivX -

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weather Girl (2009)

Weather Girl is the fun yet slightly cliched second film from writer/director and sometime actor Blayne Weaver starring a whole bunch of TV actors including Gibbs from NCIS and Dee from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

Found primarily thanks to the quality and humour of Weaver's earlier short Losing Lois Lane (2004), a film that cost the production company $6000 and was intended as a showreel for everyone involved. Not sure if it actually got them more work or if they just ended up more broke than before but it's a fun little film and well worth spending 20 minutes on.

The trailer really does its job a little too well I think. Watch it and you will know exactly what the movie is about, exactly what happens by the end of the movie and probably how it happens. BUT that doesn't really do the film justice. There's a real cute indie feel about it and hopefully people out there who are drawn to a movie that seems like it may offer something a little more than the standard Hollywood genre flicks would give the film a go based solely on this. I had to show Leah the trailer a few times and then insist on watching it in the end before she would choose this over the many hundreds of films I have sitting around waiting to be watched but I think it was worth it.

Synopsisisation on Weather Girl: The Weather Girl, Sylvia (Tricia O'Kelley, imdb says she is most well known for a TV series called The New Adventures of Old Christine, I've never even heard of this show) airs her dirty laundry in public and storms off of her morning TV show; career ruined she moves in with her little brother Walt (Ryan Devlin who doesn't really seem to have been in anything apart from maybe the godawful Marmaduke recently) and tries to get her life back on track with a little help from her brothers friend Byron (Patrick J. Adams whose biggest credit to date was an appearance in Old School) who just happens to have a crush on her.

I'll get this out of the way right up front; I enjoyed this movie, more than I realised at the time of watching and more than Leah did. I may have actually been expecting/hoping for a little more from it and was left a little disappointed after my first viewing but it's another film that stays with you in the weeks after and demands to be watched again.

Blayne Weaver's specialty seems to be in finding the real characters in unreal situations, we may not all be a superhero or on TV but we have all been lost at one point or another, been in love or found that love unrequited and the characters in Weather Girl are identifiable as people you may have met, friends from school etc.

The main trio put in top quality performances; Tricia O'Kelley is excellent as Sylvia, a whiny little bitch, confused and scared by the way her life has gone, completely unsure of herself and surrounded by people who serve to make her feel even worse about herself. Patrick J. Adams, whilst inexperienced, was superb as charming slacker Byron and Ryan Devlin makes wisecracking an art form as the never serious yet always caring Walt but it is the ensemble cast that helps take Weather Girl to a new level of enjoyment.

Jon Cryer who was apparently Ducky in Pretty In Pink and has been cashing in great big fat cheques on a weekly basis for camping it up in the dreadful Two and a Half Men is hilarious as Sylvia's date, the always incredible Jane Lynch nearly steals the movie (as always) with her brief cameo as a restaurant manager, Kaitlin Olson of Always Sunny fame is laugh out loud, piss your pants funny as Sherry, the other woman and Mark Harmon gives a strong comedic turn as the TV anchor sad sack who’s rendered clueless by too many years of forced banter. But for me the best characters are the bitchy best friends Emily and Jane (Alex Kapp Horner & Marin Hinkle, both also famous for being on lame TV shows) who have an amazing rapport with each other and are totally hilarious in a Kristen Wiig kind of way.

Somebody elsewhere has described the movie as feeling like it's been written by two different people and it feels close to the truth, in an almost schizophrenic way the movie slips from a ridiculously funny opening 40 minutes to an overly slow, ordinary ending via a mixture of comedy and drama. Blayne Weaver is the only writer credited with the script so the blame has to fall fully on his shoulders; he writes good situations and creates great characters but his plotting has left a bit to be desired in the drama department through not taking enough chances, the rom-com genre has a whole heap of tired cliches and the completely obvious final act found in Weather Girl is textbook rom-com and this means the film starts to drag.

"you're sexy, in a foreign film kind of way, with the angles and the attitude ..."

The other high point for the film is the dialogue: it is sharp and real and helps to develop believable relationships between Sylvia, Walt & Byron, as well as being at times completely and absurdly funny. It has been written that Weather Girl is like an entire TV season has been condensed in to 90 minutes and I think that may have more to do with the sharp, pithy dialogue than anything else.

Overall Weather Girl is a nice, well made, fun movie, filled with charming performances and is very tightly edited, there's nothing extra, nothing surplus to requirements, every scene is important to the plot and whilst the ending suffers a little through being predictable from the opening scene it takes a few clever turns while heading towards the inevitable happy ending.

Weather Girl (2009) DivX -

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Vicious Kind (2009)

The honour of first review on the blah blah blah gay movie review blog goes to The Vicious Kind (2009). Congratulations to Lee Toland Krieger, I'm sure this is exactly what you had hoped for when you wrote and directed this movie. Years of work have now rightfully been rewarded.

Starring an excellently beardy Adam Scott as the slightly damaged Caleb Sinclaire and featuring a dark haired Brittany Snow, a grown up Alex Frost and the always excellent JK Simmons as the rest of the headliners.

Nice artwork found for the advertising. I actually really like all three of them for different reasons but primarily they really jump straight out as belonging to the independent film oeuvre. You know where you are with a movie with a poster like those above. Something a little different, a little edgy, touching on human drama rather than your typical rom-com with predictable plot lines or mega blockbusters filled with explosions.

And they also put out a pretty good trailer that really gives a good impression of what the movie is all about, complete with hints of the humour, the emotion and the slightly obvious storyline.

I shall now attempt to synopsisize for you: Peter (Alex Frost) brings his new girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow) home from college for Thanksgiving (apparently this is a festive event in America that involves turkey and family drama.) Caleb (Adam Scott) is his older brother who has a very negative opinion of women – "You know they're all whores, right?" Donald (JK Simmons) is their father. Caleb dislikes Emma and warns Peter off of her. Donald and Caleb haven't spoken to each other in quite some time. As the weekend plays out the family dynamic begins to shift.

OK, so even though the plot is a little predictable Krieger has done a great job of making the journey enjoyable and still managed to squeeze a few unexpected surprises on you. Adam Scott steals the show in what is clearly the main role of the film. Every storyline, every scene revolves around his character, his often hilarious and occasionally emotionally charged conversations are the major attraction of this movie. His performance a subtle blend of mania and emotion, humour and sincerity.

From the second the film opens he creates a powerful portrait of a man on the edge of sanity; a seemingly bi-polar state of being that veers from bursts of self important ranting to overwhelming pain, a walking contradiction doing one thing and saying another, immediately apologising for acting like a lunatic and treating everyone around him like dirt but ultimately exposing at his core a sad man struggling with the loneliness of the life he has created for himself. Much like a character from a Martin Amis novel, Caleb seems determined to ruin everything good in his life all the while knowing that his actions will hurt both himself and those around him; a doomed anti-hero whose fate lies in his own hands.

It was his performance that led me to find Party Down on icefilms and his performance in Party Down that led me back to watching The Vicious Kind again. I can't wait to watch Operation Endgame with him and Zach Galifianakis simply because they're both beardy and awesome.

The other characters are less well defined, Alex Frost may have learned to act a bit better than when he was in Elephant but he wasn't exactly stretched by the role of Caleb's younger brother Peter. There are definitely some unexplored depths to Peter, his prudish Rebublican demeanor being a shock to his brother for example, leaving the feeling that he was little more than a two dimensional plot device. Brittany Snow does very well as Emma, a role that could quite easily have become another flat uninteresting character, a teenage girl written by a twenty-something guy is never going to be a truly accurate portrait BUT she takes an averagely written character and adds depth and emotion. By the end of the film Emma is an actual character, I don't want to throw in any spoilers but I felt as a man that it was as close to real as you get from a male centric movie. My fiance agreed with this so I can safely say that this was a top quality performance from Brittany Snow. JK Simmons is his usual excellent self, full of energy and oozing charisma, finding it easy to switch from his trademark humourous dad routine to another character with an emotionally damaged core thanks to an unhappy past.

Film craft wise it was a good solid piece of work, a perfectly framed, tightly cut and occasional use of unobtrusive handheld camerawork. Having said that, Krieger finds plenty of time to partake in the essential long moody sequences expected of a character driven indie piece, giving the audience time to reflect on the internal journey being taken by Caleb to the music found on the alt-folk soundtrack.

Enough rambling I feel. Check the movie out, it's excellent, well worth 90 minutes of your life in my opinion. And let me know how you like it.

The Vicious Kind (2009) DivX -