Friday, May 08, 2009

Free Movie Reviews

When you are out of work, you need to be creative to stretch the entertainment dollar. That means being on the lookout for cheap/free offers. Luckily for me, March was a freebie month.

It started with Einstein Brothers Bagels, who generously put two re-useable coupons in the paper: free small coffee on Monday morning and free plain bagel on Friday morning. I think I went every possible day while the deal was in effect. I’m pretty sure the Monday and Friday staff started to recognize me …a couple times I didn’t even have to show the coupon. “You, unemployed guy in the baseball cap. Today must be Friday, cause you’re here for your bagel. Okay, here it is, on your way.”

Not edible but also a great deal was Redbox. I understand the point of Redbox: $1 per night rentals of recent movie releases from a self-serve kiosk at convenient locations (McDonald’s and grocery stores). I do not understand the business model of Redbox: give away so many damn free codes that no half-sentient person ever has to pay for a movie. For example, if you give Redbox your cell phone number, they will send a text message with a free promotional code (one night’s rental) every Monday.

And in March, Redbox offered a free promotional code (one night’s rental) every Wednesday that month, then extended it to the first Wednesday of April because of a technical glitch one week. I mean, I saw this headline...

Redbox's $1 vending-machine video rentals worry movie studios

...after getting back from yet another free rental and thought the hed should be:

Redbox's $0 vending-machine video rentals ought to worry Redbox

Anyway, their loss. Being savvy to the deal (thanks to Clam), I trucked over to my local Jewel several consecutive Wednesdays to watch all the movies I had almost no desire to see while they were in the theaters.

My reviews follow. I will use the MPF Movie Rating System (Part 1 and Part 2 for your review) and a letter grade where appropriate. And because Hollywood generally gives movies dumb titles, I will rename the movies for more clarity and accuracy.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
My title: Judd Apatow: Hawaii*.

Technically, we got this one at Blockbuster, but it was right around that same time. The Apatow crowd makes another good-hearted, foul-mouthed film, this time about a guy who goes to Hawaii to forget about his girlfriend who dumped him. Except said ex is there, with her new funny-talking boyfriend (might be British). Apatow: Hawaii was funny in spots, with a good ensemble cast (the fat kid from Superbad had a too-small part).

MPF Score: 3.5. (You see what appears to be Jackie from That 70’s Show flashing the camera, but in the commentary track we are told those weren’t really her boobs. Besides, those points really should be nullified by the more prominent male genitalia.)

Pineapple Express.
My title: Apatow: Pot.

A stoner film in the fine tradition of Dazed And Confused, Harold And Kumar, and, uh, it appears they should have called this Pineapple And Express to carry on the formula. Seth Rogen plays a stoner who witnesses a murder and, along with his dealer, goes on the run from the bad guys. There was a little too much “bro-love” crap that slowed down the plot, and the ending featured a bloodbath of a shootout that didn’t fit the light tone of the first half.

MPF Score: 4.5.

The Siskel and Ebert of my generation.

There Will Be Blood
My title: Oil! Why the hell not, it worked for the book.

First of all, there was very little blood in the movie. There was a lot more oil. Even There Will Be Oil And A Lot Of It would have been a better title. This is a long, meandering, pointless movie whose only redeeming quality is a masterful acting job by Daniel Day Lewis. However, we already knew he was awesome from In The Name of the Father and his Oscar-winning cripple thing. So therefore this movie has nothing new to say. It’s not even an original idea—it’s based on an Upton Sinclair novel.

MPF Grade: D-.

My title: Someone Please Punch This Woman In The Face Right Now.

I hated this movie. First of all, I couldn’t even understand one goddam word anybody said. I even turned on the friggin’ ENGLISH closed-captioning and still could barely follow it. Then, the main character was oppressively optimistic. She giggled and laughed at every stupid thing. When her bicycle got stolen, I cheered. So she takes driving lessons and meets the hero of the movie, the stone-faced driving instructor. I was hoping he would turn her into a normal person, but it looked like that wouldn’t happen so I turned it off.

MPF Score: 0. MPF Grade: F/Incomplete. (guest reviewed by Holden Caulfield)

This picture makes as much sense as that movie.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
My title: B&T Kids on the Loose

This was a TM pick, and I liked it more than I thought I would. The dewy-eyed kid from Superbad and a chick he kinda likes are Jersey teenagers on a quest to find a secret show in New York by their favorite band. I can relate to this a little, having chased down rumors that such-and-such a band is playing an after-show at some secret joint. Plus, all the action takes place in the Villages (Green-Wich and East) and Brooklyn. Having lived in New York, it was much more realistic to watch the kids on their quest, driving around the city and seeing all the venues and landmarks. I liked the movie enough to allude to it in my Blogspot profile.

MPF Score: 2. MPF Grade: B+.

Haunting of Molly Hartley
My title: Generic Horror Flick

This is the different between being 17 years old and say, double that. I bet I would have loved this half a lifetime ago: a wafer-thin plot about a girl (would you guess Molly?) who is being (want to guess? Haunted?) by ghosts or demons or whatever … hell, you don’t care, you just want your date to jump in your lap. Or for the movie to last long enough to get in a good makeout session. Every character is a stereotype, from the dull, out-of-touch dad to the rich kid who flirts with Molly to the weirdo Christian who tries to save her soul.

MPF Score: 0. My grade: C+ (if 17: A)

The Dark Knight
My title: The Batman Movie Not Called Batman Or Batman 2 Even Though It Is A Sequel

Last year everyone was all Batman, Batman, Batman, even though there was clearly not a film called Batman in the theatres. Turns out it’s this thing.

I think it’s nice and all that they filmed a movie here, but Batman? Batman is set is Gotham, aka NEW YORK CITY. While it’s always nice to see the beautiful Chicago skyline in a movie, it’s a little ridiculous when a guy in a bat costume flies past the Smurfit-Stone or the Standard Oil. The height of disbelief was when they showed lines of cars on Wacker Drive near State Street, with Marina City towers visible, and a cop talked about getting everyone out of the City through the bridges and tunnels. Hah! Maybe only people who have lived in both Chicago and Gotham would get that, but I am one such person.

I took this picture of the Standard Oil building one cold day in 2003 when TM and I were walking around downtown.

As for the movie itself: too long, too confusing**. It’s too bad the Joker killed himself but there’s always Jack Nicholson.

MPF score: 4 (Chicago points nearly revoked though)

Burn After Reading
My title: Actually, I’m okay with Burn After Reading

This movie is promoted at the beginning of my Big Lebowski DVD. I was curious enough, knowing it involved the Coen Brothers and Frances McDormand (awesome together in Fargo, awesome separately in Lebowski and Almost Famous, among others).

This movie was funny. Hilarious. I laughed out loud at least twice, and then about four times in the final five minutes, which might be the funniest final five minutes in American cinematic history. (1992’s Diggstown still is the most surprisingly enjoyable…this was just flat out hilarious.) Several actors were much funnier and well-played than I expected (the types of guys who show up in Ocean’s Fifteen type movies). The Coen brothers strike*** again.

MPF score: 5.

The updated spreadsheet is tab "redbox reviews" if it doesn't default to there. Hope you enjoyed it.

* -- I think all Judd Apatow movies should follow this formula. It would be a lot easier to keep track of them all… Apatow: Virgin. Apatow: Pregnant. Apatow: High School. Apatow: Amusement Park. Apatow: Mall Cop.

** -- I am told my confusion keeping all the characters straight was because this was a sequel. If so, why didn’t they call it Batman 2, Son of Batman, Batman’s Revenge, Return to Batman, Batman and the Temple of Doom, something like that?

*** -- a bowling pun. But you got that.

Ohhh, one more picture. It is so pretty.

No comments: