Clerks (1994)

Clerks (1994)

Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) is supposed to have a day off from his job as a convenience store clerk, but when a co-worker calls out, he ends up having to go in and deal with a massive amount of problems when he’s not even supposed to be there.

If you haven’t seen this movie, then c’mon…really?! It’s been out since 1994.

This was Kevin Smith’s directorial debut and I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s hilarious, raunchy and poignant with a lot of heart. Some of the sequels in the slew of films Kevin Smith created weren’t as great or well-received, but this is what started ALL of the View Askew productions.

The black and white film and gritty quality really set it apart and it still holds up to this day. If you’ve ever worked a day of retail in your life, this should really hit home with you. It has humor, it has philosophy and it has drama, even. The characters are all really well-put together and the quality of the storytelling is really nice.

Watch it, now. You can find it on Netflix at the time of this review.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

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Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)Original Theatrical Release: July 27, 2001
Director: David Wain

It’s 1981 at Camp Firewood in Maine, and it’s the last day of camp. Beth (Janeane Garofalo) has a crush on the nerdy astrophysics professor, Henry Newman (David Hyde Pierce), who is trying to save the camp from a piece of Skylab. Meanwhile, other campers and counselors all have their own piece of drama to play out in the camp’s microcosm before the big talent show that will wrap up the summer.

When I first watched Wet Hot American Summer, I only caught the end of it, and I was really confused. For one, I had never heard of it. Second, I thought it was a real 80’s movie and I was trying to do the math in my head because I saw that Paul Rudd was in it. Obviously, I figured it out and then watched the film in its entirety but they did such a great job making it feel vintage that it felt less like a spoof on those classic 80’s flicks and more like it was one of them.

This film showcases a lot of talent; The aforementioned Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Janeane Garofalo, Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, A.D. Miles, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, Bradley Cooper and others. Most of these actors work well off each other, and you can see many of them together in other films like Role Models.

David Wain did an overall good job on directing this, but the story was sort of all over the place. For what it is, it does well, however disjointed some may find it. As a Mainer, it was a delight to see all this quirky action taking place, seemingly at random, in Maine. There is a scene where the characters “go into town” and end up in Waterville, Maine…and it’s just so ridiculous that it had me cackling.

If you like silliness, partake in this film. If silly is not your thing, then you should probably stay away. Rumor has it, by the way, that Wain is working on Wet Hot American Summer 2. Can’t wait!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Wet Hot American Summer

Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Original Air Date: January 20, 2008
Stations Airing: AMC
Number Of Episodes In Season: 7

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher who discovers that he only has two more years left to live because of his unexpected stage III cancer. With nothing left to lose, and no other means to provide for his family, he enlists the aid of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a bright but broken junkie and former student to help him distribute some crystal meth, which “Walt” is very proficient at creating. Soon, the duo find themselves not only at odds with each other but also crossing paths with heavy-duty drug dealers like the insane and violent Tuco (Raymond Cruz) as Walt and Jesse shoulder in on the meth-dealing business.

I had been extremely excited for this show upon seeing the original trailers on AMC back when I had cable. When it finally came on, I was not disappointed. I missed most of the original airing, but recently caught up on all the episodes using Netflix.

Right off the bat, the series and season one starts off at a decent pace, and you really get to both fear and love Walt by the end. I would say that the beginning half of the season is a nice segway into the dark, frenetic and chaotic second half with episodes like Crazy Handful of Nothin’ where Walt shaves his head and begins to really embrace his inner gangster. The dichotomy of Walter White, chemistry teacher with an extreme illness and Heisenberg, the meth-producing hard-ass is amazing and I can think of no better-written show in memory that could stand up to this series.

The relationship between Walt and Jesse is really, extremely well-done and is the subject of discussion even now among some of my friends. One of my friends, actually, (if you’re interested at all) has many theories about the show, especially when it comes to color symbolism. Check her out, but be careful because there might be spoilers if you haven’t seen the entire series yet. She makes some good points and observations, for sure, though. Her name is Erin Enberg and her website is HERE.

Breaking Bad has inspired so much conversation, between things like plot and characters, to other things like color symbolism. It’s that good. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven’t already. Just be prepared to become addicted to the show and not see the light of day until the series is over.

And even if you’ve already followed the show through to its satisfying conclusion, I found that it’s best to re-watch the series again right away from the beginning. You’ll really see how the characters have changed, mostly for the worse. Now get out of here and go watch it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Breaking Bad 

Pineapple Express (2008)

Pineapple Express (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: August 6, 2008
Director: David Gordon Green

When a lazy, stoner process server named Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) witnesses the murder of a Chinese drug dealer at the hands of Ted Jones (Gary Cole), the guy he was supposed to serve, he flees the scene of the crime and heads back to the guy who sells him pot (and his only friend) Saul Silver (James Franco). When it comes to light that Ted Jones is a major drug dealer, and the same guy who gave Saul a highly-rare strain of pot called Pineapple Express, the hapless duo realize that a couple of roaches left at the scene of the crime can be traced back to them. The two set out on the run from crooked cops and hired thugs, and all of them want the stoners dead.

I recently rewatched this, wondering if my original opinion had changed, and it did not. If anything, I think I like it more now than I did a couple years ago when I first saw it.

This is a stoner comedy done right. It has the appropriate amount of “touching” moments, without being sappy (like many of Adam Sandler’s comedies), has a lot of hilarious dialogue and stoner situations and, of course, has a lot of comedic talent.

Seth Rogen’s witty, sarcastic Dale Denton is a great character and we also see James Franco really dig in with his vapid, carefree portrayal of Saul Silver. Then, we have Danny McBride, who is hilarious as usual. There are lots of other cameos by other really funny people, too, like Bill Hader and Craig Robinson. It’s just a great ensemble cast.

The movie clipped along at a nice pace. Nothing really got too bogged down. There were plenty of chase scenes and awkward situational humor. I knew the inevitable rift between the main characters would come, and I disliked the way it was done in this film only because it was phoned ahead and it was hard not to see it coming when it did.

Many folks will prefer other movies by Team Apatow, like Knocked Up or Superbad. Those are great movies, too, but I think this one should be compared more to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back or Dude, Where’s My Car?. Next to those last two stoner flicks, I really think Pineapple Express can hold its own. If you don’t enjoy this movie, chances are, you don’t really like stoner flicks in general.

For a “stupid-humor” film, though, this has a pretty smart screenplay and some really great direction by David Gordon Green.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Pineapple Express

Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: April 5, 2013
Director: Fede Alvarez

Five friends travel to a remote cabin in the woods to help one among them, Mia (Jane Levy) overcome her addiction to drugs, figuring that being away from the city will enable her to purge her system. With the help of her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) she thinks that she’ll pull through this time. However, one of the friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), discovers a book and unwittingly unleashes a supernatural horror upon them all. Will any of them survive?

When I first heard that there was going to be an Evil Dead reboot, I was pretty angry. You don’t just go and mess around with the Evil Dead. C’mon, now.

However, when I heard that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were not only endorsing the film, but also producing, I was a little more accepting. THEN, when I saw the trailer…I was excited.

First off, don’t make the mistake of going to a movie theater that lets you order food while you watch the movie, because that’s what I did and let me tell you right now…it was really hard to use the ketchup and eat my rare hamburger with all the blood flying around on screen.

Blood. Sharp stabby things. Skin tears. Broken bones. Puke. Pus. Power tools. Blood. Broken Glass. Nails. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood.

At times, it looked like Mr. Kool-Aid burst through the wall, yelling “OOHHHHH YEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH” but he was full of blood instead of Kool-Aid and exploded everywhere.

A little bit of the movie is far-fetched, but as with all horror movies, this happens. If it were “realistic” there would be no supernatural horror, according to logic. There has to be a suspension of disbelief when folks are cutting their own limbs off.

As far as the casting goes, I think most of the actors did their jobs well. Some parts seemed TOO superfluous, and in my opinion, I would have cut out about five minutes of the movie at the beginning (though it opens with a great camera angle very reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining).

Overall, I think this was a good update to the original, although I will prefer to think of it as a separate entity from the original Evil Dead film. Go see it if you’re a horror fan or even if you think you might hate it. It could surprise you.

About the only thing the film lacked was likable characters. I didn’t mind most of them, but some I didn’t care about and even the main characters weren’t really as exciting as Ash was in the original Evil Dead series. We’ll have to see if they work on that with a sequel (if they make one) but as it stood, I felt that most of them were annoying and frustrating.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Evil Dead

Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Starsky and Hutch (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: March 5, 2004
Director: Todd Phillips

David Starsky (Ben Stiller) is, at least in his own eyes, a super cop. He narrates his own life with a sort of grim, noir commentary and takes pleasure in being an officer of the law…one of the good guys. Ken Hutchinson (Owen Wilson), often called ‘Hutch’, is the exact opposite. Ending up as partners, they must resolve their differences and work together to take down the drug czar Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn) using intel and help from their informant, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg).

I was never a super-huge fan of the show, as I only ever saw reruns when I was a kid. Once I reached college age, though, I started consuming some media I missed when I was too young to appreciate it, and Starsky and Hutch was one of the shows I started getting into.

First of all, the show isn’t really anything like this movie so it’s no use really comparing the two. One is mostly serious, one is pretty much a parody of the buddy-cop genre. With that fact kept firmly in mind, I must say the film was extremely successful with what it set out to do.

Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller, love ’em or hate ’em, do what they do best in this movie – which is to butt heads for comedic effect. They are, to me, a modern day Abbot and Costello and I thoroughly enjoy every movie I’ve seen them in together.

The movie isn’t too long, running at only 95 minutes or so, and that is just enough length for a movie like this. It’s not overly ambitious, but it’s a lot of fun to watch the interactions between Starsky and Hutch or really any of the characters in this film.

There are some cool car chase sequences in the film, making use of the Ford Gran Torino that is pretty much the flagship image of this movie and of the television show.

Overall, there’s not much to complain about here unless you don’t like the kind of humor that comprises the entirety of this flick. If so, you picked the wrong movie to watch.

Oh, and the Will Ferrell cameo is HILARIOUS. (Carmen Elektra, Brande Roderick and Amy Smart didn’t hurt, either…)

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Starsky & Hutch

The Punisher (2004)

The Punisher (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: April 16, 2004
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is an FBI agent who foils a drug deal in which Howard Saint’s (John Travolta) son is killed. Saint is a crime lord of the highest caliber and sets out to punish everyone involved. He discovers that Castle and his family are getting together for a reunion and decides to kill them all. With his wife, son and entire family dead, Castle re-groups and goes on a vengeance-fueled murder rampage against the Saint family in an all out war as the Marvel Comics character, The Punisher.

I was never really sold on Thomas Jane as Frank Castle. I don’t fully know why, but I just wasn’t. I thought Dolph Lundgren looked the part back in The Punisher (1989) but that movie had about as much to do with the actual Punisher franchise as Mickey Mouse. Ray Stevenson, from Punisher: War Zone (2008) was a perfect casting for Castle, in my opinion, but that movie also suffered from severe story problems.

What I wish could have happened was that they took Ray and put him in this movie and then amped up the story and it could have been amazing. Really, it could have!

As it is, we get a glimpse of emotion when Frank’s wife and kid are running from the mobsters but then, after they kill Frank about 80 different ways (beating him senseless, shooting him point blank multiple times and then blowing him up) he is transformed to The Punisher but we don’t really transform with him. He is living in an apartment building with some wacky-yet-lovable neighbors (and also Rebecca Romijn Stamos, because she’s TOTALLY believable as the ‘girl next door’) who are constantly wondering about him.

My favorite parts about this movie were his fight with The Russian and the encounter with the singing assassin, Harry Heck, who sounds and looks a lot like Johnny Cash. Those guys were both taken from story runs that Garth Ennis did in the comic books, so I guess you could say I like the books more than the movie.

Jane’s Punisher is just never quite badass enough, which kind of ruined it for me. Travolta wasn’t too bad, but that’s the problem. We needed more time with Castle’s family so that we cared about them and THEN they should have killed them all off so we wanted to see them avenged. As it was, I just thought they all did incredibly idiotic things while they were being fired at by the mob.

In any case, it’s not the worst Punisher movie I’ve seen and certainly not one of the worst movies I’ve seen in general, but I felt kind of let down. I hope they re-boot this series someday, but I hope they stick with the emotional side of his loss because that’s what’s most effective in the comics and why he’s an enduring character. STORY FIRST, PEOPLE!

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For The Punisher