Red State (2011)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: September 01, 2011
Director: Kevin Smith

In middle-America, all is not as sleepy and peaceful as it would seem. A fundamentalist church called The Five Points Church, led by pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), preaches anti-gay and almost anti-everything hate gospel. Unfortunately, their bite is worse than their bark and when three teenage boys; Travis (Michael Angarano), Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun), and Jarod (Kyle Gallner) – find an older woman soliciting sex on an internet site similar to Craigslist – they agree to meeting up with her for a foursome, which lands them squarely in the hungry religious jaws of the Cooper clan.

This movie blew me away. If you’re a Kevin Smith/View Askew fan like myself, you’ve come to expect a certain quality and tone of movie from the man and the studio behind him which produced films such as Clerks, Dogma and Chasing Amy. Red State is NOTHING like those other films. This is intense, this is gritty. As Smith himself points out – the Jay and Silent Bob films are like a smooth milkshake while Red State is like drinking straight whiskey. This is a film that none other than Quentin Tarantino strongly endorses, if that gives you any sort of idea as to what the tone is.

First of all, the film is especially poignant and is almost like a satire of the Westboro Baptist Church. We see it in the news every day, but in reality – the crazy religious zeal of some of these people is one incident away from an actual, real-life horror film. Red State is part horror film, part thriller and absolutely riveting.

With Michael Parks as Abin Cooper – the charismatic and terrifying patriarch of the Five Points Church – Smith hit gold. Everyone cast in this film not only does their jobs, but does them well. This movie is often overlooked because it goes beyond the fandoms of the Jay And Silent Bob/View Askew universe, which is understandable in some ways because Red State is so different from those others that it’s almost like another director is at the helm – though Smith can definitely be felt within the context of the film by the acerbic dialogue.

This film is amazing. Absolutely amazing. Do yourself a favor and go watch it. You’ll be uneasy for a long while and it’s perfect for a Halloween horror movie night.

JOE Rating:  ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Red State

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Brick (2005)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: January 1, 2005
Director: Rian Johnson

A teenage loner, Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), seeks the whereabouts of his girlfriend, Emily (Emilie De Ravin). When it turns out that she was a victim of apparent foul play, Brendan finds himself in the seedy underbelly of a high school crime syndicate run by the notorious and mysterious Pin (Lukas Haas). Brendan must sort through his own morals and reserves of courage if he is to get any answers for Emily’s disappearance.

Brick is one of those films that was always sort of on my radar but never a film I purposely sought out. To understand why, you must understand that as a rule – I hardly ever watch gritty, ultra-realistic crime films. I see enough of that stuff on the news, so I don’t feel much particular need to seek it out in films I enjoy watching. I use films as an escapist sort of entertainment. The image on the movie jacket did little to inspire any ideas I had about the film being anything other than a movie where a girl is murdered.

With that said, I recently watched this at a friend’s house in Vermont. He and his wife suggested a few of us all watch it for a “movie night” of sorts, and I’m glad he did. First off – this is not ultra-realistic at all. This is a blend of Noir and a sort of high-school/teen drama film. You wouldn’t think such a combination would be satisfying or poignant, but you’d be just as wrong as I was. The ultra-stylistic dialogue and the snappy cinematography  and the quirky characters had me intently watching the screen for the duration of the film.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in a great performance as Brendan. Lukas Haas is very hilarious and on point as The Pin while Noah Fleiss’ portrayal of a henchman named Tugger had me laughing at several points. This is a dark comedy, for sure – as it still deals with drug trafficking and death – but it’s all set against the backdrop of High School, something most of us can relate to. The noir world that the characters inhabit is very believable within its own context and pretty much everything about the film is enjoyable. If you haven’t seen this film yet, give it a shot. It’s really worth taking the time to watch. (Especially if you like films such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Brick

 

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

Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 (2012)

Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 (2012)

Original Air Date: April 1, 2012
Stations Airing: Disney X D, Disney Channel
Number Of Episodes In Season: 26

Peter Parker (Drake Bell), was bitten by a radioactive spider which granted him spider-like powers such as the ability to crawl on walls and increased strength and agility, as well as an internal warning system he calls “Spider-Sense” which usually lets him dodge incoming attacks.

At the beginning of Season 1, Peter has been Spider-Man for one year. He’s still learning, and when S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Chi McBride) offers to give him training that will make him into the “ultimate” Spider-Man, Spidey can’t refuse. The catch is that he has to lead a fledgling group of other superheroes including Iron Fist (Greg Cipes), Power Man (Ogie Banks), Nova (Logan Miller) and White Tiger (Caitlyn Taylor Love) and show them what ropes he DOES know, and he reluctantly agrees.

The show is a good mix of silly with the serious. Spider-Man has always been about the humor, and Deadpool has sort of taken that away from him in recent years…but Spidey, in this series, acts a bit more like Deadpool than is normal, with constant breaking of the fourth wall. To me, this is a good thing at least in context of the show because the show itself is kinetic and hyper-stylized, and is definitely aimed at a younger audience.

Older fans, don’t worry. I am a long-time Spidey fan and I actually really like this series. The team-up is a strange but cool concept, and there are constant throwbacks to story threads found in the Ultimate Marvel Verse. Spider-Man also teams up with other heroes in different episodes, like Thor, Dr. Strange, Iron-Man and others.

All the staple Spidey characters are there, including Aunt May, Flash Thompson, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson.

The action sequences are really well-done, and the humor is usually spot-on. One thing I didn’t really like is how sometimes-annoying Spidey’s voice is. Otherwise, all the voice acting is good.

If you want more serious Spider-Man viewing pleasure, there are definitely other choices, but at least watch this one through the first season because you’ll get a feel for how the rest of the story’s going to go.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Ultimate Spider-Man