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Archive for July, 2010

Movie Review by Matthew Schuchman-Three and a Half out of Five ‘Staches.

In “Shaun of the Dead” Edgar Wright and company gave us their hilarious homage to zombie films.  When “Hot Fuzz” hit theaters, we got another hilarious take on a different genre, action films.  Now, Edgar Wright gives us his first film, not co-written by Simon Pegg or starring Pegg and the other 3rd of the hit BBC television show, “Spaced”, Nick Frost.  With “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World”, Wright this time, goes a little more outside the box and give us his take on; video games.

Now, before I get into the movie, I should mention that I have not read the Graphic Novel(s), the film is based on.  So I cannot comment on how similar or dissimilar the two are from each other, or if someone may think the movie was trash because they cast a blond-haired kid to play a character with brown hair.  That being said, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” was straight out a pleasure to watch.

There is nothing new about the plot of the film I could tell you that the previews have not.  To be with the girl of his dreams, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must defeat her 7 evil exes.  While the complete explanation as to why this is the case is given to the audience, it never really makes much sense, story wise, but it is only needed to fuel the story and can be overlooked.

The movie is bright, flashy and I guess could be disarming to someone with sensitive vision.  Just like when you start-up a Nintendo game as you get a warning that if you suffer from seizures, you might not want to play that game; I would say if that applies to you, you may want to skip the movie as well.  The only problem is you will be robbing yourself of one hilarious film.  The jokes also come fast and leave you wanting more.  There is a fair amount of what can be considered, “sight gags” and if you don’t pay attention, you will miss some gems.  The style of the film may turn off some viewers as will the steady stream of subtle video game references; watch out for the easily recognizable Legend of Zelda music early on and a reference to the theme from Final Fantasy II.  But even if you do not have any understanding or interest in these references or the medium of video games, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” still has something to offer everyone, for instance, two of Scott’s friends happen to be named, Stephen Stills and Young Neil.  Now I understand even that reference is not built for everyone, but it certainly was not aimed at the typical, video game audience.

Just like any good comedy should, it is packed full of gut busting, laugh out loud jokes, especially from a random cameo by Thomas Jane that left me laughing for a good 2 minutes straight.  However, I couldn’t help but notice that I had a smile on my face for the entire movie, and that means just as much as having to have my sides stitched up from laughter.  It is easy to make me burst out laughing every 20 minutes or so, but it takes a lot more to keep me entertained those 19 minutes in between.

Aside from the video game style and tone of the film, I know some people may be wary of seeing the film, because of its star, Michael Cera.  Plenty of people say they are sick of him playing the same role over and over again or just couldn’t take him from the start in “Arrested Development”.  Yes, this role is another take on what we have seen him do before, something he is pretty much built for, but he does take some new turns in the film and frankly, some of the jokes just wouldn’t have been nearly as funny, if not for his patented comedic delivery; the kid has got some great timing and you can’t deny him that.

It was obvious from his early work in TV and from his first two films that Edgar Wright had a knack for story telling, but I was starting to fear that he was all about style and not enough substance.  I even entertained the thought that maybe his work would suffer without having Pegg and Frost around, but either of these could not be further from the truth.  It would be easy to say just from seeing the trailer for the film, that “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World”, listened to a little too much Meatloaf and that you will come out of the film thinking, you should do anything for love, and yes, even THAT. But really, and not all that hidden from the audience, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” is here to tell us that we all have issues from our past that we have to handle and if we work to fix ourselves, everything else will just fall into place.  That and you need the Silver Arrow to pierce Gannon’s eye at the end of The Legend of Zelda.

If you want to be entertained and have a great time at the movies, do yourself a favor and check out, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World”, when it opens up nation wide on August 13th, you will not be disappointed and if you are, pick up a few more heart containers, because something is wrong.

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Movie Review by Matthew Schuchman- Four out of Five ‘Staches.

If you ask me what the best film of 2009 was, I would not say, “The Hurt Locker” and I would not say, “Avatar”.  With no question in my mind, not only was the best film of 2009 not even nominated for any of the big name, American/Hollywood awards, but the best performance of the year also went unrecognized.

“Moon” is the story of, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) who is signed to a three-year contract with Lunar Industries, that has had him living in solitude on the moon, with only a robot control system, named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) for companionship.   Sam’s job on the moon is to help harvest, Helium-3, which is now used as the main source of energy back on earth.   Two weeks before his contract is done and Sam will be heading home to his wife and child, whom Sam was not there to witness being born, something goes wrong.

Now, already you may think this premise sounds trite and cliché; it has all been done before.  But “Moon” does the unexpected.  In the first 15 minutes of the film, everything is explained, more of a character study than anything else, “Moon” makes you think you are in for twists and turns and predictable situations and then turns it all on its head.  This film is a breath of fresh air, in a world of super convoluted story lines that purposely try to mess with your head and end up really going nowhere.  Those types of films, whether they are good or bad, will give people something to talk about and so does, “Moon”, but in a different way.

The first feature-length film for Co-writer and director by Duncan Jones was made for a shoe string budget, for the type of film it was.  However, you would never know.  “Moon” looks just as beautiful and expensive as a big budget blockbuster sci-fi film that costs, fifty to one hundred million dollars yet, “Moon” was completed for five million.  The story and filmmaking were top-notch for this “indie” flick, but the shining star of this movie, is Sam Rockwell.

I am a massive fan of Sam Rockwell, which made this movie a must see from the word go for me, but the performance he turns out in “Moon” should be noted as the definition of, “tour de force”.  At parts, Sam Rockwell, was his normal fun-loving self; he was a bit scary at times, a bit vulnerable and at other times very stoic.  At the same time though, he completely broke my heart.  Becoming  truly empathetic and sympathetic to a character in a movie these days, is a hard thing to do, but thanks to Sam Rockwell in “Moon”, it will always be possible.

“Moon” is making its T.V. premiere run right now (July, 2010) on the Starz network, which also means, besides being available for rent, it is also available as a, “Watch Instantly” title on, Netflix.  If you want to own a copy of “Moon”, look here on Amazon to purchase your copy on DVD or Blu-Ray.

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Review by Matthew Schuchman- Five out of Five ‘Staches.

Even if you have never actually seen the movie, “Network”, you probably know the most famous quote from it; “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

The now infamous line uttered by Peter Finch, in a performance that won him the Academy Award for best actor (Note that is was the first and only Academy Award to be given out posthumously till Heath Ledger won for playing the Joker in, “The Dark Knight”) will go down in history as one of the most famous movie quotes of all time.  However, the speeches Finch delivers later in the movie are ten times more poignant and much more powerful and meaningful and should be heard and seen by all movie lovers.  The film also contains an amazing little speech delivered by a well warranted over-acting, Ned Beatty (see the picture above) in one of the greatest film cameos of all time.

The film follows the dealings of butting heads at UBS, and no not the bank, but the lowest rated television station, at the beginning of the movie.  Opening up as two marvels of the news world, anchor Howard Beale (Finch) and producer, Max Schumacher (William Holden) are in middle of a drunken binge; as Howard was earlier that day, informed he was being let go.  Days before his last broadcast, Howard announces, live on the evening news, that on the following Thursday’s show, he was going to kill himself on air and it should get a hell of a rating.

These events start to unfold what is by far, one of the greatest films ever made, turning the steady news man, Howard Beale into, “The mad prophet of the airwaves”.  A stellar cast of, William Holden, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Ned Beatty and Beatrice Straight (who won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for “Network”, for a role that had a total screen time of 5 minutes and 40 seconds) are brought together by the underrated genius of Sidney Lumet and the incomparable writing of Paddy Chayefky.

“Network” was a film ahead of its time.  Chayefsky wrote about the news becoming part of a corporation and more of an entertainment show than informative, way before it became a reality.  “Network” was a vision of fear, of what American’s may become, and basically have.  It picked up on the fact that anything that was going to be associated with “the tube” was going to change us.  In one of the best rants delivered by Finch  in the film, he goes to explain to the live audience and the millions of people watching him on T.V. to stop listening to him and what he and the rest of the personalities on T.V. tell them to do; “But, man, you’re never going to get any truth from us. We’ll tell you anything you want to hear; we lie like hell. We’ll tell you that, uh, Kojak always gets the killer, or that nobody ever gets cancer at Archie Bunker’s house, and no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don’t worry, just look at your watch; at the end of the hour he’s going to win. We’ll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in *illusions*, man! None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds… We’re all you know. You’re beginning to believe the illusions we’re spinning here. You’re beginning to think that the tube is reality, and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even *think* like the tube! This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God’s name, you people are the real thing! *WE* are the illusion! So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off! Turn them off right in the middle of the sentence I’m speaking to you now! TURN THEM OFF…” When I see the youth of today and how so many young people try to live the lives they see shows like”The Real World” or “Sex and the City” I can’t help but think of this speech; I mean “The Real World”?

Do yourself a favor and see “Network” if you haven’t.  It is poignant, funny, endearing, and thought provoking.  It also contains some of the best writing ever put to film and the greatest opening and closing line of any movie I have ever seen.  You will not be sorry.  You can of course rent the film on Netflix or purchase it from Amazon. Do enjoy.

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Review by Matthew Schuchman- Five out of Five ‘Staches.

Some people think that a made for T.V. movie should not count when thinking about the greatest movies of all time.  Of course, it is rare that a made for T.V. movie might be worth mentioning in that category.  Not only does this 1986 BBC mini-series deserve to be noticed as one of the best movies ever, it is without a doubt, my favorite movie of all time.

Trying to put “The Singing Detective” into a nutshell, is pretty much impossible.  The story revolves around fictional novelist, Philip Marlow (Notice the drop of the E off the name), played by the great  Michael Gambon  in  his first real starring/lead role.  Marlow is bedridden in a hospital in the then present, 1980(s).  He suffers from a severe skin disease in which the skin over his entire body is dried up and flaking away.  Red from irritation, it leaves him unable to  move any part of his body on his own and without pain; it is psoriasis, at its most heightened stage.  Dennis Potter, who wrote the movie, which started as a radio program, suffered from this disease and was writing from personal experience.  He believed that this disease that tore away at this skin, was a physical representation of the horrible or immoral thoughts he possessed at times, as does the character of Philip Marlow, he is a prisoner in his own skin.

Unable to do anything else while he is bedridden, Marlow begins to “re-write” his most famous novel, “The Singing Detective” in his head.  But due to the restraints of not having much else to do, high fevers that cause delusion, unfavorable dealings with other hospital patients and staff and the sudden appearance of his estranged wife, Marlow also begins to think about his past/childhood.  Soon, the memories of his childhood begin infiltrating the story of, “The Singing Detective” as well as his experiences in the present.  Nurses and doctors break out into lip synching dance numbers and the visions of dead bed mates seem to stream through everywhere.  Ultimately, all of these worlds seem to collide as the finale of the movie draws near.

Part drama, part mystery, part musical, part thriller and all powerhouse film making bring this movie of searching, paranoia, and self discovery,  into a world of its own.  To be frank, most people will not understand the first 3 hours of this 6 hour mini-series as nothing really starts to come together until then.  The series is broken up however into 6, one hour-long episodes that can make for an easy viewing.  It is a movie that demands your attention and you must watch and listen closely as you may get lost even if you miss the smallest item.

Besides being my number one favorite movie of all time, it is prudent to bring this film review to you now as it shares a very similar theme with movies like, “12 Monkeys” and the current blockbuster, “Inception”.  Now, it may share a message closer to, “12 Monkeys” but all three films ride a similar line or thematic tales.  For “The Singing Detective”, it can be put simple as this; No matter what you think you remember from your past or not, there is one single moment that changed the person you were and helped form the person you have become.

If you are interested in seeing, “The Singing Detective”, it is available to rent from Netflix.  Just remember it is a three disc set with the entire movie split across the first two discs.  You can also  buy it here, from Amazon. Watch out, there was an independent remake made in 2003 starring, Robert Downey Jr.  DO NOT rent or buy this version.  They chopped the story to about two hours and destroyed the 1986 classic.  The remake gets One ‘Stache out of Five. There was a lot of great talent associated with the remake, but it missed the mark, big time.  Feel free to see it after the original and you will see what I mean.

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Another review, reposted from our Brother Blog. Matthew Schuchman awards this film- Two out of Five ‘Staches.

"The Sentimental Engine Slayer"   If you know me, you know of my love for, "The Mars Volta" and most, if not all of the work of the group's songwriter, guitarist and conductor; Omar Rodriguez-Lopez.    His first film to see the light of day to anyone other than his friends, and third to be filmed, "The Sentimental Engine Slayer" had its U.S. debut this past week in NY, as an entry in The Tribeca Film Festival.   Following the exploits of  Barlam, played by Rodriguez-Lopez himse … Read More

via I can't believe, I'll never believe, in anything again…

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I am moving over some short film reviews from my other blog so you can all enjoy them. This post was for the documentary, “Blood Into Wine” which I, Matthew Schuchman, award- 3 and a half out of 5 ‘Staches.

"Blood Into Wine"    If you know me, you know I do not drink alcohol; at all.  So with that being said, you may have been confused if you happened to see me last night sitting at The City Winery on Varick street, for about 5 hours.  I was there with my girlfriend and some other friends to catch the NY premiere screening of the film "Blood Into Wine".    The film, a documentary about the Arizona vineyard owned and run by Eric Glomski and Maynard James Keenan, had s … Read More

via I can't believe, I'll never believe, in anything again…

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Review by Matthew Schuchman- Four out of Five ‘Staches

It was Hollywood’s best kept secret, ever.  A two hundred million dollar movie that, up until the first full trailer came out, no one knew what it was about.  That just doesn’t happen, especially in the age of the internet. (more…)

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