new releases

How Danny McBride and James Franco Saved The Princess (and the Movie Business)

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♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ 1/2   out of   ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

 

Sometime after the brave “knights ‘a questin'” are captured, hauled into a giant wicker pit, then forced to battle their captor’s greatest warrior… the evil, strangely-special-looking medicine man (surrounded by crowds of threatening warrior-women, topless of course), sticks his hand into a “cauldron” of mustard. Suddenly a giant five-headed snake hand erupts from the ground and menaces our heroes with razor-sharp fangs and venom that melts the flesh from bones.

It wasn’t this scene alone that made me realize I was watching possibly the greatest movie ever made, but by this point my stomach and my face hurt from laughing. From the opening scene, the medieval-action/romance/stoner-comedy Your Highness, starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Zooey Deschanel, and Natalie Portman, amongst others, is a rip-roaring adventure that will keep you in stitches. Believe me when I say, these guys are plowing through more weed than a tanker full of Roundup the entire time. With echoes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail going on here, Your Highness is a perfect blend of humor, action, and low-brow comedy.

Director David Gordon Green, who previously directed McBride and Franco in the buddy-action/stoner-comedy Pineapple Express, is running all cylinders here. While Pineapple Express might have hit a few bumps in the road, this time around the mix is perfect… and it’s mostly due to Danny McBride. The man is a genius in a curly mullet, he commands laughs merely by walking on screen and delivers lines so dead-pan you could fry a dead-egg. Did I mention his character in the movie is completely unlikable for the first 3/4 of the movie? In fact, that might be the film’s only fault. That there came a point in which I actually wanted something bad to happen to him. Director Green must have intended this because not a few minutes later, a giant, Minotaur (let’s just say his name could be “Randy”)scene turns everything around for a fantastic 3rd act.

I really can’t give too much of the plot away, because it will begin to sound like a movie that you won’t want to go see. So let’s just say it’s a spoof, a really, really well done spoof. Green and Co. tread a fine line here, where on either side lay the wastes of lesser-movies’ attempts at pulling this kind of funny off. Where only Men in Tights and Princess Bride have gone, many a Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey’s, Cabin Boy’s and Black Knight’s have failed.

“It has been handed down throughout Hollywood’s history, a prophecy where every generation is bestowed a brilliant comedy with dragons, witches, and hero’s quests. That prophecy has been fulfilled this era with Your Highness.” In a far-away land, prince Thadeous (McBride) laments his life-long curse of living in his brother Fabious’s (Franco) shadow. Fabious is ever-questing, bringing home riches and tales of danger with his band of merry men. When Fabious returns from his latest quest, he tells of slaying the dreaded sorcerer Leezar’s (played fantastically by Justin Theroux) latest magic-beast, and pulls a cyclops’ head from his belongings. He also tells the tale of rescuing fair Belladonna (Deschanel) from a far-away tower, where she has been held captive by Leezar (who plans to impregnate her with a dragon on the night of the two-moon eclipse, once again, of course).

When Fabious and Belladonna ready to marry, Leezar appears and tells of his evil plans for the virgin girl. He snatches her away, “using, MAGIC!” (as he likes to say), and returns her to the tower. Fabious and Thadeous leave immediately to save her, this being Thadeous’s first quest and last chance to redeem himself as a man in the eyes of his father, his brother, and his kingdom. Cut to McBride and his squire Courtney riding in a carriage complaining about the traveling conditions and whether they would be bored out of their minds on this quest. Thadeous’s only plan, in fact, is “to get thoroughly f*ed up.” Whether or not such “sticky-icky” existed in medieval times isn’t the point, certainly their foul-mouths aren’t historically accurate either- but I was giggling non-stop… because it’s just plain funny.

I went to see Your Highness at the Cinemark 17 in Springfield, mainly because it’s a perfectly fine theater, and because they show first-run movies for over $2.00 cheaper than Regal Cinemas. I’m not sure how long Cinemark will be able to keep this up, but I know I’m not the only one who is extremely happy they are, and I intend to keep returning. (As long as they keep their prices down, otherwise, sorry Springfield).

In closing, Your Highness is one of the better medieval stoner-comedies I’ve seen, well, ever… and James Franco’s performance alone in this movie made it a great flick for me. Pile the gorgeous Natalie Portman, buxom Zooey Deschanel, and hilarious Danny McBride, plus the best special effects this side of an episode of Xeena: Warrior Princess, and you’ve got the perfect Sunday morning mimosas movie. Have a great week, and stay classy Eugene.

Toomb’s New Blu Rays (and DVDs) Harry Potter Edition

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Let’s talk Harry Potter. When author Joanne Rowling was walking to the corner cafe in Edinburgh, carrying her baby daughter in one arm and an old typewriter in the other, she had absolutely no idea the book she was writing (that she’d thought up on a delayed train ride) would one day make her a billionaire. In fact, did you know that Joanne (JK) Rowling is the only person to ever become a billionaire from writing? Her books have set sales records worldwide and her characters are household names, yet she was on government assistance when she started it all.

I have never read the books, however I’ve seen the movies. Harry Potter is Daniel Radcliffe, and unfortunately for Daniel Radcliffe, he will always be Harry Potter. I can think of worse things to be known as for the rest of my life- there’s got to be a royalty clause in his contract somewhere. As long as he doesn’t pick up a nasty heroin habit, I’m sure everything will work out for young Daniel. I’ve literally watched this boy grow up before my eyes, and despite having a unique hatred for the first few movies (ok the first 4, who am I kidding?), The Order of the Phoenix, The Half-Blood Prince, and The Deathly Hallows have all been amazing movies… I know that they would not be as great if there wouldn’t have been four before them. I now appreciate the foundation all of the mythology, back story, and character development have provided. I’ve watched all of these kids grow up, and go through the most astounding things- in the most wonderful world a kid could dream of…. and that’s what it’s all about… even though Rowling has been aiming her books toward an adult audience since about Goblet of Fire (4).

This Tuesday marks the Blu Ray (I’m really not going to cut you DVDers any more slack, it’s 2011 already, adopt!) [haha] release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt1. This is the first part of the series’ finale that started 7 books and 6 movies ago, and as such, is the beginning of the end of an era. HP will go down in history and be remembered forever, possibly even remade one day, it’s that good… if you can get past all the godawful names. Seriously, when Harry Potter is the most normal name in an entire series, you’ve got to re-examine a few things. At certain points it just seems like JK Rowling is just messing with us with all of the “Humble-tee Bumble-tee, Bibbity-Spiffity.” There’s nothing more heroic than watching kids yell “Stupify!” whilst flicking wooden sticks toward each other.

In HP7, Harry, Ron, and Hermione must find the remaining Horcruxes in order to stop evil Lord Voldemort from subjugating the “muggles” as slaves and ruling the world… and before you ask- muggles are us, the non-magical humans. From the beginning of the film, which is quite terrifying as Lord Voldemort is a rather nasty snake (played superbly by Ralph Fiennes), the action never really stops. The race is on as Harry and Co. “apparate” (instantaneous travel) across the beautiful English countryside unraveling the mystery of the Deathly Hallows. This movie rocks. It’s a deeply personal movie for the characters, as friendships are tested and love is found… but isn’t that the core of the series? The importance of love in the face of evil? After all Harry Potter’s parents gave their lives to defeat Voldemort and save Harry when he was a baby… and those of us who can predict the ending know that ultimate sacrifice and that love is the key to defeating evil.

H arry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt1 is simply gorgeous in High Definition. The movie is as dark as can be (literally and figuratively), and wh ile often thought of as kids movies, they have not been in quite some time. The last one ended with the nice-guy wizard getting tossed off the tower for pity’s sake! The transfer on Blu Ray is immaculate and the sound mix is amazing. Do yourself a favor and pick this movie up and I’ll see you at the theater in July when the last one drops.

New Releases for Friday 4/8

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Welcome to the weekend Eugeneans! Can you feel the excitement of the Spring Movie Season? It’s anybody’s game at the box office this weekend with sleeper-hit-movie possibilities abound. With 5 (count ’em 5!) new movies premiering in local theaters today, what will be this year’s Diary Of A Wimpy Kid? Maybe the sequel?

First up we’ve got the remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore classic, Arthur. This time around the insanely funny Russell Brand (on his way up to super-stardom I see? Not enough that you’re married to Katy Perry is it pal?) plays Arthur- a billionaire lush with a penchant for tomfoolery. This time around, with an updated script, Arthur’s drinking gets more of the spotlight. The scene with Russell Brand (as Arthur) is sitting in an AA meeting with a huge fake beard, and introduces himself as Gandalf… funny stuff. Arthur seems to be quite a bit more laugh-out-loud than the original, at the sacrifice of the quality of the movie as a whole. Arthur is rated PG-13 for alcohol use throughout, sexual content, language and some drug references.

Also we’ve got the IMAX-Exclusive Born to be Wild 3D playing at Valley River’s IMAX theater. Born to be Wild 3D is a documentary that follows various apes, elephants, and other African wildlife. My daughter is absolutely dying to see this movie, and as much as IMAX costs, it looks like it might be worth it. Born to be Wild 3D is rated G for everyone.

Next up is the inspiring true story of Bethany Hamilton, a world-class surfer who at 13 lost her arm at the shoulder to a Tiger Shark. Her experience, struggle, and victory are chronicled in the new movie Soul Surfer starring Anna Sophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, and Helen Hunt. Bethany Hamilton overcame incredible odds to learn how to live and how to surf all over again… and proves the might of the human spirit. Soul Surfer is rated PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material.

What could shape up to be the sleeper-hit of the season is a movie getting more buzz than a bee hiveHanna. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, and Cate Blanchett, Hanna is the tale of a 16-year-old assassin who is sent on a complicated mission across Europe to take out a notorious intelligence operative. Raised at home and taught by her father, Hanna is what would happen if Jason Bourne had a daughter. Played without fear by Saoirse (pronounced say-or-say I believe), who starred in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lovely Bones, this thriller looks like a must-see. Hanna is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language.

Last but certainly not least is Your Highness, by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride. The team behind HBO’s Eastbound and Down and the brilliant Pineapple Express, brings us a stoner-comedy set in a fantasy-Dungeons-n-Dragons-movie. If that’s not enough to get you to go then we need to have a serious talk about what’s funny and what is not. Danny McBride, James Franco, and Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman quest to rescue the fair maiden, and plow through more weed than a tanker full of RoundUp. Your Highness looks hilarious, and is rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use.

That’s it for Toomb’s New Releases this week, stay tuned for more and have a great weekend Eugene!

New Releases for Friday 3/25

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Friday is here again and while the weather is keeping our entertainment options limited, local theaters have a few new options to choose from. We’re well into what’s recently become a successful time of year for director Zack Snyder, whose previous two films 300 and Watchmen have opened in March. This year he’s bringing us our first movie, and one I’m particularly excited about

Sucker Punch is the story of a teenage girl, Baby Doll, who has been committed to a mental institution by her evil stepfather. Baby Doll is played by newcomer Emily Browning, and also stars Vanessa Hudgens and Jenna Malone (who currently attends the University of Oregon by the way). Baby Doll retreats into a fantasy world with some of the other girls, and together they battle their way towards freedom. This movie looks amazing, the speical effects are fantastic. Sucker Punch is also playing on the big screen at Regal’s IMAX theater (I’ll be heading out for my first IMAX experience tonight, if we can put the new iPad 2 down long enough). It’s rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.

Next up this weekend we’ve got a sequel, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. I highly suggest the original if you have not seen it, Diary of a Wimpy Kid tells the story of one boy’s experience with middle school. Rodrick Rules takes us back in class after summer vacation from the first movie, where the main character, Greg Heffley and his older brother Rodrick must deal with their parents’ misguided attempts to bond the family. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is rated PG for some mild rude humor and mischief.

That’s it for major releases this weekend moviefans, don’t forget to check out our friends over at the Bijou and David Minor as well for you theatrical viewing pleasures! Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies.

Review: ‘Battle: Los Angeles’

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♣♣  out of  ♣♣♣♣♣


There is a painful moment in Battle: Los Angeles where everything starts to go wrong, it’s like a car crash you know is going to happen. The movie opens with newscasters telling us that “meteors” have crashed into the ocean off the coast of the world’s major cities. They tell us how the objects that crashed were really an alien invasion force that has started a coordinated attack on our planet. The lead character, a 20-year-veteran staff sergeant played by Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, The Core, Erin Brokovich), is shown gathering weapons and gear, his men doing the same. We’ve seen this before, when a movie opens with Marines preparing to enter battle, from Private Ryan to Black Hawk Down to Aliens, a strong platoon-getting-ready-to-kick-butt opening scene is tried and true… and it works here in B:LA. The chaotic buzz of a forward command base as soldiers mount up and ride into battle (to a rousing score) lulls us in with familiarity and intrigues us with the plot. We start thinking that “Black Hawk Down meets Independence Day” might be pretty cool as the choppers all take off and fly over a battle-ravaged Santa Monica. Guns cock, equipment is checked, all those really cool sound-effects that come along with a pre-combat action scene… and then comes that moment…

We tense up as Eckhart leans back in the chopper and gets that far away look in his eyes, the music builds and we’re screaming a the screen, “No please don’t ruin this awesome start with a hoaky flas…” But it’s too late. Our only solace is the black words on the screen- Santa Monica, 24 hours prior to contact. I had been on the edge of my seat… now I sighed and sipped my soda.

After the opening scene that worked so well, comes a flash back that just doesn’t at all. We spend 30 minutes getting backstory and exposition, meeting all of the characters, and learning that staff sergeant Eckhart is a day from retiring when ET splashes off the pier. There is a particularly riveting scene where a newscrew on the boardwalk catches a few coast guard cutters being tossed around in the surf and gets the first glimpses of the attacking alien soldiers (before being blasted out of the movie by one of ET’s cool multi-missile cannons). The Marines get scooped up during training operations by big brown trucks and suddenly we’re back at the beginning of the movie. With me?

Once the troops are on the ground, the pace picks up quickly. Trapped in the dense smoke of the raging battle around them, they move from house to house while aliens hop from rooftops with projectile weapons, picking off grunts one by one. Something I wrote down during the movie was, “the curious art of reassembling other movies,” and that seems to be a motif in today’s Hollywood. We see parts of movies (plot points, story arcs, suspenseful twists) we’ve seen before re-worked and put together with other parts from other movies we’ve seen before… slap new and cooler fx on it, and that’s what passes for originality these days. The rest of the plot follows the troops as they first try to get out of Santa Monica before the big bombs drop, second attempt to take out the aliens’ command center before the whole city falls. The waves of overly-sentimental hoo-rah cheese start to bring a tide of campiness that the movie ultimately can’t  recover from.

This movie is perfect for anyone who’s wise to the $4 matinées at Cinemark 17… Because it really needs to be seen on the big screen. Don’t get me wrong, this movie will appeal to a certain crowd that will shell out $10 for a ticket and a soda to anything involving A) Aliens, B) Marines, C) Really neato fx, D) Destruction on a MASS SCALE, E) All of the above.

In the end Battle: Los Angeles comes up short, although I did not hate the movie, I did feel cheated when it was all over. I tried my absolute hardest for 156 minutes to like this movie but in the end I couldn’t do it… I couldn’t walk out of the theater with the “right on!” the filmmakers were trying to get me to do (either that or sign up for the Marine Corps, I’m not sure). So while I will undoubtedly watch it again once it’s released on Blu-Ray (simply for the joy of cranking up my home theater), I’ll still have to do some convincing to get anyone else to watch it with me after this review. See you guys at the movies!

 

New Releases for March 18th

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Hello out there movie fans, it’s Friday so you know what time it is! Time for Toomb’s New Releases! In spite of reviews, the box office proved to be very good for Battle: Los Angeles last weekend, so who will be this weeks winner? We’ve got a few flicks to pick from including:

Paul, from the geniuses who brought us Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz comes a road-trip comedy about two British geeks on a pilgrimage to America’s UFO heartland who run into an escapee from Area 51 named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogan). Directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland), this comedy looks like a sure-fire laugh riot. If you’re a stranger to the movies of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, do yourself a favor and rent Sean of the Dead, it’s one the best comedies of last decade. Paul is rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug use.

Also this weekend we have the new Bradley Cooper/Robert De Niro flick Limitless. Cooper (The Hangover, The A-Team) plays a copy-writer whos life is changed by a super-experimental drug that lets him use the full power of his brain, instead of the small percentage we normally can. As his intellect and abilities begin to bloom expoentially, the drug’s origins prove shady at best… “and why is that group of trained killers following me Mr. De Niro?” Limitless looks like a good sci-fi thriller, I am definately intrigued by it’s premise.

Lastly this weekend we’ve got the charismatic Matthew McConaughey as a criminal defense attorney who works out of his Lincoln Town Car in The Lincoln Lawyer. Also starring Ryan Phillippe and Marisa Tomei, McConaughey gets wrapped up in a high-profile Beverly Hills case that brings him close to the edge. Did the good-looking rich guy really kill the girl(s)? Find out for yourself this weekend! The Lincoln Lawyer is rated R for some violence, sexual content and language.