A Thunder Matt Movie Minute

September 25, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

Lots of 'just ok' movies to get to, so let's get right to it:

Burn After Reading

IMDB Cribbed Synopsis: A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees who attempt to sell it.

Review: Fresh off the success of their 'dick in the dirt' masterpiece No Country For Old Men, the Coen Brothers return to their roots with a whimsical spy farce that stars, among others, everyone who has ever been named People Magazine's 'Sexiest Man Alive'*. One might expect me to throw out a bunch of interchangeable superlatives (Coen Brothers, Skeet Skeet!) in an effort to live up to my carefully crafted 'pretentious bastard' persona. Unfortunately, if I were to do that I would be lying to our readers (all 4 of you that don't already write for the site) and dammit if I don't have principles.

BAF is an enjoyable enough, if fairly slight film that speeds through its 90 minute run time like Daft Funk inhaling a Carl's Jr. Value Meal. It can't decide if it wants to be The Big Lebowski or Fargo and in the end, achieves neither.

You can't fault the actors, who are all in top form here. You have Brad Pitt chewing scenery like a gay roadrunner, George Clooney sweating and eating Chinese food, John Malkovich delivering his lines (most of which consist of him yelling, 'What the fuck?') with the zest of someone half his age and J.K. Simmons stealing scenes as if no one told him that they weren't filming Juno anymore.

Unfortunately the story can't live up to the heft of the acting. That said, it's still better than 90% of your other cinematic options. It's like driving off the lot in a bright red Ferrri only to find out that it has the engine of a Prius. Oh well, at least you'll save on gas.

Thunder Matt Rating: 3.5 'What the Fucks' Out of 5

*Except me.


Release Date: September 26

IMDB Cribbed Synopsis: A sex-addicted con-man pays for his mother's hospital bills by playing on the sympathies of those who rescue him from choking to death.

Review: Based on the Chuck Palahniuk ('Fight Club') book of the same name, Choke is a naughty little minx, choc full of nudity, anal beads, dementia and Godspeak. Kind of like Poker Night at The Hundley's house.

This film isn't for the faint of heart or easily offended (then again, if you're a reader of this site, you probably don't fall into that category) and is probably an acquired taste, but I imagine that if you've read the book (or any Chuck P books for that matter) you know what you're getting into. It's never funny enough or poignant enough to qualify as a 'must see', but there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes than to watch Sam Rockwell tear into this sex-addled, avant garde morality play set to Radiohead.*

Thunder Matt Rating: 3 Anal Beads Out of 5

*Bonus point for our Iowa readers: Maple Lanes in Waterloo gets a shout out.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Release Date: October 3

IMDB Cribbed Synopsis: High school student Nick O'Leary, member of the Queercore band The Jerk Offs, meets college-bound Norah Silverberg and she asks him to be her boyfriend for five minutes.

Review: Taking place over the course of one wild night in the Big Apple, Nick and Nora follows the escapades of Nick (Michael Cera) and Nora (Kat Dennings) along with their friends, as they traipse from one venue to the next, looking for a secret show by their favorite band, Fluffy. Nick has just had his heart broken and Nora is in a relationship of convenience when fate throws them together. Teen shenanigans ensue.

N&N isn't reinventing the wheel by any means. It's pretty standard teen angst fare, propped up by the stellar performances of the two leads, the always great Cera and the surprisingly charming Dennings. Michael Cera channels...well, Michael Cera, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's Dennings that really steals the show.

That said, like any angsty, pubescent teen, this movie is hairy in weird places and not without a few skin blemishes. All of the teen movie cliches and archtypes are in abundance. The bitchy, cheerleader ex-girlfriend. The douchebag ex-boyfriend. The zany best friends. The ending is predictable at best and way too saccharine sweet for it's own good. It will no doubt try to cater to the Juno crowd, but lacks any of the depth that made it's older sister a breakout hit.

In then end, it's cute, it's trite and it's perfectly watchable. Why reinvent the wheel if the one that you have works just fine?

Thunder Matt Rating: 3 Dry Humps Out of 5

Lightning Round

Righteous Kill

Review: What waste. You finally get the band back together (Pacino and DeNiro) only to have them sing a capella, with no instruments. The script feels like it was written for a CSI spinoff (CSI: Hoo-Ah!),with a plot twist so obvious that even the Houston Astros (dumb) could probably figure it out from the trailer. Oddly, Pacino (and his hair) gives his most understated performance in years, save for the end, when he destroys all the goodwill that he had just built up. The one thing that keeps things interesting is the subplot about Carla Gugino (hot) being into rough sex; although that probably would have worked out better in Choke.

Thunder Matt Rating: 2 Shells of Their Former Selves Out of 5

Tropic Thunder

Review: Rent it for Downey Jr, but keep your expectations in check. For every funny Downey riff, fake movie trailer (they're great) or oddly amusing 'Tom Cruise in a fat suit, cursing and dancing to Ludacris' moment, you have to sit through a one-joke Jack Black character and some painfully unfunny Ben Stiller scenes, which derail any momentum faster than a Downey relapse.

Thunder Matt Rating: 2.5 Judd Apatows out of 5

CD Roundup

Sure, this is a movie column, but what the hell? Here are a few quick thoughts on some recent releases:

Metallica, Death Magnetic - I didn't start listening to Metallica until the Black Album, so I'm not too familiar with their 'old school' sound, but this album is pretty solid, if not utterly exhausting. Most of the songs clock in at Freebird-esque lengths and oddly, Kirk Hammet's guitar solos are usually more catchy than anything in the choruses. Sometimes it sounds like they're trying too hard and other times they hit it out of the park. Best enjoyed in small spurts, like me in bed. Funk did a more in depth review. 3 Stars Out of 5
Download: "That Was Just Your Life", "All Nightmare Long"; Skip: "The Unforgiven III"

Extreme, Saudades de Rock - Wow, remember these guys? They were the ones that crooned 'More Than Words' over the loudspeakers at your junior high dance when you got your first boner. They're known for that song (and having the lead singer who helmed the disastrous 3rd incarnation of Van Halen), but really have always really been a sort of weird hard rock/funk/prog rock hybrid, and their guitarist Nuno Bettencourt is actually pretty revered amongst guitar players (aka, 'big in Japan!'). Their latest effort, which I simply refer to as 'Sausages of Rock' is a solid effort filled with chunky guitar riffs, fancy guitar work and cigarette lighter love songs. 3 Stars Out of 5
Download: "Last Hour", "Run" "Interface" (if you want to relive your Jr. High boner); Skip: "Flower Man"

What Made Milwaukee Famous, What Doesn't Kill Us- But they're not from Milwaukee, they're from Austin. Hmmm....either way these are some of the catchiest rock songs you'll hear all year. No shoe gazing allowed. 4 Stars Out of 5
Download: "Sultan", "Cheap Wine"; Skip: "To Each His Own"

Buckcherry, Black Butterfly - After 3 solid, underrated glam rock albums, Buckcherry rushes out to capitalize on the success of 'Crazy Bitch' and releases a crazy bad album. The grit, swagger and bluesy overtones of their prior releases have been replaced with a neutered, radio pandering, and wholly generic sound. Two good songs remind me of what could have been. The rest smell like b.o. 2 Stars Out of 5
Download: "A Child Called It", "Rescue Me"; Skip: "Talk to Me"

*Speaking of shameless pandering, the wife and I (along with Camella the cat) have launched a personal homepage/blog called The Handfelt Happy Hour, located here. It's all pretty harmless, mundane stuff, intended as a way of getting out of calling my mother as much. But where else can you delve deep into the life of 'the real Chaim Witz' and find out what I ate for dinner last weekend, or what our cat has to say about the latest trends in squirrel watching? Fascinating stuff for sure.