Saturday, June 6, 2009

The homoerotica of the "Toasty Torpedo." Thanks, Quiznos.

Since I've recently graduated from college, I've been searching for a job within the advertising industry as a means to my independent film end. Because of this, I've been paying much more attention to the content and general form of those 30-second spots between your favorite shows. Just this afternoon I was watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe and I saw a Quiznos spot for their new $4 Torpedo Sandwiches...

With all respect to the GLBT community, it was the gayest thing I've seen from a food commercial. Watch this spot:



While I enjoy the HAL reference, I don't enjoy the idea of HAL-human love:

Oven: Scott, I want you to do something for me
Scott: Not doing that again. It burned.
Oven: (Pointedly) We BOTH enjoyed that.

Honestly, the mechanics of that are simply inconceivable. Coupled with the phallic shape and suggestive name of the the Oven's "greatest invention," the commercial is fodder for filthy minds such as mine. Oh, It gets better:

Oven: Yes, Scott. You make one.
Scott: Me?
Oven:Put it in me, Scott. (cue porno music) Over a foot of Quiznos flavor on a slim, sleek ciabatta...

Oh, my. I love the shocked expression Scott gives the Oven. If this commercial were to continue after its alloted 30 seconds, I can just see a touching little vignette in which the Oven gets served papers for a sexual harassment suit. What? You think this is the Oven's first time? That's the language of a professional pervert. Who else could make sandwiches so dirty? Only Quiznos, apparently. And Hardee's, but everyone knew that.

Just remember kids, sex sells sandwiches.

Summer movie roundup...

Hello, dear readers! It's been nearly a year since Jimmy and I mysteriously disappeared. The mystery is somewhat lessened by the knowledge that we both just completed our final year of college and were so busy we usually couldn't type straight. But fear not; now we're finished, thanks to the economy we're jobless, and we've got plenty of time to watch movies and write about them for YOU!

By this time, you've all probably seen basically all the summer blockbusters, so I won't bore you with separate reviews for all of them. Instead, I give you a quick rundown of all the films I've seen this summer. From worst to best...

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Man, I so wanted this film to kick ass. I love superhero origin stories, I love the X-Men, and I especially love Gambit, who makes his first franchise appearance in this film. But it was weirdly uneven, especially in the directing. There were some genuinely heartfelt moments, but they were few and far between, and drowned under layers of CGI. Fun drinking game: count the number of times Hugh Jackman throws his head back and screams at the sky. You'll be getting your buzz on in no time. (Bright spot: Liev Schreiber is basically just a badass, no matter what he does.) Final rating: D+

Angels & Demons - I honestly can't believe I'm rating this higher than anything, after The DaVinci Code, which was one big yawnfest. The only reason it gets a higher review than X-Men is that the people who are constantly in peril are actually likely to die; it bores me to watch immortals pound the shit out of each other. Also, Tom Hanks' hair is not nearly as offensive as it was in Code. That doesn't make it good; I guess I just need a greater reverence for the history of the Catholic church. Final rating: C-

Terminator: Salvation - Man, why is everybody hating on T4 so much? I grant you, it isn't a movie to think about, but I suspect that if you wanted that, you'd be watching something else. Sure, the characted development is stilted (did we seriously not know Mrs. John Connor's name until the last five minutes of the film?), the dialogue is contrived, the plot is nothing you haven't seen before. Shut up and watch the badass robots and big explosions, and turn your brain off for a while. (Actually, Sam Worthington is pretty fantastic. I expect to see more of him in future.) Final rating: B-

Star Trek - As Wolverine and Angels & Demons were too close for me to easily rank, so are Star Trek and Up. But I'll try. I went to see Star Trek happily, with a big bucket of popcorn, expecting an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable franchise reboot. I was pleasantly shocked at how freaking good this movie was. The actors are fabulous and look bizarrely like their original-series counterparts; the special effects are nice but don't dominate the movie; and there are a good sprinkling of touching scenes, many of which involve Leonard Nimoy. I can't wait to go see this again. Final rating: A

Up - Pixar. Oh, Pixar. Every time I think you've outdone yourself, you go and do it again. After my review last summer of Wall-E, I couldn't imagine another Pixar film even getting close to that. And while Up doesn't quite top it, it just about equals out. Funny in the right places, incredibly emotional, and breathtakingly beautiful, Up made me want to leave the theater and Go Do a Thing, which is usually the hallmark of a good adventure movie for me. I'm not ashamed to say that I cried a bunch during this movie (in the first ten minutes, even!), and I'm not afraid to bet that you will, too. Final rating: A+

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tropic Thunder - Kate's Perspective

Ever been looking forward to something so much for so long that when it finally came out, you practically tried to force yourself to love it, even though you really didn't? That, unfortunately, was my reaction to Tropic Thunder, which I saw Wednesday when it came out. It's a pity, because I loved just about everything about the premise, plus the vast majority of the actors (Ben Stiller can get annoying, but he directed Zoolander, so I was hoping this directorial attempt would be similar). I loved the idea. I loved the actors. I loved the trailers. But I just didn't love the movie.

It wasn't terrible--don't get me wrong. There were some things that TT did right. Spoilers ahead--ye be warned. For instance, has Matthew McConaughey ever been funny before? (At least, intentionally?) And yet he was one of the best things about this movie, particularly in his final scene, where he bursts through the trees in the jungle, mud-streaked and sweating, triumphantly hoisting a TiVo over his head. It was a moment of pure genius. Similarly wonderful were Tom Cruise's impassioned and awkwardly overblown rant to the leaders of a drug ring on the phone, the fake trailers in the beginning (particularly Satan's Alley), and Stiller's revelation about the wisdom of adopting a boy from the village. Really, the first 20 minutes and the last 15 were pretty near flawless.

But the rest of the movie--the remaining hour and 15 minutes--just didn't do it for me. The jokes from earlier in the movie were recycled until they lost their humor; there was unnecessary, drawn-out, unfunny gore; and when they couldn't think of a joke to use, they resorted to just gross situations and language (Jack Black's "proposition" while tied to the tree was funny at first, but then just got uncomfortable). One thing that disappointed me was that Damien Cockburn died right away, as I thought he was actually one of the better characters. There wasn't anything hideously wrong with the movie, but it just kind of fizzled into blandness; it simply wasn't spectacular, which is sad for a film with such great potential.

I won't advise you not to go see Tropic Thunder, but neither can I really recommend it. I'm pretty sure you can see all the truly funny moments on YouTube--Satan's Alley really can't be missed, and the trailers for the actual movie are great, but the rest of it makes for really expensive nap time.

Final rating: C-

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An open letter to Alanis Morissette


My dear Alanis,

I simply do not know what to say in times like these. For years I have loved you and your music. For many albums I have emasculated myself, swallowed my pride, and simply bought your CDs from the pimple-faced cashier at the music store. I can't remember a time I didn't keep a bag packed in case you swung by and wanted to elope-- It has been that long. But now that you've unleashed Flavors of Entanglement upon the world I don't know if we can be together.

I know you've always been a bit preachy, but it was something I was willing to work on. That being said, "Citizens of the Planet" simply cannot stand. I must put my foot down. Recognizing that we're all in this (read: planet) together, one simply cannot barge into the discussion with so much schmaltz. It must be handled with some finesse or even originality.

"Underneath" may sound fine to the average radio-listener (as it sounds like every other single out in the ether), but as a song from you, it is disappointing. You needn't use such processed music! You are good enough on your own with an understated guitar and a good melody.

The whole album is an out-of-character barrage of poor poetry and misplaced techno beats. You don't do techno! Just because everyone else uses a drum machine doesn't mean that you should too. And the lyrics you've managed to come up with this time seem uninspired.

"With not much making sense just yet/I'm faking it 'till I'm pseudo-making it"

"Pseudo-making it?" What is that? Next time you have the desire to add the prefix "pseudo" to anything except "science," please consult a thesaurus first. I know you're having a hard time with your engagement broken off and all that, but please realize two things: 1) Strong emotions are not an excuse for bad lyrics and 2) this is a sign that we are meant to be. In fact celebration is in order rather than a mournful album.

In short, Alanis, I feel that this album is not a mark against you as an artist, but more a lapse in coherent thought during a time of distress. I know you'll do better and please call me soon-- My girlfriend is coming and have to hide this...

My Deepest Love,


Jimmy


Highpoints: "In Praise of the Vulnerable Man," "Torch," "Incomplete."
Lowpoints: "Strait Jacket," "Not as We," "Moratorium."
Final Grade: C-

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight - Kate's Perspective

See that poster to your left? Notice anything missing? Something tall and dark, with pointy ears and a strapping chin? Don't worry, it'll come to you.

The Dark Knight, which Jimmy and I saw at a midnight showing last night, was one of the more wonderful pieces of cinema I've seen in a long while. I won't say perfect--it certainly has its flaws, and with less stellar acting those flaws would've broken a movie like this--but it's so good, they don't even bother you. (At least, not while you're watching. I'll get to it.)

I'm not sure that I've ever seen a movie which depended so completely on its actors, except perhaps There Will Be Blood. Without the absolute badassery brought to it by Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart and Christian Bale (in this order, for me), it would've been average. Fun, adrenaline-packed mediocrity, but mediocrity nonetheless.

However, the film gods (or Christopher Nolan, I forget which) have chosen to bestow upon us a handful of pants-wettingly amazing performances, and so The Dark Knight transcends the superhero genre and becomes a genuine masterpiece of crime cinema. Gary Oldman, as Commissioner Gordon, is truly his own character in this one; you find yourself really caring about him. Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent is the perfect foil to Christian Bale's Batman: on one hand, the charismatic, good-hearted, blond district attorney; on the other, the brooding, gruff, dark vigilante. It's fantastic casting.

And Ledger? If Bale's performance was a little lacking for me, it's probably just because I was only waiting for scenes with the Joker. From his first swagger onto the screen, he absolutely owns the whole damn film. If I were one of the other massively talented actors in this movie, I would be feeling completely mediocre beside him. He's just so...cool. One twitching, sweating, greasy ball of concentrated crazy. He'll win you over ten minutes in, when he demonstrates a "magic trick" with a pencil. It's unforgettable.

One thing that always annoys me about villains is this: they often appear willing to die, but when death is staring them in the face, they snivel and whimper and wring their hands like everyone else, thus proving themselves not really that insane, just malicious. The Joker, on the other hand, really, truly doesn't give a bat's ass if he lives or dies, and that's sort of exhilarating to watch. He treats death like bungee-jumping or eating sushi; it's something new and exciting, and he might like it. He certainly doesn't treat it like a permanent condition.

Really, I could go on all day about Ledger's performance, which certainly ranks up with Hannibal Lecter as one of the creepiest, most deliciously freaky villains of all time. But I'm sleepy from getting just three hours of sleep, so I'll just urge you to see that for yourself.

Now, to the things that weren't so hot--or, rather, thing, as only one really bothered me. This may be a bit spoilerish, so you've been warned. The lead-up to Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face is long and slow, until the incident which actually turns him; after that, he immediately becomes crazed, bitter and remorseless. The elements were present before, so it's certainly not akin to, say, Anakin Skywalker's inexplicable transformation in Revenge of the Sith. It does work; it's just that it could have worked better, and it's too bad to see them rush that. One other small item I wasn't terribly fond of was a small cameo by Cillian Murphy, reprising his Scarecrow role; at best it was unnecessary, and at worst, a bit confusing. But it was short enough to fade into the background and be forgotten.

Finally, Batman as a character was not as important in this film; I think The Dark Knight was more about Gotham City than about Batman. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. From the intricate settings to the human moments (one involving boats and convicts is particularly touching), Nolan is determined to make you care about Gotham's salvation, and he succeeds, with flying...er...bats. There's plenty more that can be said about it, but instead, I'll just implore you to go see it yourself, and drink in the chilling, sadistic beauty of Gotham's darkest hour.

Final rating: A