Movies I Slept Through – The Artist

“The Artist” has less color than the 1952 Hickory basketball team.

“The Artist” is the story of George Valentin(Jean Dujardin), a prominent silent movie star who is handsome and charming. He’s the tits of the town and kind of a dick about it. One night, after hamming it up at a movie premiere, he bumps into an exceptionally adorable young woman who poses with him as the press snap photos.

The woman turns out to be Peppy Miller(Bérénice Bejo), a young dancer and actresses who is just starting in the business.  At another chance meeting, George saves her from being fired; ultimately giving her the first break as an actress.

The main conflict comes when George’s film producer(John Goodman) introduces him to talkies. George laughs in his face because, remember, he’s kind of a dick. He’s essentially laughing in the face of the guy who came up with the idea for microchips and saying, “Piss off. Punch Cards Forever!” George refuses to accept the new medium and sits by to watch talkies and Peppy Miller grow in popularity.

The not-so-secret star of “The Artist” is Uggie, the dog. I’m willing to say that this movie would be near unwatchable if the dog wasn’t involved. Unless you spent your childhood maiming and killing small animals(in which case, you’re probably a sociopath of some sort and should really get that checked out), you’ll be completely mesmerized by Uggie. So mesmerized, in fact, that you’ll be tricked into thinking you’re super artistic and really loving Michel Hazanavicius’s delightful, nostalgic playfulness.(I kid, I kid)

I was a little skeptical going in to watch “The Artist”. From the outside, it seems like it’s going to be work.

“Hey, do you want to see a silent film about a prideful man’s refusal to accept the changing world around him?”

“Uhh”

“There’s a cute dog in it.”

“Ok.”

It actually isn’t a lot of work. It’s compelling and often quite funny. The humour is classic.(So classic, in fact, I felt the need to spell it all weird like that.) You won’t roll in the floor laughing, but it’ll make you smile. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo both give great performances. Jean’s character often comes off as a jerk, but when he smiles, it makes you smile. If given a choice between Uggie and Bérénice Bejo for an adorable companion, I’d ultimately choose Bérénice, but only because of life expectancy.

“The Artist” is a fun and touching look at a bygone era. It seems intimidating on the surface, but quickly breaks the ice and leads to a nice story. I did get a bit yawny toward the end, but that may be a result of our ultra awesome constant stimulation society. Regardless, “The Artist” gets a Coffee.

Suggestion: If you liked “The Artist” check out last year’s animated silent film “The Illusionist“. It’s just as adorable with some similar themes.

Movies I Slept Through – Red State

“Red State” is like a confused, angry chimpanzee that attacks random people after you lovingly made fart jokes with it for years.

When I was younger, my mom or grandparents would take my brothers and me to the local video store and allow us to rent basically whatever we wanted. We weren’t extremely wealthy so our choices were restricted to the old releases at 5 for $5. In one of the most influential trips, completely unaware of the connection, we brought back “Clerks” and “Mallrats.” From that moment forward, I was a fan of Kevin Smith. It almost bordered on obsession for a while. I’ve seen all of his movies, except for “Cop Out,” but I don’t quite count it because he just directed. I traveled to Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank and bought the t-shirt Brodie wears in “Mallrats.” Hell, I even bought a copy of “Now You Know” because Jeff Anderson(Randal from “Clerks”) wrote and directed it. It should also be noted that if my grandfather was the one to take us we were basically required to get horror movies. On Fridays, we would buy Little Caesar’s pizza and then he would pay money to which one of us could stay awake the latest.

So, when I heard Kevin Smith was working on a horror movie, I immediately got to work on building a time machine so I could travel back and screen it for the 15-year-old version of me. Unfortunately, 15-year-old me was busy watching Kevin Smith movies instead of studying physics, so I didn’t get very far. (Sorry about that.)

Travis(Michael Angarano)is jaded when it comes to life in the small town. He doesn’t even seem to care when he sees members the Five Points Church protesting the funeral of a gay teen who was killed in an apparent hate crime. If there is one thing on the planet that can motivate any male teen, it’s sex, and when Travis is approached by his friends Billy-Ray(Nicholas Braun) and Randy(Ronnie Connell) to meet up with an online sex partner, he’s up(heh) for it.

The teens set out for a simple night of triple teaming a random lady. Boys will be boys, you know? After having a few beers, the guys kinda pass out for a while and wake up a little closer to the Five Points Church than they’d like to be. By “a little closer,” I mean tied up in the basement and shit. There’s a lesson to learned here. If you meet up with someone online, and one of the first things they say to you is, “The devil’s right in here,” run. Run as fast as you can. Unless, of course, you’re into that kind of thing.

The acting for the entire cast is pretty solid. Michael Parks puts in a really great performance as the charismatic leader of the church. Managing to keep interest during the extra long sermon scene is particularly impressive. John Goodman also stands out as a torn ATF agent who doesn’t know if it’s better to follow orders or stand by his morals.

The tone and focus of “Red State” shifts about halfway through. It sets up like it’s going to be a modern horror where teens are tortured for their misdeeds, but it turns to more of a thriller once John Goodman’s ATF agent is introduced. This is where “Red State” begins to break apart. There just end up being too many characters and subplots that don’t get enough time spent with them. All together it’s like “Hostel” meets “The Devil’s Rejects” meets “The Negotiator” meets “The People Under the Stairs” with a tiny bit of “Chasing Amy” sprinkled in. “Amy’s Hostel Rejects Negotiating Under the Stairs?”

Kevin Smith’s touch on the movie can be found in the lengthy dialogue and the one random “Clerks” style title screen that tells you the time. Other than that it feels like a completely different director. The overall feel of “Red State” is gritty and brutal. It certainly doesn’t exist in the same world where James Van Der Beek and Jason Biggs make “Bluntman and Chronic” movies. I found it refreshing to see him take such a different approach(There’s something 15-year-old me wouldn’t have said, for sure.)

The feel, direction and acting performances are enough to make “Red State” worth seeing even if the plot falls apart a bit. You’ll need to Nap Before if you’re going to stay awake through the sermon scene and it’ll be worth it to see Kevin Pollack in a classic “Is That Kevin Pollack?” role.