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.

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Movies I Slept Through – Deliverance

“Deliverance” is like going on a date with a lovely lady and halfway through realizing she’s a man, but you still have good time talking about football.

[Reason #2 for Burt Reynolds month: Even without his beautiful mustache, Burt is able to demand attention while on-screen. A sign of a truly great man.]

Lewis, Ed, Bobby and Drew (Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox) are setting out on a canoe trip down the Cahulawasse River. The river, as Lewis puts it, is, “The last unfucked up river in the south.” A dam is being erected in the area and Lewis wants the guys to experience nature in its purest form before the entire area becomes a lake.

Lewis is the only one of the bunch that has any experience, but he’s also a bit of a hot head. At one point he says he doesn’t believe in insurance because there’s no risk. Drew is the guy that just had to bring his guitar on a white water rafting trip, Ed is the one who dresses like he’s trying to find Dr. Livingston and Bobby is the fat one(Way to not be typecast, Ned Beatty). So, what could possibly go wrong in the back hills of Georgia with one kinda crazy and three inexperienced outdoorsmen? Absolutely everything.

There’s a great moment near the beginning of the film where Drew performs “Dueling Banjos” with a local boy they run into. As the battle of banjo and guitar rages on, things  get a little too fast and Drew can no longer keep up. It’s a brilliant scene that sets the tone for the entire film. One of my other favorite moments comee during the early scenes as well, when old school southern curse words pop up like, “God Almighty!” and, my personal favorite, “Shit-Fire!”

“Deliverance” is tough to watch at times. There are uncomfortable scenes of sexual violence that you couldn’t sleep through if you wanted to and, trust me, you will. These scenes, however, create a sense of vulnerability where you feel no one is safe. All of the performances are solid and has two of the most misquoted lines in history. Those being, “I bet you can squeal like a pig,” and, “He got a real pretty mouth, ain’t he?”

[A Note from the Future: This movie was remade in 2014 and those lines were changed to, “Squeal like a pig, bro!” and, “He got a real pretty mouth, ain’t he? No homo.”]

The score has its up and downs. “Dueling Banjos” is used excellently during the beginning, but then it appears in more scenes than a porn star who’s about to be relegated to MILF status. They use it for happy scenes, scary scenes and sad scenes. It works in some of them, but in others it’s almost laughable.

“Deliverance” is often cited as one of the best movies of all time, but I can’t quite see it. It’s a fine movie, and very suspenseful, but the last fifteen minutes were basically useless and the over use of “Dueling Banjos” detracts from certain areas.  “Deliverance” gets a Nap Before, but I won’t blame you if you doze off a little.

Movies I Slept Through – Tangled

“Tangled” is the animated story of Jaycee Dugard. Wait, that can’t be right…

“Tangled” is an updated story of Rapunzel, the girl with extra long hair who is trapped in a tower by an evil witch. That’s the typical story we’re told growing up, but this is Disney’s spin on it. In the Disney version, Rapunzel is a girl with magic hair who is trapped in a tower by an evil witch and has a chameleon. See how different it is?

In “Tangled,” Rapunzel(voiced by Mandy Moore) is pretty damned happy considering she’s been trapped in a tower for most of her life. She still has the willpower to sing upbeat songs about the things she does all day. When Flynn Rider(voiced by Zachary Levi), a swashbuckling thief makes his way into her tower, she convinces him to take her to see the lanterns that appear in the sky each year on her birthday.

The bulk of the film is the pair trying to get to the lanterns and avoid the guards, witch and horse that are hunting them down. The action scenes are a lot of fun and really engaging. The real strong point is in the animation. Every character conveys great emotion even the ones who don’t speak like the chameleon and the horse, Maximus. Maximus is one of the best characters in “Tangled.” He’s like a mix between Jim Carey and Robin Williams, but not as big of a horse’s ass during interviews.

“Tangled” stumbles at points, especially in the songs. Mandy Moore and Donna Murphy sound great, but instead of being classic songs that people will sing during drunken karaoke in their mid twenties, they feel more like a desperate college student who switches his paper font to Courier New in order to get that extra two pages and meet the minimum requirement. Also, Rapunzel’s hair seems to change length to fit the situation but if you’re able to say to yourself, “Oh, right, magic hair,” you should be fine.

“Tangled” is undeniably cute. The songs are lacking, but the animation and the characters’ ability to show emotions are what push it over the edge and make it a Nap Before.

Movies I Slept Through – Captain America

“Captain America” is two hours of set up and a 30 second trailer for a disappointing movie coming out in 2012.

All Steve Rogers(Chris Evans) wants is to serve his country. America’s entry to World War II is afoot and Steve feels it’s his duty to fight. The only problem is… well, he has a crap load of problems. He’s small, he has asthma, a bad family medical history and has already been turned down four times. Can you imagine in what bad shape you’d have to be in for a 1940’s doctor to deny you military service? That guy would be more likely to prescribe cocaine and cigarettes for your asthma than tell you not to go fight NAZIs.

Steve Rogers gets his chance to serve when he meets Dr. Abraham Erskine(Stanley Tucci). Dr. Erksine is the head of a secret project to develop an American super soldier. Steve Rogers really must want to do what he can do for his country because for all he knows this secret project could have been unknowingly taking LSD or trying to destroy goats with his mind bullets. Nevertheless, it turns him into the super soldier as promised.

Steve Roger’s greatest enemy is not Adolf Hitler, but Johann Schmidt(Hugo Weaving), head of the NAZI R&D department and all around bad dude. He’s discovered some sort of something artifact and is harnessing its power to create District 9 style obliteration guns and other city destroying weapons. During Dr. Erskine’s early NAZI scientist days, he put Johann Schmidt trough a similar super soldier project and that for some reason made him have (I guess if you haven’t seen the trailer this is a spoiler alert) a red skull. So, he’s also Red Skull, but don’t worry he wears a human mask for most of the movie.

This leads to one of my biggest problems with “Captain America.” During a significant portion of the movie, they tease Red Skull. Schmidt has some sort of weird tick that looks like the cockroach guy from Men in Black and in one scene he shoots a guy and some RED blood gets on his SKULL broach. Now, this wouldn’t really have been a problem if they hadn’t shown Red Skull in many of the trailers. So at this point teasing Red Skull is like a stripper giving you a  lapdance after she jerked you off in the alley.

Despite this annoyance, the rest of the movie works really well. The effects to make Chris Evans look tiny pre-secret project are just as impressive as the steroids it took to make him look buff post-secret project. Humor is used to great effect. Most of which coming in the beginning, but also during Captain America’s experiences with the propaganda of the time.

At times things seem completely over the top or super patriotic, but you kind of have to expect that from “Captain America.” It just doesn’t seem too forced even it is all a we-are-America-and-America-is-the-greatest-never-doing-wrong-never-doing-harm mentality. Just sit back and enjoy it knowing that all the people Steve Rogers kills are NAZIs and that makes it a-okay. “Captain America” gets a Nap Before.

Movies I Slept Through – X-Men: First Class

“X-Men: First Class” is a $160 million excuse to make James McAvoy one degree away from Kevin Bacon.

At this point, most people are familiar with the X-Men. They’re a bunch of mutants with special powers who run around either trying save the humans from a bunch of other mutants with special powers who are trying to kill the humans. It’s been mentioned in previous films that Professor X, the leader of the pro human mutants, and Magneto, the leader of the anti human mutants, were once good friends. “X-Men: First Class” is the story of their friendship.

As a young man, pre getting Christopher Reevesed, Charles is bold. He grew up as a child of privilege; using his powers as a telepath to get what he wanted, including women. He’s kind of like the main character in “What Women Want” but instead of wanting to destroy the jews he just wants mutants to be accepted.

Erik Lehnsherr(Michael Fassbender) discovered he had the ability to control metal while under extreme pressure at a concentration camp. The man running the camp, Sebastian Shaw(Kevin Bacon), noticed Erik’s ability and decides to help him harness it. Sebastian, being a Nazi and all, doesn’t use the nicest tactics in getting the young boy to embrace his powers. When Erik is older, he turns his sights on tracking down the people who wronged him in the past. Sebastian Shaw is top of the list and during one of his attempts to defeat Shaw, Erik meets Charles.

The bulk of “X-Men: First Class” takes place during the 1960s. For the most part, they did a really good job of capturing that era. Close attention is paid to details and the plot even ties into some historical events. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Kevin Bacon all fit in, but I felt like the younger mutants just didn’t look like they were from the 1960s. There’s one training scene in particular where one of the kids had the sleeves cut off of his sweat suit, and it just stuck out and bothered me.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender give really nice performances. Any time they’re on the screen is fun to watch, which is a good thing because they have to carry the film. Kevin Bacon is good as well he’s much closer to being the “let’s turn invisible and rape people” guy from “Hollow Man” than the “let’s get drunk and dance” guy from “Footloose”.

“X-Men: First Class” is a fun super hero movie that at times feels like a spy movie. All the fights and special effects are pretty exciting and the stakes of the final battle were ratcheted up by having it tie in with actual events. It does falter a bit when it attempts to show the origin of some of the monikers the characters became known as, but over all, you should nap before so you don’t miss any of the cool action scenes.

Movies I Slept Through – Bridesmaids

“Bridesmaids” is “The Hangover” for girls… with balls.

A few months ago, I remember seeing a few different articles about Kristen Wiig and how she gets too much screen time on SNL. While I like her for the most part(I hate that Penelope character with a fiery passion… and I do very few things with a fiery passion), I couldn’t deny that she seems to pop into nearly every sketch. It does bother me when there’s a sketch she doesn’t belong in and here she comes with some absurd character. So here’s a two hour plus movie with Kristen Wiig as the central character. Oh boy.

Annie (Kristen Wiig) is down on her luck. She isn’t happy with her romantic life, her work life or her home life. The only thing she really has going for her is her best friend Lillian(Maya Rudolph). Lillian and Annie have been friends since they were young and when Lillian gets engaged, it’s natural she asks Annie to be her maid of honor.

Annie is quickly thrown in over her head. She isn’t quite ready emotionally to deal with all the pressures and feels overshadowed by Lillian’s new friend, Megan (Rose Byrne). Annie also meets a rational-nice-dream boy(The anti-manic-pixie dream girl) but she won’t let herself fall for him.

Now, on paper this seems like a movie some executive would throw Kate Hudson in and wipe his (or her) ass with the script. It would have been easy to do that. I guess we’re lucky that “Something Borrowed” came along so a movie that people can actually enjoy could be made.

Kristen Wiig does a great job in the lead role. She has great chemistry with nearly everyone in the cast and the friendship between her and Maya Rudolph really shines. The tension between her and Rose Byrne is nice as well, although some of their scenes deteriorate into a Penelope SNL sketch. Which is really the worst thing possible.

Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy, as the other bridesmaids, all have their moments to shine with Melissa McCarthy stealing several scenes.

My favorite part was Chris O’Dowd(The IT Crowd) as the nice guy cop that Annie doesn’t realize his perfect for her. It was nice to seem him make the jump from across the pond. He has great chemistry with Kristen Wiig and I look forward to seeing him in more productions here.

The great things about “Bridesmaids” is the balance it manages to strike between being the raunchy frat boy “Hangover” type comedy and still having a feminine side. My fear is that guys will look at this movie and say they don’t want to see it because it stars a bunch of girls, but that’s some ol’ bullshit. There’s a lot to laugh at here as long as you can put up with vomit, poop and adorable puppies(not all at the same time).

At just over two hours “Bridesmaids” does feel long in spots and the scenes that go on so long they deteriorate into a Penelope sketch really bothered me a lot, but everything else is enough to make up for it. Take a nap before and enjoy this movie.

Movies I Slept Through – Super

“Super” answers the question brought up in Dumb and Dumber, “What if he shot me in the face?”

“Super” is about  a man named Frank(Rainn Wilson). He’s just your average guy with an average drug rehabbing wife(Liv Tyler). When she is lured away by a drug dealer(Kevin Bacon), Frank decides to go to the cops. Unfortunately for Frank, he has no proof of wrong doing. So he does what many movie characters do and decides to take matters into his own hands.

Frank creates an alternate identity known as the Crimson Bolt. The Crimson Bolt has one goal and that’s to make crime shut up. I guess really two goals if you count getting Frank’s wife back. How does he make crime shut up? He gets a big ass wrench and beats people with it.

Now, I never saw “The Rocker” but based on the poster and what I assume is the plot; this is Rainn Wilson’s best leading role as of yet.[Editor’s Note: I found out that his character in “The Rocker” is called Fish. It can’t be THAT bad can it?] He shows some decent range by coming off as vulnerable in some scenes and quite a physical presence in others. Good job Rainn Wilson.

Ellen Page has an interesting role as Crimson Bolt’s side kick, Boltie. She inadvertently helps Crimson Bolt realize what he is doing may not be the best thing in the world. The glee with which she attacks people is disturbing.

Liv Tyler does an ok job as the drug addled wife. She spends most of her time in a stupor so it’s hard to judge the quality of her performance. I just imagined her character was the same chick from that Aerosmith video just 17 years down the road.

Combine Kevin Bacon’s role here as the drug dealer who steals Rainn Wilson’s wife with his performance in that Logitech Revue commercial and I say we’re ready for a “Footloose” sequel.

The violence in “Super” walks a fine line between being completely brutal and having that brutality come off as comical.  It’s dark, very dark. The plot grows to the inevitable point of the Crimson Bolt doing something that a real super hero would do, much like this review grew to the inevitable  comparison of “Kick Ass”, but “Super” shows a little more restraint than “Kick Ass”. Spoiler Alert: There are no jet packs in “Super”.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie, but the scenes where Rainn Wilson hallucinates/receives messages from God took me out of things a bit and Ellen Page’s character is legitimately disturbing  to the point I’m afraid she’ll become someone people like but really shouldn’t. “Super” gets a Nap Before.

Movies I Slept Through – Source Code

“Source Code” is the perfect movie for people who love Jake Gyllenhaal and the ones that just want to watch him die over and over again.

I went into “Source Code” assuming it was going to be a really bad “Quantum Leap” rip off starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Katie Holmes. Well, I was wrong, and not only about the fact that Katie Holmes isn’t in this movie; Michelle Monaghan plays that role.

(Can you blame me?)

“Source Code”  is about Colter Stevens(Jake Gyllenhaal), an Air Force helicopter pilot who is part of a military program called Source Code. The Source Code program allows him to jump into the body of someone that was aboard the Dunkin Donuts: America runs on Dunkin morning commuter train targeted with a bomb. He relives the 8 minutes before the attack in order to discover who was behind it and prevent further attacks.

While on the least crowded commuter train in history, Colter takes over the body of Sean Fentress, a teacher that apparently doesn’t matter in the larger scope of things. Along the way, he falls in love with Christina(Michelle Monaghan), the girl the real Sean could never quite get; has a few coffees at Dunkin Donuts: America runs on Dunkin(the product placement was a little blatant); and discovers the truth of how he became part of the Source Code program in the first place.

I spent most of my time wondering why Jake Gyllenhaal couldn’t be Sam Rockwell. Jake didn’t do a terrible job, but I know Sam would have crushed it.  When I got home, I began  researching “Source Code” in order to find out why exactly it exceeded my expectations. It didn’t take long when I realized “Source Code” was directed by Duncan Jones, who also directed “Moon” starring Sam Rockwell.

I know most people make the easy “Quantum Leap” connection(just like I did) but this is more like a well told better budgeted episode with a much better ending. There’s even a small wink at the connection between the two, but you have to listen closely to figure it out. Either that or just check out the movie’s IMDB page.

Duncan Jones has come into his own as a Science Fiction director. “Source Code” isn’t as pure science fiction as “Moon,” but it does have a nice balance between the love story and the hardcore nerd stuff. It did take me a little while to get into things, but by the end “Source Code” won me over and gets a solid Nap Before.

Movies I Slept Through – Let Me In

“Let Me In” is about that kid Jeremy from the Pearl Jam song if he had met a vampire instead of killing himself.

“Let Me In” is the story of Owen(Kodi Smit-McPhee), a 12 year old boy who’s at a troubled point in his life. He’s picked on at school, his parents are going through an ugly divorce, and he has no friends, but then he gets new neighbor his age, Abby(Chloe Moretz).

Abby is mysterious and interesting. She listens to Owen, she’s good at puzzles, and she encourages him to stand up to his bullies. Oh, and she’s totes a vampire.

The general story makes it seem like “Let Me In” is just trying to cash in on Twilight’s popularity, but it’s not. Not only was the original novel published a year before, but people are straight up murdered, no one shimmers and there isn’t any type of love triangle with a man-beast. One thing that did bother me is that it’s set in New Mexico and there’s snow all over the place. This created a real “Finkle and Einhorn” situation in my head. I know there are mountainous areas in New Mexico, but I still couldn’t shake it from my head.

Both Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Mortez give really good performances. The bully(Dylan Minnette) is just extremely evil. They even try to humanize him by showing he struggles sometimes too, but you just think, “Good.” The scenes where the vampire goes crazy do feel weird and don’t flow well so I’m sure the Romanian judge would take a few points off for that.

The biggest flaw of “Let Me In” is that two years ago “Let the Right On In” was made in Sweden and is amazing. Although I’m sure neither of them hold a candle to John Ajvide Lindqvist’s original novel. So I say watch “Let Me In” then “Let the Right One In” then read “Let the Right One In” that way you can enjoy all of them without sounding like a prick.

“Let Me In” gets a Nap Before.