Mirthless “Couples Retreat”, heartfelt “Wild Things”

Man I wish I had time to update more!

I’m lucky if I pull off once a week. Vanguard 3 days a week, Apple 4.

I did squeeze in some time with the girlfriend to catch a double feature (it’s where you pay for one movie, see two. only way to go when you’re chocking up 10+ bucks for a single admission!) last night.

Saw Where The Wild Things Are and Couples Retreat.

I thought Wild Things was beautifully done. Definitely not child’s play. The animatronic and CG wild things (monsters?) looked great and were very entertaining to watch. Max was great. Cute kid. Reminds me of myself when I was little…playing for hours upon hours with legos and action figures and making forts. Don’t think I had a animal suit that cool though.

Everyone has been saying the same things — it’s too dark for kids. I’ll agree on that one…if I had a child who wanted to see the film though, I wouldn’t hesitate to bring them along…with the warning that there’s some scary scenes where they should shut their eyes or hold daddy’s (eh, maybe mommy’s) hand.

But what a true adaptation. I grew up on that book, and remember the bitter feelings of loneliness Max carries. Can’t blame a little boy for wanting attention. And while he’s a little troubled, I’m on his side. He’s just acting out because no one cares about what he does. Which is, of course, why he goes and finds himself a mystery island full of scary-friendly creatures who want him to be their king.

The tormented themes within the culture of the wild things is also very mature and all too real for plenty of adults. But other than a shred of fantasy violence and some scary moments with Max in danger, it’s a PG movie with a PG-13 feel at times.

And now to the BAD stuff. The really, really bad stuff.

Couples Retreat.

We’ve got Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell on top. Jason Bateman, Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, on top. Not to mention Faizon Love (the big black dude) and cameos by the funny gay guy and the hilarious little Asian man from Community, The Goods and The Hangover.

All in one movie! With a ripe premise, too. And they still couldn’t pull it of?!

I mean, I was disappointed by Extract too, Batemen (and Mike Judge). Batemen’s great, and I loved him in Arrested Development. But these projects need some better directors, writers, producers, something!

It’s almost comedic that Hollywood still makes shitty movies this bad. Couples Retreat could’ve been saved with better editing — it was 2 hours, a half hour too long. Plenty of unnecessary scenes like the gay sauna comments and Guitar Hero nonsense. And I could’ve gone with a little less of the sexy Fabio-like yoga instructor flaunting his bod…and his pod (package?).

It’s easy to see that a bunch of studio execs thought this would be a good idea:

Great star power (even though that matters less these days)

Funny concept

Bikini-clad island girls

Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau at the helm, writing and producing

…but what they didn’t tell us in the previews was how there was going to be a good 4-minute Guitar Hero advertisement right about two thirds into the movie. LITERALLY. A 30-second joke? I’ll get over it, full-well knowing it’s a paid joke, assuming the plot moves on.

Instead, it decides to dwell. For a really pointless, bland and unfunny scene where Vaughn has a Guitar Hero-off with the douchey resort dude. How original. Let South Park make fun of it, because they make it funny. You, Couples Retreat, despite the ridiculous nature of grown men using three-foot miniature, plastic guitars; utilize a cheesy, fluorescent split-screen, overlaid videogame graphics, and pointless, predictable banter.

Frankly I’m offended. I wish I could find out how many millions Activision spent for that blatant screen time.

Despite the usual abundance of product placement and script integration — we’ve got Applebee’s, Apple, Microsoft, GMC, Volkswagen, Starbucks and about 10-15 more I can’t remember (no joke, I nearly counted to 20). It’s a fun little game I play when I see movies: see how many times different products are shameless plugged. If you count up the amount of screen time and number of mentions you can easily tally up a good chunk of how that movie was probably paid for.

Now I’m just talking out of my mouth because I don’t feel like Googling a bunch of links right now, but this “subliminal” advertising has been growing and getting out of control. It’s been going on forever in Hollywood, and the secrets been out of the bag for a while — even Marty McFly in 1985’s “Back To The Future” (me, this Halloween) was sporting some classic Nikes as he filmed Doc send the dog back in time outside a JC Penny in Pomona, California.

[Yes, that’s right, Pomona. I bought the DVD and watched Michael J. Fox talk about filming in a mall parking lot in Pomona late at night. Also, Current TV’s Embedded featured some great shots of downtown Pomona and The Glasshouse in last week’s episode on the Silversun Pickups.]

Plug in to Vanguard

screenshot from iambrandx.com

screenshot from iambrandx.com

 

In two weeks and less than five hours from the time of this blog post, the fourth season of Current TV‘s “Vanguard” returns.

Interestingly enough, I have been interning with the team of about 14 for about two weeks as well. The duties have ranged from transcribing to researching and assisting the correspondents, and should hopefully flourish into something more participatory where I can really dig my nails in and get into these amazing international stories that the team covers.

Last season, they covered the recession in a three-part series, guns in America, robots in Japan, and war in Iran. This season, more breathtaking documentary episodes to come.

And in the next two weeks we will hopefully be amping up Vanguard’s online presence through social media. While plenty have written off Twitter and Facebook as wastes of time, they still prove their worth  interesting new ways — it’s all about connecting. And man that online world is crazy these days. I could spend a whole day on the Internet just exploring what’s out there, and I’d still be missing tons of awesome stuff. 

Gotta be careful not to become obsessed though. Too much digitalia can rot your brain! Or reduce your sperm count! Or was that Mountain Dew…

Either way, the first episode of the new season, premiering Oct. 14, is called OxyContin Express. It’s about prescription drug abuse and how Florida plays a vital role in supplying pills.

HERE’S THE LINEUP:

  • The Oxycontin Express : 10/14/09
  • Cuba: Waiting for a Revolution : 10/21/09
  • Forest of Ecstasy : 10/28/09
  • Sri Lanka: Notes from a War on Terror : 11/04/09
  • Porn 2.0 : 11/11/09
  • Prison Contraband : 11/16/09
  • Remote Control War : 12/02/09
  • Cocaine Mafia : 12/09/09
  • Current has also been picking up some steam and notoriety here and there, which is really cool to see. While the Gore/Clinton Korea rescue propelled Current into public eyes, others have been noticing too (see above from iambrandx) — Rolling Stone even made mention of a brand new [mini]series Current is launching called “Embedded.”

    Now that looks sweet: exclusive shows on Mos Def, Common, Ben Harper, Silversun Pickups, Thievery Corporation, and The Decemberists. Cannot wait for this. And it debuts right after Vanguard on the 14th.

    Rolling Stone says this about EMBEDDED in reason #47 to watch TV this season (more on that later! cable looks like its pulling up it’s pants)

    “If Animal Planet had a show that captured musicians in their natural habitats, it would look like this refreshingly raw documentary series. Ben harper gives a tour of his instrument shop in California; Mos Def roams the streets of Osaka, Japan. It’s artists in their everyday lives, free of the crowds.”

    Check out some cool videos from today in the Current SF office (Vanguard’s in LA). See Adam Yamaguchi, Mariana Van Zeller and Christof Putzel give a presentation on the new season.

    Oh yeah, and Vanguard’s blog tells us that Mariana made her way onto Dr. Phil for an episode about drug abuse airing, yep you guessed it, Oct. 14.

    That’s all for now. More to come from inside the Vanguard office, and reviews from a slew of shows I saw in the past week: Portugal. The Man @ The Glasshouse, !!! @ The Troubadour, and Wallpaper @ Cinespace. Phew.

    Keeping it Current

    one of current tv's hollywood buildings

    one of current tv's hollywood buildings

    Started my first week interning at Current TV, with the Vanguard journalism dept.

    A radical group of people for sure…I hope to get in the know.

    As expected, a laid-back, hip, young office vibe. But they’re true to their work and are on top of their game.

    And on day 2, I got to watch porn….while eating donuts! The thanks goes to Christof, the Current correspondent working on a documentary on the porn industry for the new season of Vanguard, starting Oct. 22.

    [Emmy-nominated investigative documentary series, it seems is what we call Vanguard]

    I watched — well, fast forwarded through the explicit scenes and slowed down for the dialogue — “Space Nuts” and “Curse Eternal,” two “big” budget pornographic flicks. I say “big” because I’m not sure the size of the budgets nor the comparison to Hollywood films….I didn’t realize there was really a story here until today. Makes sense though – the “real” acting and art that goes into porno DVDs is being undercut by Internet profiteers in the porn biz and gonzo porn stuff.

    Sex aside, being behind the scenes a very interesting company that puts out really excellent documentaries and media for the 18-34 demographic should prove quite awesome and hopefully fruitful.

    —–

    IN MUSIC THIS WEEK: Because I can’t blog enough about all the artists I want to, you need to check out the latest from Mute Math, Muse, Imogen Heap and Bat For Lashes.

    I heard “Backfire” from Mute Math @ The Press in Claremont tonight, which was surprising but awesome. Saw these guys open for Mae freshman year of college at The Glasshouse in Pomona. Only caught the end of their set, but I was immediately impressed: weird noises, a proggy Radiohead feel, melodic verses, fast-paced beats, catchy keyboard and guitar riffs, with a soothing Coldplay-esque voice that can lull you to sleep and get you dancing all at the same time.

    >>download the title track, “Armistice,” from the widget on the right! Listen more on LaLa or Myspace

    Imogen Heap and Bat For Lashes are my latest lady obsessions, both creating definitively unique sounds through synthesizer manipulation contrasting organic instrumentation like ethnic drums and chimes. I highly, highly recommend. Especially if you’re looking for something. They’re eye-openers. Also caught BfL @ Outside Lands San Francisco a few weeks ago. Couldn’t tell if the girl was hot or not! Girlfriend and I couldn’t quite figure her out. See for yourself below:

    batforlashes