Friday, November 19, 2010

Due Date

Let’s look at the data. IMDB gives the movie a 7.1. That’s solid. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 38%. That’s crushing and unjustified in my book. The gross so far is $15.4 million. Yikes. It’s bombing people! Why?

This movie did look pretty predictably shitty from the previews. Robert Downey Jr. has always seemed like a tool to me and I really only went because I blindly support anything Zach Galafianakis does. I’m a good guy. My people can always count on me!

But, people, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. It made me laugh…HARD. It’s stupid and insanely predictable, but in the end, the laugh is all that matters. And Due Date delivered. (Wow… nice)

Everyone has that star, show, band, or thing “they discovered” before everyone else. I don’t have many, but without reservation I’ve been on the Galafianakis boat for a long, long time. Most likely, when you boarded (after The Hangover I presume), I was there to give you a life preserver and tour.

You know I’m a long time fan, if I didn’t even have to double-check the spelling of his name to write this piece. Ok, I did, but the song remains the same. How many of you know his middle name is Granddad?

I don’t know how to feel about Zach in movies yet. He notoriously belongs as a stand up comedian, but nobody (except perhaps George Carlin) wants to do that forever—it’s a tough life.

As a long time standup, Zach built a cult audience for experimenting with awkward silences and having EXTREMELY dry comedic timing usually to the tune (oooh) of a piano. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen. It’s why he’s the best. Pick up Live at the Purple Onion if you’ve never seen the man perform outside of the big screen. His brand of humor unfortunately never translated into movies until The Hangover. And now Zach Galafianakis is one of the most in demand movie personalities in the world. Who knew!?

He’s had two movies come out over the last month or so. The updated, yet not as serious One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest indie outfit lovingly titled It’s Kind of a Funny Story. And the latest is a more flamboyant version of his Hangover character working again with genius screenwriter/director Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Old School, Hangover).

Due Date is your classic mismatched pair goes across the country, everything goes wrong, Planes, Trains and Automobiles story. It’s been done many times before (even by Phillips himself), but this still remains a worthwhile viewing…because of Robert Downey Jr.

Did you read this right? Galafianakis junkie Ryan C. Zerfas claims that Robert Downey Jr., an actor he didn’t even like previously, makes a movie with his all-time favorite comedian, someone he would blindly support through Out Cold (good movie by the way). And Downey is the hero? Yes.

Perhaps it’s my own obsession with Galafianakis, but when I see him in these movies I feel like I’ve seen these jokes before. It’s still very funny, but a funny like when you’ve seen a movie a thousand times. You know what’s coming before it’s said, even if you’ve never seen the movie before. You look forward to it, but it doesn’t strike you—in a laugh out loud funny sort of way—like a joke done for the first time.

Robert Downey Jr. plays a character much like Richard Dreyfus in What About Bob. He has your respect as a classy dignified human being, but you know he’s out of his mind. It’s a good spot to be in as a character. It allows him to bring down the house when he spits on Zach’s dog or when he punches a drug dealer’s kid. Hilarious stuff. He KILLED it in this movie!

I feel this movie for Downey Jr. is much like Bad Santa for Billy Bob Thorton. It puts him on the Zerfas map—in a hurry. Like Billy Bob before Bad Santa I never understood what all the fuss was about. Downey was in movies like Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes, and Tropic Thunder. I just have never understood why he’s so “storied” or why he’s garnered such respect. It all doesn’t matter now, because he kicked the shit out of Due Date and will always be a legend in my mind.

And we all know that’s all that matters.

As I get older, stupid movies make me laugh less and less. When one comes through, it’s a joyous occasion. Due Date was funnier than any of the summer comedies I saw. So, perhaps it’s a renter, but it’s certainly not a clunker.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Eastwood. Hereafter.

This new blog moniker is a feature of all things Zerfas. The tagline itself is a string of one word sentence punches in a stream of consciousness intertwining things that make up Ryan C. Zerfas. One of my many obsessions of this world I live in within myelf—the work of Clint Eastwood. It’s to the point that I feel comfortable defining myself by it. So, I see all of his movies, and will naturally feel the urge to share some thoughts…

I think Gran Torino was the perfect close to Clint Eastwood’s acting career, yet it makes me sad that we’ll most likely (baring a Michael Jordan Bobcats like resurrection) never again see Clint grace the screen. We do have his work as a director and his touch is certainly a heavy one.

Without a doubt, there is a running theme (intentional or not) to Eastwood’s latest movies, and it’s very logical. He’s not going to live and/or be able to make movies forever. He has the option to be incredibly selective. The movies he’s been choosing lately tackle heavy topics with characters that are struggling with said topics of great weight and life circumstance. It’s also fun that he’s only working with the big names and besides Morgan Freeman (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Invictus), unique and unpredictable choices to pair with Eastwood, like Angelina Jolie.

Although, I’d love to see another light and airy cop movie from Clint, I have enjoyed the popularity, dignity and respect this last batch of films has garnered Eastwood. I don’t necessarily need everyone to LOVE everything I love, but the respect and shared enjoyment of films like Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, Mystic River, etc. have brought many of my friends into the Eastwood circle. There’s nothing like a good circle of shared entertainment.

The latest epic endeavor Hereafter finds Eastwood again teaming up with Matt Damon. Can’t lose formula right from the start.

This film uses the parallel story method much like Magnolia or the Chuck Klosterman book Downtown Owl, blending three seemingly unrelated stories together. Because it’s “the movies” one can’t help but know everyone is going to come together in the end somehow. But, the joy in this method is you get multiple perspectives in one story. And each set of characters in this trio did a nice job continuing the story in a compelling nature as Clint weaved it all together.

What I love about Matt Damon is his ability to be a sex symbol, smartest man EVER, James Bond, college wiz kid, but somehow seem so normal. The Ocean’s series really capitalized on this. I can’t help but think about how normal Matt Damon seems in movies, yet he’s obviously a movie star with sex appeal, power, money, fame, etc. In this movie he totally seems like a guy you could run into through the streets of some suburban Ohio town. How does he do that?

I think this brand of Damon is the only thing Leo can’t do. DiCaprio just can’t pull off “normal guy” like he tried to in Revolutionary Road. He just always has class like Jim Helpert in a tux. Leo can’t shed the class, while Damon can shed movie star. I guess that’s why I found The Departed so compelling, but that’s for another day.

Eastwood has this uncanny ability with lighting to make these suburban environments seem so dark and real. His continued use of shadow lighting continues to baffle me… how it engages scenes with his trademark shots and somehow I have yet to get sick of it. It’s almost laughable how he abuses shadow lighting over and over and over again. Like Vince Vaughn stumbling over lines to make his characters seem more off the cuff. With Clint everything is always pieced together in a precise fashion, one can’t help but be engaged.

Even if the movie is mediocre, people stick with it. Like a famous chef slinging cheese and crackers, you’d be entertained throughout the eating experience, even if the substance wasn’t everything you’d really want from that chef. You take what you get and it would still be a cut above anything else out there.

I think Hereafter is a cut above Invictus, Changeling, and Flags of our Fathers. I left Letters From Iwo Jima off the list, because that was a monumental achievement beyond words. Perhaps, also for another time…

Until then, I’ll be looking forward to the next listed (IMDB) project for Eastwood…wait…wait for it…. Leonardo DiCaprio playing J. Edgar Hoover.

Should be EPIC!