Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Rumors Are True... Avoid The Book of Eli

Simply put, The Book of Eli is just not very good. The general idea of the movie actually lends itself to the possibility of a pretty cool film. It tells the story of a man (Denzel Washington's Eli) traveling west through post-acopalyptic America, and he carries with him the last Bible in existence. The world has been scorched by the sun due to holes in our atmosphere. Water is scarce, and simple things like chap stick and wet naps are incredibly valuable. As the man travels, he encounters roaming bands of thugs but is able to easily dispatch them because he's basically the baddest mother still living. He eventually comes across a makeshift town (led by Gary Oldman's Carnegie) where he ends up fighting with the locals to protect his Bible and picks up a girl (Mila Kunis) to journey with him and run from the rest of the locals who will stop at nothing to get the book.

You might hear that and think, "Hey. That could be a pretty cool movie." I did (even though most critics had bashed it). And I guess a couple of the fight scenes were pretty cool. But, other than that, the final product is very flawed in many areas. I won't go into a lengthy review of this one because there really isn't that much to say. To start with, the Hughes brothers (directors of the movie) really need to take their foot off the slow-motion-intro-gas-pedal. Within about ten to fifteen minutes of the movie, Denzel had already made about four or five slow motion entrances. And they continued to the point where it actually became annoying. The dialogue was pretty dull and lacked any real creativity or wit. I can actually only think of one conversation in the entire movie (between Denzel and a shopkeeper pretty early on in the film) that made me chuckle or smile at all.

Gary Oldman, an actor I generally like, was not a very good villain. One of the few people alive who can still read, his obsession with obtaining the Bible to help his people seemed very odd considering his character basically stood for everything the Bible preaches against. Mila Kunis was just alright. And Denzel was only average at best. Nobody in the movie really stood out as giving a great performance. You won't find yourself invested in any of the characters. And, by the end, the movie feels as if it has dragged on for about fifteen or twenty minutes too long. The ending, by the way, has a pretty hilariously absurd twist to it. You may find it shocking and cool, but you'll probably just think it's stupid.

Bottom line: I've definitely seen worse movies, but I still can't recommend that anyone go see this. (D+)

Here's the trailer:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Youth In Revolt (Plus bip-bip. Turns 100)

Before we get to the review, bip-bip. would like to thank its readers for continuing to visit (and hopefully read) our little blog over the past few months. This post actually marks the blog's 100th, and, while that is a relatively small number in the world of blogging, we're still pretty excited about hitting the milestone and about the blog's progress to this point. Hopefully this is just the beginning. Now on to more important matters...

Youth in Revolt was much better than I expected it to be. I really didn't have high expectations. I didn't think director Miguel Arteta's The Good Girl was very good, and I've never seen any of his other work. I also had doubts that Michael Cera would be able to carry a movie on his own. Even though I can't really fault those who don't like him because he basically plays the same shy-and-insecure-yet-awkwardly-charming-and-secretly-cool character in everything he does, I still really like Cera. But he's always been part of a leading duo (i.e., with Jonah Hill in Superbad and with Jack Black in Year One) instead of the sole leading man.

But I was wrong. Michael Cera was more than capable of carrying the movie. Maybe it's because there was more than one of him (the movie's premise revolves around him creating an alter ego, Francois) or maybe it's because he had such a great supporting cast helping him out. But he definitely delivered. He plays 16-year-old Nick Twisp, an outcast and a virgin. When Nick goes with his mother (Jean Smart) and her boyfriend (Zach Galifianakis) on a trip to her boyfriend's "lake cabin" (it is actually just a trailer in a trailer park by the lake), he meets and instantly falls in love with Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), a local girl whose interests and personality would seem likely to maker her an outcast as well but who has somehow managed to become popular and win the heart of the most popular guy in school. But after they get to know each other, Nick is able to steal Sheeni's heart as well. And, although they've only known each other for a week when Nick has to go back home with his mom, they decide they must be together again.

To facilitate their reunion, the two hatch a plan whereby Sheeni will find a way to get Nick's dad (Steve Buscemi) a job close to her home. In the meantime, Nick will misbehave as much as possible to get himself thrown out of his mom's home and sent to live with his dad. We're not talking about simply misbehaving at home -- Nick, by creating an the alternate personality Francois that I mentioned earlier, does some pretty outrageous stuff. And, although Nick ends up getting sent to live with his father, things don't end up going exactly as planned. Nick/Francois's actions end up making him a wanted criminal, and things really get out of hand.

As I said earlier, Cera really delivers. His early narration in the movie sets the tone, and he continues to constantly provide laughs throughout the whole film. The supporting cast was also great -- especially Fred Willard as Nick's weird immigrant-smuggling neighbor Mr. Ferguson and Adhir Kalyan as Vijay Joshi, a friend of Nick's from school who tags along with Nick on a pretty crazy adventure to go see Sheeni and her "loose" friend Taggarty (Rooney Mara). There is one scene in particular, where the three characters (Cera, Willard, and Kalyan) are all together, that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Of course, a lot of the credit belongs to the writing. Even though the movie dealt with subjects audiences have seen time and again (teen wants to lose virgnity, teen rebelling against parents, etc.), it somehow manages to make its jokes seem very fresh and original. It made me want to check out the source material, C.D. Payne's novel of the same name. The soundtrack was also pretty good. There were a couple of scenes where the movie switched from real life to different styles of animation that I didn't really like or think were worth anyone's time. But other than that, I have no real complaints.

Bottom line: This was a solid comedy. Cera and his supporting cast were much better than I expected. Check it out. (B)

Here's the preview:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sometimes A Book Is Just Meant To Be A Book...

Several months ago, I posted about The Road. It's an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy (author of No Country For Old Men) novel, one of my favorite books of all-time. Needless to say, I was excited about the movie's release. It actually came out back in October through a limited release but only recently expanded its theater count. Its release was accompanied by very minimal fanfare and very mediocre ratings. But I still had faith. This was largely because the adaptation of McCarthy's No Country For Old Men (an inferior book to The Road in this blogger's opinion) was so good. But, as I found out, better books don't always make better movies. And some books are really just meant to be books.

The movie tells the story of a father (Viggo Mortenson) and his son (newcomer Kodi Smit-Mcphee) in post-apocalyptic America. The world has essentially turned to rubble. There are no more cities, no governments, no hope. Gangs of cannibals patrol the streets looking for some of the few remaining humans left alive to feast on. After being abandoned by their wife/mother (Charlize Theron), the father and son are heading for the southeastern coast. Along the way, they run into trouble (escaping the cannibalistic gangs, finding food, staying warm, etc.). And that's really all there is to it.

Now, in Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, this makes for a fascinating tale. It's full of suspense, and as Bookforum said of the novel, "[it is] nearly impossible to put down; it is as if you must keep reading in order for the characters to stay alive." But when the book becomes a movie (and, to be fair, the movie is very accurate in adapting the novel to the big screen), much of the story's appeal is lost. Without McCarthy's words to guide us, we're left watching a pretty boring tale of a couple of characters that are underdeveloped and generally uninteresting. And events that were packed with suspense in the novel were very much lacking it in the film. The movie does have a few positives -- the wasteland that director John Hilcoat created is really well done, and Viggo does a pretty admirable job as the unnamed father. He's almost exactly what I imagine from the book. And Robert Duvall is also very good in a supporting role. But there really is just not enough good things about the film to warrant seeing this.

Bottom line: Even if you are a huge fan of the book, wait until you can get the DVD from Netflix. (C-)

For those still interested, here's the trailer:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Finally... Vampire Weekend's Contra Coming Out Tuesday

Well -- we don't have to wait too long for one of the most talked about albums of 2010 to hit stores. Tomorrow (1/12/2010), Vampire Weekend's new album, Contra, will be released nationwide. If you haven't already pre-ordered the album, you should -- because your vinyl or cd purchase will come along with a bonus cd containing a couple of album mega-mixes and a remix of Cousins. Pre-order the album HERE. If you're worried that shipping will take a few days, and you can't wait until then -- worry no more. Embedded below is the entire album streaming. That should hold you over until you can get your hands on the hard copy.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stereogum and Team9 Release MySplice 4 (plus free download)

Stereogum, one of the web's most popular music blogs, has once again collaborated with Team9 to release another original mash-up mixtape featuring some of 2009's most popular songs. Nothing groundbreaking here, but with a $0.00 price-tag, it's definitely worth a listen. The mixtape also incorporates some cool throwback songs that you might not have heard in a while. Play the songs on the embedded player below, or download it in full. Enjoy.

(MP3): DOWNLOAD Stereogum's Mysplice 4 (click here).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

All Time Top 5 (Best and Worst Movies of the Year)

It's the end of the year (well it was a few days ago). Blogs everywhere are releasing best/worst lists at a torrid pace. In fact, bip-bip. has already released our list of the ten best albums of the year. And, as you'd expect, we're bringing you our favorite movies of the year as well. You'll have to forgive the fact that we're not posting it until 2010, but I wanted to wait until I saw Up In The Air because I had a feeling it might make the list (and sure enough it did). We're also bringing you our most hated movies of the year. Now, to be fair to the movies on that list, there were probably worse movies made, but these were the movies that actually had a chance to be good (as opposed to films that were doomed from the start -- think Old Dogs).

Here's the All Time Top 5 (Best Movies of the Year)


Zombieland/Adventureland (tie) -- I decided to put both of these at number 5 for two reasons. First, they are both great movies that deserve to be on this list (even though most readers probably never saw either of these). Second, they both star Jesse Eisenberg, an actor who had an absolute breakout 2009.


Avatar -- At this point, I feel like there's not much left to say about Avatar. The movie was an absolute smash hit (it's tally is now up to over $1B worldwide) and belongs on a pedestal along with some of James Cameron's other hits.


The Hangover -- The highest-grossing R-rated comedy in American history was this year's best comedy by far. I couldn't be more excited for the sequel (scheduled to come out around October 2010). I'd join Alan's wolfpack any day.


Up In The Air -- As I said earlier, I specifically waited to make this list because I thought Up In The Air would have a shot to make it. That being said, I still didn't expect it to be as good as it was. Even though this was Clooney's best film ever, the real story to me was a new star being born in Anna Kendrick.


Inglourious Basterds -- Perhaps the most polarizing movie on my list, Tarantino's WWII gorefest was an absolutely brilliant piece of filmmaking in this blogger's opinion. Christoph Waltz is almost a guarantee to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. And I really hope Tarantino wins Best Director.

All Time Top 5 (Worst Movies of the Year)


Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen -- Sure, the special effects were what we expected. Sure, I'll go see the next one. But the storyline was one of the dumbest things ever. Don't believe me? Read this FAQ on the film (warning: some foul language).


Observe and Report -- Seth Rogen had been in a series of really funny movies, but this mall cop comedy was just plain stupid. I expected bad things from Paul Blart: Mall Cop (I never saw it, but apparently a lot of you did) but had higher hopes for this one.


I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell -- As a fellow Duke Law alum, I was hoping for a movie that would at least do some justice to Tucker Max's hilarious stories. Unfortunately, the movie was just plain garbage.


The Informant -- How the combination of Matt Damon and Steven Soderbergh resulted in this terribly boring (yet surprisingly well received by most critics) film is beyond me.


My Sister's Keeper -- Honestly the worst book adaptation I've ever seen. It's essentially a collection of scenes with sad songs playing that are intended to make women cry but never really develops any characters or a plot that would give them a reason to.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What's In Your Backpack?

The much-hyped Up In The Air lives up to its billing and is worthy of its spot in its two-horse race against Avatar as the front-runner for the Best Picture Oscar (although I'd probably give it to Inglourious Basterds). Jason Reitman's movie is really the total package -- a great story, great writing, and some great performances. It's really quite funny -- the script has a good bit of one-liners and humorous events that had this blogger chuckling pretty often and smiling for much of the movie. But it's also very emotionally charged and not afraid to tackle difficult questions on life and the relationships that define it. Although not a particularly sad movie, there were a few scenes where people cried, and you'll find that you actually care about the fate of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) and his friends and family by the end of it.

The movie tells the story of Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizer that spends his life on the road. He has no real friends, no woman in his life, and his family barely knows him. When he's not firing people from random companies, he spends his days traveling around giving "inspirational" talks that are titled, "What's In Your Backpack?" The message is that we should try to keep the relationships of our lives (the things that would fill our metaphorical backpack) to a minimum so we don't have anything weighing us down and can stay on the move (to Ryan, moving is living).

He meets fellow traveler Alex (Vera Farmiga), and the two start a casual relationship that essentially consists of the two meeting whenever they are in the same city. But shortly thereafter, his company then decides to follow the advice of rising star Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) and start operating via webcams instead of in person (effectively grounding Bingham). But first, Bingham must take Keener along to show her the ropes. During their travels, Keener begins to question Bingham's lifestyle and ultimately gets to Bingham to reevaluate his life, culminating in him asking Alex to join him at his sister's wedding. I know this plot might sound like a corny love story between Bingham and Alex, but I assure you it's far from it. In fact, the movie is just as much about Bingham's relationship with Keener and to a lesser extent, his family.

As I previously mentioned, many of the parts were written specifically for the actors in the film. And it really shows. This movie is wonderfully cast. Clooney is terrific, Farmiga is perfect for her part, and smaller parts played by Danny McBride, Zach Galifianakis, and Jason Bateman are also very good. But, to me, the real star of this film was Anna Kendrick (if you've never heard of her, don't feel bad -- her big screen resume is pretty much Twilight and nothing else). She was absolutely fantastic. Despite being beautiful and humorously charming, Kendrick really shows her range by playing a fiery young businesswoman determined to prove she belongs but who is also a bit of a softie, dreaming about the perfect man and crying over failed relationships. She was far and away my favorite character of the movie and, in this blogger's opinion, should take home this year's Oscar for Best Supporting Actress (yes, even over Mo'nique's performance in Precious).

Bottom line: Believe the hype. This one is worthy of its praise. Go check it out. (A-)