Do you really need to ask why I wanted to see this flick? Okay...maybe you do if you don't know me well enough. It's more than just the fact that Cedar Rapids is a town in Iowa. It's a place that I called home right after graduating from Iowa State. I was there for a long 2 1/2 years. I couldn't wait to see how a movie with the same name was going to portray my former stomping grounds.
The plot of "Cedar Rapids" is Tim Lipee (Ed Helms) is an impish insurance salesman passionate about his job despite the fact he's in SmallTown USA. When his mentor meets an unexpected demise, Tim is expected to step up to fill his shoes at the big industry convention in Cedar Rapids. It means that Tim has to step outside of his comfort zone to make the trek to the big city and mingle with bigger personalities than he's ever been around.
I had a feeling going in they wouldn't utilize most of the actual city of Cedar Rapids for the scenes. Especially with the core of the film taking place in a hotel. They could have used any hotel for those interior shots. For the outside too. It's not like they were going to have the entire film crew go all the way to Cedar Rapids for scenes they could recreate anywhere. I sure wish they would have though.
One of the main reasons was because anyone who knows anything about Cedar Rapids can easily recognize that they were perpetrating. A convention of that magnitude could really only be held in the Five Seasons in downtown CR. It was clear that the place they were using was NOT the Five Seasons. Or any other major hotel in the city. I know the place may have changed a lot since the last time I was there, but I definitely don't remember hookers frequenting the hotel entrances trolling for business.
So since they did use the interior from another hotel (or quite possibly just a soundstage in Hollywood), did they really have to make it look like the place is still stuck in the 70s with the outdated decor? I'm surprised they didn't equip the hotel with the little black and white televisions from back in the day. I know Cedar Rapids is small and maybe a little behind the times (afterall, there are Amish there) but not THAT far.
What was right on point though was the different characters that Tim ran into who were his fellow insurance salespeople peers. ESPECIALLY ones like Dean Ziegler played by John C. Reilly. I've been to more than my share of insurance conventions over the years. Although I'm on the claims side and not sales, these conventions had the insurance agents there. It seemed like more than half of them had the loud borderline obnoxious personality of a Ziegler. It was almost like it was a requirement to be in the business. And the strange thing was it seemed like the smaller the town the agent came from the more obnoxious they were.
I love how Lipee was this tiny fish in tiny pond and going to Cedar Rapids was considered a big deal for him. That was a big city experience for him. We used to joke about that all the time while I was there. How folks would come from these tiny towns surrounding CR and consider it a big deal to go to Cedar Rapids. As if there was really anything significant about the town. It was pretty far from being considered a "big city" as far as I was concerned. But I just considered myself fortunate that even with my limited travel experience that even I was able to realize that.
By the way....Brown Star Insurance? Really?? Would anyone dare name their business that? I know I'm not the only one that caught that either. However, it was just that type of naive humor that makes "Cedar Rapids" work. Lipee is so naive that he wouldn't blink twice at a name like that. I mean this is the same guy who can't realize that his tryst with his former schoolteacher (Sigourney Weaver) is going nowhere because she clearly isn't into him as much as he is into her.
All in all, I still wish they would have shown more of the city with a movie name like "Cedar Rapids". It would have made the movie that much more homey. But even with that it was still a great flick. Helms portrayal of the wide-eyed nearly childlike insurance salesman forced to grow up quickly among his fast-paced peers was hugely entertaining. He's surrounded by a great cast that keeps the story moving effortlessly. Even folks who have never been to Cedar Rapids should enjoy this one.
Yep...it's that time again. Time to let you all know who and what is bending my ear as of late. If I ever get around to listening to one of the nearly dozen cds I've downloaded recently I could probably find more that I'm diggin. For now you'll have to make do with these...
How to Love - Lil Wayne Let's just get this out of the way now. I guess that lil cockroach isn't so bad when he wants to put his mind to it. His production has never been an issue with me. It was his flow. Well either I wasn't paying close enough attention or he improved dramatically. Now he's the latest rapper trying to sing with this current release. Of course he's no Luther Vandross, but it's actually a very decent song. Not to mention it actually has a nice little message to it. Go on head, Baby Predator
My Last - Big Sean featuring Chris Brown Still no clue who this Big Sean cat is. I sure like the melody to this one though. The chorus is one of those catchy hooks that stays in your head no matter how hard you try to move on to another song. Also no matter how much you try to remember that it is Chris Brown singing it. Thing is the chorus and the track is what really makes the song. They probably could have left Big Sean out altogether and it would have been just as good. Probably better
Motivation (rmx) - Kelly Rowland f/ Busta Rhymes, Trey Songz & Fabolous If I were doing these in order of favorite first then this one would have been first. Look at that line-up! It's a recipe for succes and it doesn't disappoint. This is the precise reason why I will periodically do a search for remix version of a current song. I never know if one exists but when it does, chances are very good that it's even better than the original. Another case in point.
She Ain't Your (rmx) - Chris Brown f/ SWV Speaking of both remixes and Chris Brown....again. The thing about this song is we are now far enough removed from the greatness of "Thriller" that there are plenty of folks from this generation that don't realize Chris sampled Mike and not SWV. The first thing that comes to my mind everytime I hear it is Mike's "Human Nature". However, I do like the fact that he brought in SWV for the remix. It's still a good way to pay homage to one of the more decent R&B girl groups from the 90s
Best Night of My Life - Jamie Foxx I love that Jamie continues to make good music even though he has established himself as an actor. Technically an Academy Award winning actor, but it doesn't look like he's going to turn in anymore performance like "Ray" again anytime soon. That's okay becuase he still has the vocal ability and the musical skills to make good songs
Celebration - Tank featuring Drake It's hard for me to listen to anymore Tank songs and not think of his role in "Preacher's Kid". But the thing is even though he played a jerk in that movie, even his songs in there sounded pretty tight. It's no coincidence that this song also comes on the heels of the Foxx cut mention. It turns out that Foxx got training on his current style from Tank's tutelage. That's one heck of a mentor to have
It sure would have been nice to see this one in theaters. I had every intention to. Simply because it looked like Statham was back to his action ways from back in the day. But as usual I procrastinated until it was no longer in theaters. At least I saved money with the Redbox rental even if I couldn't fully appreciate all of the big booms on my 32-inch.
Bishop (Statham) is a seasonsed hitman who lives by a very strict code. However, he's forced to amend it slightly when his next hit calls for him to take out his mentor, Harry (Donald Sutherland). He never forgets who forced him to do it though so his next mission is personal as he tracks down those responsible. It also means taking on a new protégé: Harry's son Steve (Ben Foster) who is just as vengeful. Bishop feels obligated to help Steve carry on the family tradition while leery that it's just a matter of time before he becomes Steve's target if he ever discovers the truth.
So I guess this was a remake of a 1972 movie featuring Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent. I can definitely picture Jan as the eager protégé. But Bronson as a nimble hitman? Not so much. The vigilante role was more for him. He knew that too which is why he did about 30 "Death Wish" movies. This movie definitely seemed to better fit for this era given its subject matter.
There was one aspect which I really liked which was the whole metaphor of what Sutherland's character represented. Here was this man who was a dangerous weapon in his own right when he was in his prime. Now he finds himself washed up and disposable. He was getting treated with the same type of disregard that he used to treat his victims. The old "live by the sword die by the sword adage". You would think that Bishop would have caught a glimpse of his future with that particular mission. But if he had gotten all reflective then we would have had a different movie altogether.
I was reminded while watching it that it had actually been quite a while since I've seen a decent hitman flick. I had to go all the way back to Bruce Willis in "The Jackal" to remember the last really good one I've seen. Well I guess you could consider "Wanted" along the lines of that same genre. But that was more about a corporation of assassins. Not quite the same thing. The hitman theme is something that hasn't gotten a lot of play recently.
The best part about it was what I mentioned previously about Statham getting back to form. I thought for a minute that he was getting too rusty to make films like this anymore. Like he would be relying more on his weapon usage rather than some good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat. Well of course there is plenty of gun play here, but Statham also puts in some old school work as well. Although not near as epic as the first "Transporter" still pretty good.
As for Foster, I alread had a good idea that this role would be a good fit for him. This was Angel from "X-Men: The Last Stand". As much as I liked him there he was even better here as a roughneck borderline redneck trying to master the tricks of the hitman trade. The scene with him taking on a target nearly twice his size was probably the best scene in this one.
Another plus "The Mechanic" had going for it was its R-rating. I was getting sick of the movies like this holding back so they could that plushy little PG-13. That magic "R" allowed them to spare no expense when victims were being taken out. They spared no expense with the overflow of blood. Yes I know its a little sadistic to cheer such a thing. It's a movie about a hitman though. There supposed to be a lot of that so we can get the full effect. And some of those head kills they were getting were just down right epic.
The finale left a bit to be desired. Very predictable. However, the reason I didn't mind so much was because of all the great action leading up to it. It was great to see Statham getting at it again like he used to do back in the day. Even better to see up and coming Foster putting in work of his own. Maybe he's trying to make his bid to be the next Statham. If so, not a bad audition.
Normally I am SO not one for romantic comedies. The only one that I can think of that I ever included on here as a former Vault Pick was "When Harry Met Sally". That was only because it was outside the norm of your standard rom-com. It didn't follow quite the same formula and Billy Crystal's sarcasm made it much more appealing to us fellas. Well there's no Crystal in "Mr. Wonderful" so what did it exactly? As usual, it was a combination of a few different things.
I happened to stumble upon this flick purely on accident one night years ago. I was doing some channel surfing when I came across what would later become my favorite scene in the entire movie. It was Annabella Sciorra's character and Vincent D'Onofrio's character doing an impromptu rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Say a Little Prayer for You". They actually sounded pretty good. Not only that, but it was cute. Brought a smile to my face even. That caused me to dig a little further to see what I was watching.
Had it not been for the happenstance of coming in on that scene, there was probably no way I would have watched a movie with a name like "Mr. Wonderful" from the beginning. I would have assumed it was going to be very cheesy and mushy like every other rom-com or it was going to be a biopic on the 80s WWF wrestler Paul Orndorff. But I checked for it the next time it came on and found that it didn't have either of those traits. Even though I was already 99% certain it wasn't about the wrestler.
This flick made me realize how much more I appreciated the grown-up version of Matt Dillon. Here he was looking essentially the same from "The Outsiders" (yet another former Vault Pick) yet he was more mature. It was as if his Dallas character had grown up. And moved to New York. And decided to stay out of trouble. Because when it comes down to it, Dillon really gives you the same attitude in every role of his.
It was the plot that I was really feeling. It was something that all of us guys could relate to. At least at its bare essence. In this instance Gus (Dillon) was divorced from Leonora (Sciorra) but was still paying alimony. He wanted to go into business with his friends to refurbish a local bowling alley but he didn't have the funds because of the alimony. Now if this was a murder mystery, he would have been plotting a way to off her. However, since it was a rom-com, he instead is trying to find a way to get her married so he won't have the alimony anymore. The problem is that he slowly discovers he still has a thing for her.
It wasn't the whole ailomony situation that I am referring to when I say many guys can relate. It's the fact that there is always that special someone that always remains in your heart. As long as a guy is single, he will always have that one. Maybe it was his first crush. Maybe it's his first love. Maybe that first serious relationship. It's always something that will have him thinking about "her". No matter what he does, it's always difficult to shake "her".
The reason why it's problematic is because as guys we have a problem with closure. Yes, I know I'm not supposed to be letting women behind the curtain, but it's essential to the review so I have to make an exception. We may do something to make things seem like we have some finality (like in Gus's case, divorce) but it's rare that our emotions end as quickly as we let on. Gus is the perfect example of what happens when we try to move on but keep running into reminders of how great "she" was.
What I like about the movie is all of the unanswered questions that it poses when you start putting it into perspective with the real world. Like even in 1993, how successful would a bowling alley really be that had five guy best friends as co-owners? Or how in the world Leonora would have any problems finding a good guy to date in a city that size with the way she looks? Or my favorite...how long would Leonoara and Gus's relationship really last once they got back together then start remembering all of the same reasons why they broke up in the first place?
However, you know the routine. You now you have to dismiss some fo the reality thinking if you intend to enjoy "Mr. Wonderful" as another romantic comedy installment. The good thing is it doesn't have the abundance of tomfoolery and ridiculous that many of its rom-com peers have though. Plus, you got the guy from "Law and Order" sounding pretty decent singing an Aretha Franklin song. That alone makes it worth watching.
Okay...I know it's not polite to speak ill of the dead. It's not like they're around to defend themselves. But how about talking sarcastically about them? Is that allowed? There are just some instances when a passing doesn't really come as a big surprise and this was one of them.
Grammy-winning singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home this past Saturday. Cause of death yet unknown. She was 27-years-old.
Cause of death unknown? Really? They know they really did not need to put that there. I mean I know they technically did much the same way that the media has to always say "allegedly" even when it's a known fact that someone committed a crime. But I think everyone with any type of knowledge about pop culture at all knows that Winehouse was battling some very serious drug demons.
I have never really been a Winehouse fan. It had nothing to do with her personally or even her drug addiction. I just only heard that one "Rehab" song from her. Never took the time to listen to any of her other work to see if she really was talented like everyone was claiming. Despite the fact the song content was pretty jacked up, I actually did like that "Rehab" cut though. Maybe now I'll take the time to listen to her some of her catalog to see if anything else catches my ear.
One thing that was particularly interesting about this incident was her age. I didn't even realize it but I guess that's a pretty popular age for famous rock stars to check out. It had happened to some Rolling Stones guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison. All at the young age of 27. It's rather sad when you think about it because we all know that folks at that age think they know a lot more than they really do.
Although this latest celebrity death doesn't come as a surprise it is still a shame. Even though I only heard that one cut it was still clear that Winehouse had some vocal skills. It's too bad that family and friends weren't able to reach her in time to make a difference. Hopefully this will be yet another reminder for not only young musicians on the rise but also regular young folks that drug use can never lead to anything good.
It was out here not that long ago that I indicated this would probably be the summer of the comedy. It just seemed that that genre has been doing pretty well for summer releases. At least the most reliable. However, I said that knowing full well that "Captain America" was still on the horizon. Maybe I was thinking that after "Thor" that "Captain America" had a lot for Marvel to prove. I should have known they couldn't stay down for long.
The story is that Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a meek young man with a big heart who is willing to do anything to enlist so he can serve in World War II. The problem is he has too many health issues. So when a top secret research project provides him the opportunity to be the military's first "super soldier" he jumps at the chance. Rogers becomes Captain America and is America's ultimate weapon to not only thwart the Nazis but also the emergence of new German super villain Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).
Let me first say that they really could have done without "The First Avenger" in the title. Whenever I see the titles with the colon in them I expect it to be because they are trying to give a sequel a clever name rather than calling it "2" or "III" or something like that. There was no need for it to be attached to a superhero movie that is the first of its kind. The name "Captain America" really speaks for itself.
What it reminded me of was the fact that Marvel is trying to hurry up and put out as many individual movies about the super team The Avengers so that they can set the groundwork for The Avengers movies next year. But when they do that it comes across as though they're trying to rush to get out a product. A rushed product usually doesn't turn out that great. Fortunately, it's still Marvel. Even their rushed films are better than most of the regular action flicks that usually come out the same time.
Normally, I would have had a problem with a movie spending so much time on a backstory like they did with "Captain America". It didn't take us long for us to get the point that Rogers was physically unfit for the military even though he was more than mentally able. However, it was still a rather compelling tale. Evans actually did an excellent job of making the Rogers character a nerd that you wanted to cheer for. That in itself was rather surprising because I had my doubts when Evans was cast as Cap. He just played the Human Torch in the "Fantastic Four" movies so why wouldn't they give someone else a chance? Well apparently they knew what they were doing.
It turns out this was probably one of the better cast Marvel flicks I've seen in a while. Whenever you have Hugo Weaving in a the role of a villain it's hard to go wrong. Then you give him the spot of Red Skull and he's dead on. I would venture to say that I actually liked that character more than Captain America. That was because of the awesomeness that Weaving brought to the role. That character was the main thing that made this Avenger installment better than "Thor". Red Skull was easily one of the best villains portrayed in Marvel films since Magneto.
Then there was also Tommy Lee Jones. I had no idea he was in this one before going into it. That was quite a pleasant surprise. His Colonel Phillips role was extremely entertaining to watch. That's what Jones brings to every film he's in. Sure, he tends to play the same gruff role with a comedic edge in every movie, but he continues to bring more life to the movie when he does that. Maybe that was one of the reasons I didn't have a problem with that long backstory was because it meant more time we got to see Tommy on the screen.
I had totally forgotten until just recently that there was a "Captain America" movie that came out in 1979 until I happened to catch the movie coming on tv the other day. Needless to say that it was VERY campy and cheesy. The action left very much to be desired. Rather sad when you think about it since Cap's powers don't require a lot of special effects like some of the other Marvel heroes. Well this 2011 version didn't have that problem at all. In fact, the inclusion of a brotha fighting alongside Cap (Derek Luke holding it down) increased the value of the film exponentially.
If you know anything about the Marvel movie you know that it's imperative to stick around for the post-credits. Sometimes they are a bit unfulfilling like the post-credits for "Thor". The ones for "Captain America" are some post-credits that you definitely don't want to miss. It was the ultimate conclusion to a superhero movie that was determined to prove this summer is not just for comedies. Marvel has done it again.