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Almost Famous

Almost Famous is 2000 comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe. It’s partially based on Cameron Crowe’s own experiences as a teenaged writer for Rolling Stone. Seems to me that Cameron Crowe is a bit of an overachiever. So I have a confession to make. I saw this movie for the first time a week ago. Every time someone has mentioned this movie, I smiled, nodded my head, and pretended to know what everyone was talking about. A good portion of my life has been a lie. I’m sorry.

But I’ve seen it now. It’s a pretty good movie. I understand why it’s still relevant fifteen years later. Almost Famous tells the story of William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit), a high school student who gets tasked with writing an article for Rolling Stone about a band called Stillwater. Stillwater might be a fictional band, but they still rock hard. William goes on tour with the band, while forming a friendship with Penny Lane (played by Kate Hudson in her breakout role), a groupie with a heart of gold, and an uneasy alliance with the various members of Stillwater.

It’s a coming of age story. William learns about life and love, he loses his virginity, and he finds himself. It’s a period piece set in 1973 but it doesn’t feel dated. It has a great soundtrack, filled with tons of real classic rock songs and pseudo classic rock songs written for the movie. It features the best use of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” ever put on film. The cast includes a bunch of A-listers before they were super famous like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, Zooey Deschanel, Anna Deschanel, Jimmy Fallon, and Rainn Wilson just to name a few.

The movie has a nice pace in the beginning, but it starts to drag along towards the end. It could have been thirty minutes shorter. They should have skipped most of the stuff that happens after they all sing “Tiny Dancer.” The plot fizzles out and loses momentum. It’s still good though. I would recommend that you watch it if you haven’t yet. Better late than never.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Your Highness (film)

Your Highness is a 2011 stoner comedy/fantasy parody film. It’s almost like a follow-up to Pineapple Express. It has the same director (David Gordon Green) and two of the main actors (Danny McBride and James Franco). But it’s not as funny, not as solid as Pineapple Express. It’s still one of the best sword and sorcery stoner films though.

Danny McBride stars as Thadeous, a lazy prince who is jealous of his older brother Fabious. Fabious (James Franco) is the cliché prince/brave knight, going on quests and rescuing princesses and whatnot. He returns from one such quest with the virgin Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) from the evil warlock Leezar. Leezar kidnaps her back, and Thadeous is forced to help Fabious on his quest to kill Leezar and get her back. They go on a quest and meet pedophilic wizards, naked nymphs, horny minotaurs, and Natalie Portman.

Your Highness has its moments, but a lot of jokes fall flat. The whole movie is based on a weird concept. It would play better as an SNL sketch as opposed to a full-length feature. They run out of gags and the plot is already stretched too thin. It’s a funny movie and it might be worth watching, but it’s not worth owning.

Critically Rated at 11/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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TV Shows are Better than Movies

Movies used to be the premier form of Hollywood entertainment. They were the pinnacle. They had the best actors, the best directors, the best stories, and the best effects. But then HBO started making their own shows. They had the budget to hire quality actors to portray quality characters. Characters are the most important part of storytelling. If you don’t care about the character, then you don’t care about what happens to them. And a TV series allows a character to get developed over multiple episodes and seasons. You get to know their personality, their quirks, their pet peeves, and you feel like you truly know them.

AMC has a lot of amazing character based dramas, like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, with interesting characters and intriguing storylines. The Walking Dead not only has great characters but also feels like a zombie movie that never ends. And it has more graphic and creative zombie deaths than anything in the movies. There are shows like True Blood that are extremely sexual and violent and Spartacus (which makes True Blood seem like a family show). The quality writing on television is extended to Cartoon Network. Even the worst season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is better than anything the prequel trilogy has to offer.

In the old days, any actor could be on TV but only a few actors could transition to the big screen and be a box office draw. Now movie stars want to be on television. The Simpsons and Scrubs are famous for their celebrity cameos and guest roles. Former Hollywood heavyweights like Keifer Sutherland got a career boost by turning to TV. Dustin Hoffman, Steve Buscemi, and Sean Bean put aside film opportunities to star in HBO shows. Kevin Spacey, Christian Slater, William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Kathy Bates, Zooey Deschanel, Danny DeVito, Christina Ricci, Laura Linney, Don Cheadle, and Glenn Close have all chosen television over film. Who needs to go to the theater with that kind of star power available on a weekly basis?

With HBO hits like The Sopranos and Sex in the City, other networks started paying more attention to quality programming. Premium cable channels like Starz and Showtime stepped up their game. Basic cable networks like FX and AMC had to keep up and they did. And the major networks took note and started taking more risks. We get shows as diverse as Lost and Community and everybody wins. The production quality and star power of television shows is only going to increase. It’s a good time to be a couch potato with a Netflix subscription.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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