Monthly Archives: March 2013

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DVD Review – 28 Hotel Rooms

Category : DVD Review

Director: Matt Ross
Starring: Chris Messina, Marin Ireland
Year: 2012

It starts with sex.  And while, yes, it then follows up with more sex, that’s not what it’s about.  The beginning of a film can be both deceptive and revealing, and the beginning of 28 Hotel Rooms is no different.  When the first scene of a movie opens and the title appears, we start to form opinions and expectations; we do this with every movie we watch.  But they can change, these ideas, they are forced to change as the movie itself changes.  And that is why we keep watching; to see if our assumptions pan out or if we get to be surprised.

The Movie

The beginning of the film is the beginning of a relationship; sex, laughter, sharing, uncertainty.  And as the two unnamed characters get to know each other, we start to know them too.  The man, a writer from New York, has a girlfriend, but travels alone promoting his new book.  The woman, an analyst, is married but leaves her husband at home to work all across the country.  The two begin an affair that spans, you guessed it, twenty-eight hotel rooms.  Their relationship starts out based on physical attraction, desire, and loneliness, but quickly turns into much more.
As what started out as a few trysts becomes a relationship, life gets complicated.  The closer the two become the harder it is to let go, the harder it is to be away.  And when they’re away, when they are participating in their every day lives, there is always the knowledge that waiting in the next hotel room is a person who turns them on, who understands them, and who is everything they want in life but are too afraid to take.

It’s safe to say I was surprised by this film, even though it was relatively what I thought it would be.  When I first heard about it, it sounded decent but not special.  Ok, so two people meet up in hotel rooms, cheat on their significant others, and become closer than they thought they would.  And while that is exactly what happened, I reiterate that it’s not what the film is about.  Decide for yourself what the true meaning is, but you’ll get more out of watching 28 Hotel Rooms than a cheap ploy.  You’ll get passion, sensuality, pain, heartbreak, love, intimacy; basically everything that a relationship brings to you in real life.  All in all, the film is a summary of love; eighty-two minutes of life put on film.

Perhaps what surprised me most was the acting.  Every line but one was spoken by the two main characters.  So, obviously, they had better be able to carry a film with no help, and they did.  Messina, who you might recognize from a dozen projects but might never be able to put your finger on, was excellent as a goofy, angry, idealistic writer who wants love above all things.  Ireland, who has been around but hasn’t done anything big, was solid as a structured, success-driven, closed-off young professional who takes what she wants and pays the price later.  Both actors did what it took to pull off an adult and modern version of what amounts to a classic love story.
Speaking of adult, this film is not for everyone.  Both characters are shown nude, having sex, screaming obscenities, and leading lives that are not morally exemplary.  However, putting those themes aside, the film is one that can speak to anyone.  It has global appeal, as it is about what we all desire; love, companionship, and the feeling that we are wanted.  28 Hotel Rooms is a deceptively poignant film that somehow is not typical, despite being simple and universal.  It is anything but lighthearted, and it may not be for the fragile or frigid, but give it a chance and it might surprise you.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the video quality was good, but it doesn’t catch your eye.  For one thing, all of the camera work takes place inside hotels, often with sunlight purposefully glinting off the camera, or else in the semi-darkness, as the couple is in bed quite often.  But even without being used to its full potential, the quality is high.
Audio – All options here are in English, with the choices being between Stereo, 5.1, and subtitles for the hearing impaired.  As with the video, various hotel rooms are not ideal for showing off Hi-Fi sound.  Only two characters speak, there is almost zero action, and the music that is present is either playing softly in the background or else creating a haunting mood.
 
Extras – The features here are minimal, which is surprising given the very attractive Oscilloscope DVD case, which is big, paper, and has an insert that folds out to reveal various screenshots.  However, don’t go searching through the folds looking for a bonus disc, because you won’t find one.  All that the unusually large case holds is a single DVD, which has about as many extras as the box.  There is no commentary and no “making of” sections.  What you get are some interesting deleted scenes, including an alternate beginning and an alternate ending.  There is also an interview with director Matt Ross during the Sundance Film Festival that is intriguing, especially his ideas concerning improvisation and organic cinema.  And lastly, you can watch the original theatrical trailer, and also four more Oscilloscope trailers including Monogamy, Bellflower, We Need To Talk About Kevin, and Four Lovers.

Final Thoughts

Recommended28 Hotel Rooms is a surprisingly touching film that, although flying underneath the big budget radar, is worth watching.  It is sexy, deep, sad, and darkly real.  The fluidity of the acting and natural feeling of the movie are worth seeing.  The audio/video elements are all that you need, but won’t blow you away.  The extras are interesting, but the DVD itself won’t be the crown jewel of your collection.  All in all, a solid and intriguing film that could find a place in the hearts of a surprisingly large number of audiences.

✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ – Content
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ – Video
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ – Audio
✰ ✰ ✰ – Extras
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ – Replay


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Movie Review – Lincoln

Category : Movie Review

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones
Year: 2012

I was a little late in seeing what many said was the film of the year and, before even seeing it, I was ready to believe them.  I mean, come on; Spielberg directing, Day-Lewis starring, and John Williams producing the music.  Add in the epic story of one of American history’s most influential figures and how could it go wrong?  Well, for good or bad I got to see things go wrong before I got to see the movie; losing Best Director to Ang Lee and then losing Best Picture to Argo.  Apparently Lincoln wasn’t the unbeatable cinematic giant it appeared to be when it first hit theatres, and after finally watching it, it was easy to see why it was beaten.
The story is not unfamiliar; the Civil War is coming to a close as the South rapidly runs out of men and resources, President Abraham Lincoln has emancipated the slaves with his Proclamation, and has been reelected to a second term.  A divided American nation is about to be reunited but, in Lincoln’s eyes, slavery has not yet been conquered.  Only through an amendment to the Constitution will this horrid practice be ended, and Lincoln believes that the time to make history is now.  Focusing not on war but on government, Lincoln tells a side of the tale that we may not have learned in school, but is vitality important to our understanding of both the history and the shaping of our nation.
What could go wrong, right?  With a story like this and with a great team to tell it, it just had to be good.  And it was just that; good.  The scope and beauty of the film were what one expects from Spielberg.  The epic musical score was classic John Williams.  And there has never been a more believable method actor than Day-Lewis; he was Abraham Lincoln.  But that’s where the praise ends and the let-down begins.
The whole film was overdone and heavy-handed.  Every scene was a dramatic, earth-shattering moment.  Each actor was perfectly practiced at 1860s dialogue.  Not a moment passed that didn’t remind us that this moment in history was very important, deep, and serious.  And when an attempt at humor was made to give the audience a break it was given in the form of three blundering buffoons posing as archaic lobbyists.  A fine touch was needed to portray Lincoln as not only a President but also a husband, father, and politician.  A light hand would have helped to make the end of his life seem real, not like the final act of a Greek tragedy.  That desired deftness was absent from almost every aspect of the film, and it was sorely missed.
Had the film been a little more understated it still might not have risen from good to great.  Sally Field’s performance was a touch silly, to be blunt.  And the endless number of cameos really broke down the fourth wall; James Spader as Mr. Bilbo, JGL as Robert Lincoln, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earl Haley, Tim Blake Nelson; it was all a little much.  I wish that Lincoln would have been a cleaner film.  Had it been more simplistic it would have made the power of the message that much more audible.  But, as it was, it was a good movie, not a great one, and that’s just not good enough.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Review – Religulous

Category : Movie Review

Director: Larry Charles
Starring: Bill Maher
Year: 2008

If you’re a fan of Friends, you know that Joey is not the brightest Crayon in the box.  And yet he may have spoken one of the most profound lines in television history; “There is no such thing as a selfless good deed.”  I, for one, believe this to be true.  I don’t claim it as a bad thing, just a fact; doing a “good deed” makes YOU feel good as well, and therefor it cannot be entirely selfless.  This idea can be applied to documentaries as well; there is no such thing as a selfless documentary.  The director is biased, the interviewer is biased, the editor is biased, and that can’t be helped.  With that said, I was surprised that Religulous was the most one-sided documentary I have seen since Bowling for Columbine, and that’s saying something.
Bill Maher makes it a point early and often to let you know that this is an anti-religious film.  It is a “documentary” in which he travels around the world confronting various religious figures, believers, and critics in an attempt to convince us that faith in the invisible is false, destructive, and just plain dumb.  Being raised Catholic by a Jewish mother, Maher has been well educated in the dogma and practice of multiple religions, and no organization is immune to his scrutiny; he argues with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Ex-Gays, Ex-Jews, Ex-Mormons, Ex-Satanists, you name it.  He attempts to bring humor to a serious topic, but the point of his film is clear; we should all be doubting what we do not know, not believing in what we cannot prove.
At first I was surprised by just how skewed this film was.  After all, shouldn’t a documentary pose arguments and promote discussion?  But when I tried to picture an unbiased documentary it wouldn’t appear, because it doesn’t exist.  Even a film about starving indigenous peoples isn’t selfless and non-partisan, it’s just that the majority agrees that their situation is sad and we don’t care that the filmmaker didn’t shed light on the tyrannical Emperor’s side of the story.  My point is this; yes, Religulous was one-sided, but that doesn’t actually stop it from being a documentary, it just makes it a little harder to swallow.
Now, if you’re a born-again Christian you are really going to hate this film.  Most likely if you’re a believer in any religion at all you are not going to be very happy with it.  If you’re an agnostic, an atheist, an animist, or just a Bill Maher aficionado you’ll probably get a good kick out of it.  But I’m not sure who you have to be to actually love this movie.  It was interesting and comical, but it wasn’t ground-breaking, and it definitely wasn’t open-minded.  Take Religulous with a grain of salt if you feel like taking it at all, but don’t expect a miracle.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – The Hangover Part III

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms
Release: May 24th, 2013

Enough is enough.  The 1st movie was good.  It wasn’t great, but it was original, catchy, funny, and wild.  The 2nd was a carbon copy, but it lacked all the good qualities that audiences were wanting to see.  The 3rd has got to be a step up, but I doubt it meets expectations either.  Watch it if you’ve watched the other two, if for no other reason than to get some closure.


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Book Review – Give Me Back My Legions!

Category : Book Review

Author: Harry Turtledove
Year: 2009

I should have known.  I mean, come on, there’s an exclamation mark in the title. But when I heard “historical fiction” and I saw the cool cover I thought I would enjoy it.  I have a strong interest in history, especially Roman/Greek/European history, and I was excited to read a fictional account of real battles, real people, and real history.  Well, I got what I asked for.  But I guess I forgot to ask for it to be written well, to remain interesting, and to, basically, not be the worst book ever.  I know it seems like a lot to ask, but shouldn’t published novels be readable?
Give Me Back My Legions! is the story of the Roman occupation of Germania (Germany) in 9 AD.  After having conquered Gaul (France), the Roman legions, under the command of Quinctilius Varus, turn their attention to the colonization of the land east of the Rhine.  Although slowly developing a foothold in the area and seeming to make peace with many Germanic tribes, the Romans were not as secure as they imagined.  A local chieftain named Arminius roused the anger of the Germanic peoples and gathered together an army with the goal of pushing the Romans back over the river forever.  Culminating at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, the fates of two nations clashed in this epic struggle.
It’s bad.  It’s very bad.  Imagine a history class in which the professor attempts to make the lesson interesting by using all the historical terms and names in a clever fashion, but fails miserably, and then will not stop trying, but keeps plugging away for hours and hours until your brain feels as if it might melt.  That’s how it felt to read this book; thank you, Mr. Turtledove.  Not only was it boring & forced, but it was extremely repetitive, taking chapter after chapter to hammer home each and every point.  I could sum it up for you and save you some time; Varus doesn’t like being in Germania, he thinks Arminius is his friend, Arminius hates the Romans, he’s plotting to drive them away, there’s a battle at the end to decide the matter that you already know the outcome of if you know anything about the Roman Empire.  Don’t read this book.  Read the Wikipedia articles of the Battle if you’re mildly interested, but please don’t waste your time.  I did, and it doesn’t feel good.

My rating:


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Sports – NFL Free Agency Tracker

Category : Sports

Tuesday March 12th @ 4pm marks the beginning of the 2013 NFL season and the start of the free agency period.  For me & Adam Schefter, it’s an exciting time.  Teams are scrambling to sign top choices, players are flying from city to city, and the year’s outlook begins to take shape.  A week from today I’ll post the biggest signings and visits of Free Agency thus far.  Today let’s take a look at the market and where a few of the best players might end up.
  • Mike Wallace (WR, Pit) – Wide receivers are strong and available this year, and none better than Wallace.  He is big, fast, dynamic, a game-changer.  You gotta take his attitude as well, but it’s worth it.  The Bengals desperately need a WR to pair with A.J. Green.  They should open their wallets and pull the trigger.
  • Cliff Avril (DE, Det) – If you need a pass rusher, Avril is your man.  He’s got speed around the edge and can really harass a QB.  He’s a sack machine, he’s only 26, and he’s well worth any money he wants.  Just don’t expect him to stop the run; he’s only 260 lbs, but he can be very effective on 3rd down.
  • Greg Jennings (WR, GB) – Perhaps he’s past his prime, but he still has talent.  Turning 30 this year, Jennings is beginning to become injury-prone, so there’s risk, but there’s also reward.  The obvious team here is Miami, which needs a good WR, but with SF letting Moss go, wouldn’t that be a great fit?
  • Ed Reed (S, Bal) – If the Ravens let him go due to his age (35 by the start of the season), then some Super Bowl ready team will be lucky to have him for one or two years.  Hmm…a Super Bowl caliber team that could use a safety to replace the one that lost them a playoff game…come on Elway!  Make it happen!
  • Tony Gonzalez (TE, Atl) –  As hard as it was to imagine Gonzo playing for a team other than KC, its harder to imagine him leaving Atlanta.  If he chooses not to retire I see him staying put.  The Falcons were very close to a Super Bowl.  He should come back just one last time; it could be his big moment.
OL – There are some top tier lineman available: Vollmer (NE), Levitre (Buf), Smith (Cin), Long (Mia), Loadholt (Min), and they should all cash in this offseason.
DB – The headliners in this group are Goldson (SF), Moore (Atl), Quin (Hou), Grimes (Atl), Houston (Det); all quality backs.
WR – There are a lot of good receivers available, even after the top guys; Welker (NE), Amendola (STL), Hartline (Mia).
RB – If you want a veteran back who still has some fuel in the tank you’ve got some guys to choose from: Bush (Mia), Turner (Atl), Jackson (STL), Mendenhall (Pit), Green (NYJ).
TE – There are even a bunch of good ends; Cook (Ten), Keller (NYJ), Davis (Was), Walker (SF), Bennett (NYG)
All in all, a good crop of free agents.  It should make for an exciting kick off to the season.

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Thought – Zeno’s Paradoxes

Category : Thought

A couple of years ago at CSCC I took two philosophy classes to fill prerequisites for my Associates of Arts degree.  I found them extremely interesting; learning about the various influential philosophers and their theories on life, God, reality, etc.  A few of the lessons stuck with me, and I was reminded of one just last night.  I actually wrote a paper about it, discussing its basis and application.  Here are two especially curious ideas that are hard to argue against, and yet are hard to accept.
  • Zeno’s Paradoxes – There are three famous paradoxes supported by Zeno, but the one that always interested me was the Dichotomy Paradox.  Imagine that I need to walk from my house to the street.  It would take a certain amount of time for me to get from point A to point B.  But before I could get to the street, I would have to walk halfway.  Before I walked halfway I would have to walk a quarter of the way.  Before I walked a quarter of the way I would have to walk and eighth of the way.  So on, so on, and so on.  To get from my house to the street I would have to walk an infinite number of small distances, requiring an infinite number of small periods of time.  Therefor, I could never reach the street.  So if I can visibly reach the street, then the street, my house, myself, something, must be an illusion.  Question is, what’s real and what’s not?
  • The Coin Flip – I can’t remember/find if this idea went with a certain philosopher or if it was just common thought.  But here are the basics; imagine that I am about to flip a coin.  One can guess that it will either land showing heads or tails.  We assume that we already know the outcome of the flip; a 50/50 chance more or less of either one or the other.  We say this with certainty because we’ve always seen it happen every time we’ve flipped a coin.  Therefor, we assume that if something has happened every time it will always happen again.  But what if the coin lands on its edge?  Difficult, but not impossible.  Then we just bet our certainty on something that didn’t happen, even though it has always happened before.  Now, what if the next time the coin flies into the sky and never returns?  Or doesn’t flip at all.  Or disappears.  Or starts singing.  Are these things impossible, or just unlikely?  Can we truly be certain about anything just because it has always happened before?
Anyway, just some food for thought.  Tomorrow, a Sports post.  And very soon my second DVD Review post, but my first that can be read here and also on DVDTalk.com.  Have a nice day!

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Movie Trailer – Erased

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Philpp Stolzl
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Olga Kurylenko, Liana Liberato
Release: April 2013

I get that not every movie-goer is a critic at heart.  I know that some people, including myself sometimes, just want to enjoy an entertaining film.  But we must be morons to accept this kind of crap over and over and over again.  It’s not original, interesting, well acted, nothing.  It’s fluff, and we eat it up.  As a wise man once said, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me …you can’t get fooled again.”


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Movie Review – Of Mice and Men

Category : Movie Review

Director: Gary Sinise
Starring: Gary Sinise, John Malkovich, Ray Walston
Year: 1992

So many movies are an adaptation of a book, and they meet with varying degrees of success.  Some, like Fight Club, are exponentially better than the novel.  Some, like I, Robot, are incredibly worse.  Some, like There Will Be Blood, are so different that they’re hardly recognizable.  And some are doomed from the start, because the book that they are based on is almost too perfect to be touched.  Such is the case with Of Mice and Men, a film version of a timeless classic that could not possibly live up to the expectations of its name.
Based on the short novel by John Steinbeck written in 1937, and set in California during the Great Depression, it is the story of two men who, though very different, have a bond that has held them together across the country and through many troubles.  George is a smart, tough dreamer who works as a ranch hand in order to someday have a place of his own.  Lenny is his companion; feeble-minded but “strong as a bull”.  Lenny’s simple thoughts and basic desires often get him and George into sticky spots, but in a lonely world they know that they only have each other.
Of Mice and Men the film is not as good as the book; that’s a given.  It doesn’t offer you much beyond bringing the story to life.  That said, it is a story that deserved to be heard, whether in story or movie form.  The amount of simple metaphors that are up for discussion in this story are phenomenal; you could spend all day arguing the deeper meanings of each piece and each character.  Sadly, not many of the characters are fleshed out in the film, including George; Sinise just doesn’t have enough talent to carry the role to the end when things become more complicated.  Malkovich, on the other hand, is fabulous, playing Lenny to a tee.  A hidden gem is Walston as the old hand Candy, with his ancient mangy dog.  There are these few bright spots, and the story carries the movie no matter what, but the film isn’t excellent.  You want brilliance, read the book.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – Family Weekend

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Benjamin Epps
Starring: Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Modine, Olesya Rulin
Release: March 29th, 2013

Please tell me you’re joking.  Please tell me that this isn’t a real movie that will be in theatres and that will make money.  I get sad when I see that films like this exist.  Who thought this was a good idea, good casting, or good cinema?  Or maybe they produced it knowing that it’s awful but will still be profitable.  I don’t know which is worse.