Monthly Archives: September 2013

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Movie Trailer – The Last Days on Mars

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ruairi Robinson
Starring: Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Olivia Williams
Release: December 6th, 2013

I don’t care that there have been some very bad Mars movies made in the past.  And I don’t care if this looks a little bit too like Prometheus.  I love sci-fi, I love space movies, and this one looks like a homage to all the old classics that I so enjoy.  I hope it’s good, but I almost don’t care.


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Movie Review – Dark Shadows

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tim Burton
Year: 2012

I like Tim Burton as much as the next guy.  He’s done some great movies: Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Sweeney Todd.  He obviously has a talent for the dark and the disturbing, even showcasing a feel for the dramatic & sensitive at times.  But I’m getting a little tired of he and Johnny Depp getting together and making spooky movies.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland, and now Dark Shadows; it’s just getting to be a bit much.  Audiences are getting bored of the same pairing, the same morbid comedy, the same dark style.  And I think with this film they finally hit a wall, one that might make them realize that their relationship needs a break.
Dark Shadows was originally a Gothic soap opera that ran in the late 60s.  It has since become a cult classic and a favorite of many Hollywood filmmakers, including Burton and Depp.  In this remake, the story revolves around Barnabas Collins, a once-wealthy Englishman raised in America where his family set up a prosperous business in New England in the 1700s.  Spurning the advances of a witch, both he and his lover are cursed; she to her death and he to immortality as a vampire.  Fast forward to the 1970s, where the Collins family is about to go broke and the evil witch is still alive in Collinsport.  Barnabas must help his family regain their prestige, all while adjusting to the culture shock and battling the evil woman who still claims him as her own.
The movie version is labeled as a comedy/horror.  Well, there’s plenty of soft core horror; neck biting, werewolf fights, ghosts floating about.  But there is almost no humor whatsoever.  The beginning of the movie is funny for about one minute, as Barnabas tries to figure out television and McDonalds.  But that only gets a quick chuckle, followed by over an hour of dumb jokes and odd comedy.  It just wasn’t very funny.  And it wasn’t very gruesome either, so what you’re left with is a movie that fails to do anything well.  It wasn’t awful; Depp was typically good, Green was sexy & evil.  But the movie wasn’t funny enough, it wasn’t dark enough, it wasn’t special enough.  It was more throw-away than Tim Burton’s films usually are, and I think he and Johnny Depp need to go their separate ways; try news ideas, come up with something original, and generally start making good movies again.
My rating: ✰ ✰

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Movie Trailer – The Railway Man

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Starring: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard
Release: December 26th, 2013

I’m not sure why I think this one is going to be amazing.  I don’t always like Nicole Kidman, or even Colin Firth to a lesser degree.  But this movie looks like a modern version of The Bridge on the River Kwai with a revenge twist and I’m excited to see it.  It’s been out on the indie level and hasn’t gotten rave reviews, so maybe I’m wrong, but I’ll be making time to see The Railway Man.


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Movie Review – Les Miserables

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway
Year: 2012

Can I assume everyone knows a little bit about the show?  I did, even before I saw it, and I assume the same is true about you.  I had heard a few of the songs, knew about the Victor Hugo novel, was aware of the Broadway hit.  But I had never read the book, listened to the soundtrack, or seen the play until a few months ago.  My wife & I saw the show and it was incredible.  The music, the story, the characters; one of the the best musicals you will ever see, assuming it’s done with any amount of talent.  Well, I’m a movie guy first & foremost, so I was looking forward to seeing the film version that was so popular and comparing it to the play.  I’m glad I saw it on stage first, because without that knowledge I might have thought the movie was amazing.
The plot of the movie follows the plot of the play almost exactly, while the play follows the book very well minus a bit of philosophy and history.  The story follows Jean Valjean, a thief who has been in chains for 19 years for stealing a piece of bread.  When he is finally released, his past follows him wherever her goes, keeping him from honest work and in hunger.  He stumbles upon an opportunity to start over, a chance to rid himself of his old name and begin a new life, although one that must be kept secret forever.  Fast forward through the years to Valjean the rich man, free of his past, but constantly hunted by Inspector Javert, a man who cannot forget the criminal who escaped him.  When Valjean saves a man from being crushed and befriends a prostitute named Fantine, the game is up and Javert is ready to capture his enemy.  But Valjean has more he must do, as he has promised to take care of Fantine’s daughter Cosette, raising her as his own child through the years and through the ever-changing political tide of France, taking the story to its epic climax.
It’s hard to summarize the plot, as it introduces countless characters and historical undertones.  It ranges through a great number of years & covers a lot of ground, but always stays with Jean Valjean and his quest to be a righteous man despite a difficult past.  So the story might be a bit confusing at times, but in the end the details really don’t matter.  It’s a tale of young love, of promises, of heroism, and it is told very well in this film version.  It’s the music that tells the story more than the actors, since almost no words are spoken, only sung.  So everything hinges on the vocal prowess of the singers, and thankfully everyone held their own.  Jackman was a great tortured Valjean, Hathaway had a very strong song, and even Crowe wasn’t awful as Javert.  The young actors Seyfried, Redmayne, and Barks were all good as well as Cosette, Marius, and Eponine.  So the movie was very well done, well sung, and enjoyable.
However, having seen the play recently, I can say with confidence that the movie is nowhere near as good as the stage version.  There’s nothing glaringly bad about the film; the production is good, the sets are cool, the pace is nice.  But it’s basically like watching the show from the front row.  Nothing is new or original or different, it’s almost exactly like the play.  The only difference is that the actors can’t sing as well as the Broadway stars.  So you’re basically just watching the play on your TV and hearing second-rate singers.  I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie; I liked it a lot.  But there wasn’t anything special about it, there wasn’t anything that made me glad that I saw it as opposed to the play.  I like that they didn’t go all Hollywood and that they kept it simple.  It was refreshing to just follow the characters closely and hear them sing.  It’s just that they’re not amazing singers; I guess that’s why they’re in movies.  So, if you’ve never seen the show or heard much of the music I can understand how the movie might seem spectacular.  But it’s not; the music is spectacular, the story is amazing, the characters are excellent.  The credit can’t go to the film for something they’re copying almost detail by detail.  Watch it and enjoy it because it’s very good, but understand that Anne Hathaway is just singing a perfect song that’s been sung a thousand times and most often better.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – Blue Is the Warmest Color

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring: Lea Seydoux, Adele Exarchopoulos
Release: October 25th, 2013

This movie is supposedly very sexually explicit; there is a twelve minute long sex scene between two young girls.  Now, a lot of people are saying that this is an amazing movie, a great love story, it’s winning indie awards.  But the content is going to be a lot to take, so be fore-warned.  The trailer doesn’t give much away, so it’s hard to tell if it’s going to be a great movie or if it’s just getting over-hyped.  When it comes out in theatres perhaps we’ll get a better idea.


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Movie Review – Deep Impact

Category : Movie Review

Director: Mimi Leder
Starring: Tea Leoni, Morgan Freeman, Elijah Wood
Leelee Sobieski, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau
Year: 1998

I can remember very clearly when this movie and Armageddon both came out in 1998.  The latter was the blockbuster, having the hit song to back it up, the big actors of the day to pull in audiences, the summer opening.  The former had Tea Leoni.  You can see why Deep Impact might not have been as big a success.  It actually opened a few months before its competition and ended up making a pretty nice chunk of change, but when you think about the disaster movie of 1998 you think about Ben and Liv and Bruce and Aerosmith, the whole spectacle.  But for my money, Deep Impact is the better movie, if only by a small margin.
The story follows a plucky American reporter named Jenny Lerner who stumbles upon a government cover up that she plans to reveal.  Problem is, she’s gotten in way over her head, accidentally discovering the biggest news in history.  Apparently the world is about to end.  There is a giant meteor falling through space and headed straight toward the Earth.  The world governments have a couple of plans in place to deflect the cataclysmic comet, but they’ve also developed a back-up plan; caves in Missouri and around the world have been constructed to house millions of people, to ensure the survival of the species if the Earth’s surface should be annihilated.  Humans frantically try to change their fate, all the while preparing to become nearly extinct.
I think what raises Deep Impact above Armageddon is its pace.  It’s not over-dramatic, slow, character driven, and emotional until the end of the film.  Most of the movie is details; how would we stop an event like this, what would we do to survive, how would people react.  And Armageddon was the opposite; a love story, tears, bravery.  Now, this movie had those, but a lot of it came toward the climax when I’d already become invested in the plot and wanted to see how it would all shake out.  Sure I’d seen the movie before, but honestly I didn’t remember much.  So I was into it and enjoyed myself throughout.  I’m not trying to say that this is a phenomenal film, no way.  Elijah Wood & Leelee Sobieski as young lovers?  Pass.  Tea Leoni as the lead actress?  Pass, pass, pass.  Morgan Freeman was good as the President, but the movie as a whole was driven by the story, not the actors.  It ended up being an entertaining two hours, ones that I don’t regret spending.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – Homefront

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Gary Fleder
Starring: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth
Release: November 27th, 2013

I’ve always wanted to like Jason Statham movies, because he’s such a likeable guy.  But they’re just so horrid that there’s no chance in the world I can get behind one.  This movie looks like it’s about a half-step up from his normal garbage, which just might be enough to get me to watch it.  I just wish the cast list wasn’t a who’s who of bad actors.


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Movie Review – Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Category : Movie Review

Director: Lee Daniels
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo
Year: 2013

I have a problem with directors putting their names before a movie’s title.  Right or wrong, I immediately think I have an idea what that director might be like, and it’s not positive.  It shows a certain arrogance and conceit to claim a movie as your own in such blatant ways, even if you were the primary mind behind the film.  Now, Lee Daniels himself supposedly didn’t like the idea, but had to do it because the original title was already taken.  So maybe he was “forced” into doing it, coerced into giving himself more credit than usual.  But regardless, to me the harm was already done.  That famed fourth wall was already damaged by pushing the director’s name at me, by reminding me that this isn’t reality, that it’s a film made by people to try to make me feel a certain way.  Well, if that’s the direction you’re going you had better go all the way, and surprisingly that’s exactly what they did.
The title character of the film is, yes, a butler; an African-American man originally from the deep South named Cecil Gaines.  As a child in the 1920s living on a cotton plantation, Cecil would get an early & first hand account of the brutal treatment of the black workers by their white bosses.  His father dead and his mother driven to madness, Cecil slowly moved north in search of food, work, and freedom from hostility.  He would eventually find work as a butler, even landing the coveted job as a member of the White House staff in Washington D.C.  There, Cecil and his family lived in peace while the years, and the Presidents, rolled on by.  But although the North was a relatively progressive place to live, the South was still mired in racism, violence, and oppression.  And when Louis Gaines, Cecil’s son, sets out to make a difference, to change the world, the peace of the family is shattered and the vigilant butler must watch the country around him change; leader by leader, law by law, and death by death.

When I say they went all the way & just destroyed the fourth wall, I mean exactly that.  There was no pretense about it; every chance the film had we were reminded that these were actors, not real people in real events.  That might sound a little silly, because of course they’re actors, but most movies go to great lengths to hide that fact from us.  But not this one.  At every turn there was another semi-ridiculous cameo: Mariah Carey as Cecil’s mom, Lenny Kravitz as his co-worker, Robin Williams as Eisenhower, John Cusack as Nixon.  The list goes on and on and there was absolutely no shame in the amount of famous faces paraded across the screen.  But the thing is, it worked.  Not once did anyone in the movie fake a performance or try to “become” the character.  These were storytellers in an epic tale of American life.  Actors, yes, but re-enactors more than anything else.  History was related to us in fine detail through the eyes of a real life butler played on screen by another man, in a movie created by a director on manufactured sets, in a time that is starting to forget that the privileges we have today didn’t always exist.
I bought in to the story, which happens to be true, because I didn’t feel mislead in any way.  I liked the style the movie was done in, much better than other historical dramas; like Lincoln, which I liked just fine but found to be so over-dramatic that it became oppressive and dull.  This one was more like Forrest Gump, with its simple narration, quick timeline, and occasional humor.  It wasn’t as good as that film, but it was still an interesting look at a fascinating time.  Now unlike Forrest Gump, the acting in The Butler didn’t elevate it beyond what the story had to offer.  Forest Whitaker was fine as Cecil Gaines, a great vehicle for the movie.  Oprah as his wife Gloria was a little over-the-top and often forced.  The various actors who played the revolving Presidents were all fine, if a little forgettable.  And that could be said about the movie itself; the way the film was delivered was refreshingly clean, the acting was good all around, but by the end I was left feeling underwhelmed.  I liked the story, I liked the characters, but about half way through I got the point and the rest of the movie felt a little like history class.  For a film that is getting Oscar buzz, there’s not too much that’s going to make you jump out of your seat.  It was good, not great, not extremely memorable, but it is definitely worth your time and worth watching.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ 


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Movie Trailer – Grudge Match

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Peter Segal
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Alan Arkin
Release: December 25th, 2013

I am ashamed to say it, but I really want to see this movie.  It doesn’t look quite as stupid as I had imagined it would; it’s more like a farewell to two extremely influential actors as they grow old and die.  Maybe a little depressing, but I want to be a part of it.  Now, I am worried about the director, the guy who brought us Nutty Professor II, Anger Management, 50 First Dates, and Get Smart.  Oh well, this has Alan Arkin in it and he can do no wrong.  I’m in!


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Sports – 2013 NFL Picks, Week 3

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 3 Picks
(14-2 last week, 25-7 for the season)
Bye teams: none

KC @ Phi – First game of the week and it might be the toughest to pick.  The Chiefs are off to a terrific start, as most people predicted they would be.  Their defense is strong, but their offense is just OK.  I think the Eagles can put up enough points in spurts to take the game.
Hou @ Bal – I take that back; this one is a toss up too.  The Ravens have looked bad so far, with a blowout loss in Denver and a messy win vs Cleveland.  I think they’ll improve as the season rolls along, but the Texans are no pushovers.  They are undefeated and coming to town.
NYG @ Car – Both of these teams are 0-2, playing sloppy, and looking like the playoffs are a million miles away.  But at least the Panthers have been playing good defense, if only their offense would step it up.  Well Merry Christmas, here come the Giants, most points allowed in the league.
GB @ Cin – I watched the Bengals on MNF and I saw a good team.  They play strong D, they can run the ball, and they’re athletic.  Sounds like a lot of playoff teams over the years.  Problem is, their QB is just OK and their coach stinks.  Fix one of those and they could be SB bound.
STL @ Dal – Somehow the Cowboys are winning their division.  They don’t seem like an elite team, but no one ever said to have to be to win games.  They win when they play at home and the Rams lose when they play on the road.  Sounds like a recipe for a Big D victory.

Cle @ Min – Someone’s about to get their first win, and it probably won’t be the Browns.  They have scored 16 points this season.  Total.  To put that in perspective the Broncos have scored 90.  And now their starting QB is out, so look for them to play even worse than usual.

TB @ NE – The Patriots have only scored 3 TDs total in two weeks.  The Bucs have scored 4.  Both teams have scored & allowed similarly small numbers, but somehow the Pats are 2-0 and the Bucs are 0-2.  Bad luck I guess, or maybe having Tom Brady on your team is enough.

Ari @ NO – A similar story here, as the Saints are not putting up the numbers that we are all accustomed to.  It’s early & I’m sure they’ll figure things out, but right now they’re just a mediocre team.  However, they win at home and you know someday Brees will get hot.  Why not now?

SD @ Ten – The Chargers are putting up the points right now.  Eddie Royal looks like the best thing since french toast & Phillip Rivers is cooking.  But that won’t last, they’ll falter, and they’ll lose to some bad teams.  This week?  I say no.  I think they still hot a little while longer.

Det @ Was – Things are not going very well for RG3.  There has even been some speculation that he could be benched.  I don’t see that happening.  He’ll warm up & the offense will be OK.  It’s the defense that’s the problem, and the Lions are about to light them up.

Atl @ Mia – I picked the Dolphins to win last week in an upset, which they did, and I think this week it’s less and upset & more a sure bet.  They’re playing good D, putting up enough points, and fans are excited for the home opener.  I love Matty Ice & the Falcons, but this is a tough draw.

Buf @ NYJ – The Jets are actually ahead of the Bills in the standings, with both teams at 1-1.  But anyone who’s been watching knows that Buffalo is a team on the rise and they are the better ball club.  E.J. Manuel vs Geno Smith; should be a fun game to watch.

Jax @ Sea – I can’t remember the last time I saw a matchup as lopsided as this one.  The Seahawks should utterly destroy the Jaguars, with a possible final score of 41-3.  Now, sometimes good teams fall into trap games, but I don’t see that happening, not this time.

Ind @ SF – The Colts score more and allow less points than the Niners.  So normally I’d be going with Indy.  But San Fran was embarrassed last week in Seattle, and I look for them to play angry and physical.  The Colts will win games this year, but bad timing loses them this one.

Chi @ Pit – The Bears aren’t as good as their 2-0 record might lead us to believe.  They barely won home games vs the Bengals and the Vikings, two teams that aren’t great.  If the Steelers were playing anything near good football I’d pick them here, but unfortunately for them they are not.

Oak @ Den – I don’t want to jinx it & say that this game should be as uneven as the Jax vs Sea game, but it really ought to.  The Broncos are in a whole other level when compared to the Raiders, and even an old rivalry shouldn’t be enough to make this a close contest.