Monthly Archives: November 2013

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Movie Trailer – Twice Born

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Sergio Castellito
Starring: Penelope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, Pietro Castellito
Release: December 6th, 2013

I’m not sure if these two actors can pull off an against-all-odds love story, but I kinda want to see them try.  I like them both separately, and the trailer does have some emotional triggers, so I’m intrigued.  I just feel like it might not be great.  Worth a shot?

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Movie Review – Any Day Now

Category : Movie Review

Director: Travis Fine
Starring: Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt, Isaac Leyva
Year: 2012

Alan Cumming is a terrific actor.  Born in Scotland, he can play any part & do any accent.  He’s a passable singer, he has an ease about him, and he’s likeable.  Only problem is, he’ll do just about any movie.  Goldeneye, Spice World, Get Carter, Josie and the Pussycats, Spy Kids, Son of the Mask, Gray Matters, The Smurfs; a laundry list of awful films.  He needs a new manager or something, someone who knows how to showcase his talent or at least talk some sense into him when he wants to be a part of Tin Man, the worst mini-series I’ve ever seen.  But thankfully, every once in a while he does something like this, starring in a wonderful movie where he can actually act and use his art successfully.  If for no other reason, I enjoyed Any Day Now because Alan Cumming was in it & showed just what he can do.
Rudy is a gay man making his way in 1970s show business.  He’s only made it as far as dressing in drag & lip syncing, but he doesn’t let that ruin his positive outlook on life.  And that energy is what draws Paul to him, a closet homosexual trying to start a new life after a divorce and a new career as a lawyer.  Rudy and Paul are just starting their relationship when something happens that will change both their lives.  Rudy’s neighbor abandons her son Marco, who has Down’s Syndrome.  When she is arrested & taken to jail, Rudy petitions to become Marco’s guardian.  But he & Paul’s budding relationship stands in the way of full custody, as the courts will not allow a gay couple to raise a child, fearing for their safety in a “deviant” home.  But Rudy has never given up on a dream without a fight, and his new-found love for Marco makes this a dream worth fighting for.
The plot might sound a little cheesy, with a lot of emotional triggers thrown in just for fun, but it’s actually based on a true story and was very realistic for the time period.  The social issues touched on by this film are fascinating, even more so for being real, not Hollywood produced.  The story is heartbreaking, be forewarned, but the importance of the message cannot be understated.  Denying what is obviously best for a child based on irrational beliefs is nothing short of criminal, and we can hope that our world has changed for the better in part due to the tireless effort of people like these characters who fought for what was right.  But the issues aside, the movie featured some excellent acting, especially from Alan Cumming.  He was tremendous; believable, confident, funny, exposed.  And basically he carried the film, with Garret Dillahunt the solid backup player.  The film used empathy to grab the audience and not a ton of perfection, but it was good enough to deserve forgiveness for its obvious emotional ploys.  A great movie with a great actor and one that you’ll still feel long after the credits roll.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

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Movie Trailer – The Wind Rises

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Hideaki Anno, Mirai Shida, Jun Kunimura
Release: February 21st, 2014

I don’t really watch a lot of animated movies, and I’ve never seen a Hayao Miyazaki film before.  The only movie similar to his style that I’ve seen is Princess Mononoke.  I liked it, and I think I could like this one as well, especially with the historical content.

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DVD Review – Laurence Anyways

Category : DVD Review

Director: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clement
Year: 2012

The first Xavier Dolan film I watched was the first he ever made, I Killed My Mother.  It is a French language film out of Canada that has a decidedly European feel.  Dolan starred in it himself and also wrote the script; it is basically autobiographical and tells the story of his coming out and the strain that put on his relationship with his mother.  It’s a solid film, especially for a kid making his first movie.  It was personal, honest, short, fairly straightforward, and came across the screen boldly.  All the same can’t be said about Dolan’s third film, Laurence Anyways.  It doesn’t feel incredibly real and isn’t presented with the ease that I enjoyed in his debut.  But there is one quality that saved this film from becoming an over-dramatic bludgeon, and that is some of the best acting that you’re ever likely to see.

The Movie

Laurence is a schoolteacher and a writer.  His stories and poems are beginning to become published, his students think he’s great, he’s about to turn thirty-five, and life is good.  One large part of his current happiness is Frederique, his live-in girlfriend.  Fred is in the film business, she is an artist at heart, a vivacious companion, a wonderful lover, and the pair are very happy together.  On the occasion of his birthday, Fred plans a trip for herself & Laurence to New York City.  She is extremely excited, a bit drunk, and wants him to share in her enthusiasm.  But Laurence is keeping a secret, a truth that he can barely share with himself and one that will tear apart his entire existence; work, friends, family, and most especially Fred.  No longer able to bare the guilt of the lie, he reveals to her his one unfulfilled desire in life; to become a woman.
And so begins ten years of struggle as Laurence attempts to come to terms with the transformation that he can’t stop wanting.  As he begins to live the life of a woman, everything around him changes: the students at school stare, the parents of the children demand his dismissal, his friends on the staff fail to support him, his mother callously keeps him away from her life.  But the most important piece of Laurence’s world has the most trouble accepting who he wants to become, who he feels like he has always been.  Fred can’t leave and she also can’t comfortably stay.  After the initial shock, she attempts to see Laurence as the person he is inside, loving him despite the way in which he now wants to dress and to be seen.  Her love for him is at times the only thing keeping him going, but as he continues his metamorphosis, she finds that her own life is spiraling out of control.  Through the years the pair battle to protect that fragile bond that they forged so long ago, trying desperately to hold on to what they used to have before everything changed.

I don’t think it would be exaggerating to call the acting in this film ‘phenomenal’.  I’d be hard pressed to think of a duo who had more chemistry, more compatibility than these two, or who worked together as actors to push across the table a story that needed to be told.  The only couple that comes to mind is Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams from Blue Valentine, an extremely powerful & emotional film that is amazingly acted.  That movie felt more real than most I’ve seen, and Laurence Anyways had that same feeling due to the talent & ability of the lead pair.  Melvil Poupaud, though a second choice for the role, was incredible as Laurence.  He was vulnerable, courageous, believable, and had the difficult task of convincing audiences that his portrayal of both characters was honest, either as a male or as a female.  He pulled it off somehow, allowing us to the see the person underneath the makeup and to relate to Laurence no matter the appearance.
But as great as Poupaud was, Suzanne Clement was better.  The role of Fred must have been so incredibly hard to pull off, this woman torn between the love she has for her man and trying to accept the fact that he no longer wants to be one.  She was literally awesome in this role, creating a character that I somehow related to, having known no great heartbreak.  She brought something special to the part, something undefinable that only the best actresses on the screen can ever dream of.  Perhaps she never reaches that pinnacle again, perhaps she laid it all out for us in this film, and if so we should consider ourselves lucky.  She was half of an amazing love story, one that went beyond male/female into the depths of the heart where true love lives.  The last time I can recall feeling this affected by a love story was with Brokeback Mountain, a film that portrayed unconventional but unarguable passion and one that I will never forget.
The only thing keeping this film from being in the same elite category as the other two I’ve mentioned was the directing.  Dolan’s first attempt at cinema was so honest, so concise, so effortless.  But Laurence Anyways was, if anything, over directed.  The scenes didn’t flow as quickly as they could have, the film didn’t end as speedily as it should have.  I felt Dolan too much and not in the self-revealing way that I felt him in his debut.  He was just too heavy-handed and the film’s high points were always when he stepped away and let his actors take control.  Then the emotion escalated, the scenes were charged, and I felt “it”.  I didn’t feel that the whole way through, and I wish I had, because this film could have been up there with the great modern romances.  It fell short, but not by much, and is still an excellent, artistic, captivating love story that I don’t want to let go.


Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the video was nice but not amazing.  It was shot using an Arriflex 435 and a Panavision Panaflex camera with Panavision lenses.  The film was set in the 90s and almost had the look of a movie from that time.  The visuals were better than the picture, as the director chose beautiful scenes over crystal clear shots.
Audio – The film was done in Dolby Digital, yet there are no audio options of the disc.  The language of the film is French with English subtitles and with a small amount of spoken English dialogue.  The sound quality is fine, with no obvious errors.  The music in the film is incredible, with a solid soundtrack and songs that fit the mood of the film very well.
Extras – There are a good deal of extras on the DVD.  Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Xavier Dolan is just that; fifty-six minutes of numerous deleted scenes with their cuts explained by the director.  Photo Gallery; two and a half minutes of stills from the film.  Laurence Anyways Trailer; a trailer for the film.  And finally Breaking Glass Trailers: Out in the Dark and I Do.

Final Thoughts

Highly RecommendedLaurence Anyways is a stunning film, one that boasts some of the best acting you’re likely to see and delivers a story that needs to be heard.  An incredible love story with amazing characters, this is a film that is little known but should be seen by all.  If the directing had just been a little softer, a little less indulgent, then this could have been up at the top of the list with some really amazing pieces of artistic cinema.  The video was fine, the audio quite strong, and the extras plentiful.  Don’t pass on this film; you’d be missing out.

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

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Movie Trailer – Need for Speed

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Scott Waugh
Starring: Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Dominic Cooper
Release: March 14, 2014

It’s never good when a movie is based off a video game.  You need depth in order to take a story and pare it down for a film.  You can’t take a shell of a plot and then try to flesh it out, that doesn’t work.  And also, Aaron Paul is supposed to be a badass hero?  Lo dudo.

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Movie Review – Europa Report

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sebastian Cordero
Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Sharlto Copley
Year: 2013

I was one of the few who thought that Prometheus was great rather than good.  I thought it was a perfect homage to the sci-fi genre and a wonderful representation of the Alien series.  Now, it was a little Hollywood and perhaps a little overworked, but it was an entertaining ride that wasn’t stupid and wasn’t forgettable.  But for those who didn’t love it, who want their space flicks to be gritty, realistic, minimal, then have I got a film for you.  Europa Report is a sc-fi movie made for those who don’t want blockbusters but also don’t want crap.  It follows the classic guidelines but doesn’t fall into the trap of being typical.  Not many movies can say that, regardless of genre, and it’s refreshing to see a new take on an old premise.
It’s a new era in space exploration and corporations have taken over.  The newest venture is the Europa project, an attempt to reach & explore a moon of Jupiter.  The goal is to further explore the idea that there may be water deep under the ice of the surface, that life might be possible there, and that it could shed light on the great questions of life.  A team of astronauts, doctors, and experts are sent on a mission that will take years but that will be broadcasting their thoughts & their results all the while.  But when communications are lost & tragedy strikes the crew, the connection between the spacecraft and the Earth base is lost and the Europa team find themselves on their own.  Once they reach the moon, they must make difficult decisions, risking their mission, their findings, and their lives.
What this movie has going for it is that it’s not your typical flick.  It’s set up so that all the action is recorded on spacecraft cameras, so we’re seeing what the people on Earth are seeing; recorded video & real time security footage.  This immediately makes the story believable & interesting, as if the audience is along for the ride in what turns out to be an intense journey.  The acting supports the plot fairly well, though no one is outstanding.  Everyone does a fine job of coming off as genuine & like the moment is bigger than they are.  Put together, the minimalist concept & the simple acting work well together and make the whole story pretty ingenious.  Some might not like the ending, but it’s hard to please everyone with the finale of a intriguing film.  I didn’t mind it, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and I would recommend it to all sci-fi buffs.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

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Movie Trailer – Cuban Fury

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: James Griffiths
Starring: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Olivia Colman
Release: February 14th, 2013

I’m right on the edge with this one.  There are parts that look funny, but that’s to be expected; the trailer is designed that way.  But I just have to guess that the movie as a whole is not going to be great.  Hasn’t this movie been made before & made badly?  And the fact that it’s coming out on Valentines’ day is suspect.

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Sports – 2013 NFL Picks, Week 12

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 12 Picks
(10-5 last week, 109-53 for the season)
Bye teams: Buf, Cin, Phi, Sea

NO @ Atl – I would love to pick the Falcons here at home to upset the high flying Saints, but have you watched these two teams play?  They could not be on more different paths; Atlanta is playing through the season from hell while New Orleans looks like a Super Bowl contender.

NYJ @ Bal – I keep believing in Baltimore and they keep letting me down; you’d think I’d learn my lesson.  But the Jets are only posing as a good team, are coming off a horrible loss, and play bad on the road.  The Ravens are good at home & should have won a sloppy game last week.

Pit @ Cle – Big Ben & the Stillers have been heading in the right direction & finally scoring points after a rough start to the season.  But now they have to go to Cleveland to face a team that’s not good but can play some defense.  Look for a close, cold, run-the-ball battle in this one.

TB @ Det – Head Coach Jim Schwartz lost the Lions their last game; he’s a moron among morons.  But even he can’t mess up this one.  Detroit likes to put up points and the Bucs just can’t compete, even though they’ve won their last two games behind the masterful Mike Glennon.

Min @ GB – Even without Aaron Rodgers the Pack ought to be able to pull this one out.  The Vikings are winless on the road & have a complete mess at QB.  Adrian Peterson can’t do everything & their defense is horrendous.  Look for GB to run the ball and try to win on the ground.

Jax @ Hou – What an ugly game.  Combined these teams are 3-17 and both have trouble scoring points.  The Texans started 2-0 but have since lost 8 straight but they can get back on track here if QB Case Keenum can keep it together, because the Jags have a horribly porous defense.

SD @ KC – The Broncos handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season last week, totally dominating in all phases.  I expect the KC D to play mad at home against another division rival & take out their frustrations on Phillip Rives.  Fine by me; I can’t stand his accent, demeanor, or face.

Car @ Mia – This game scares me a little.  I’ve been a supporter of the Panthers from the beginning, but they had an emotional high last week, a lot of media attention, and now have to go on the road.  The Dolphins aren’t pushovers and might just make a game out of this.

Chi @ STL – Remember what the Rams did to the Colts before their bye week?  They’ve had a lot of time to think about what they did right and I think they do it again to the Bears.  I’m not a McCown supporter and I think he’ll crumble when the pressure is on; there’s a reason he’s a career backup.

Ind @ Ari – Despite their record, the Colts have been playing some very bad football, barely beating the Titans & Texans & losing to the Rams.  Arizona, on the other hand, is hot right now, winning three in a row and totally dominating at home.  I like the Cards as a playoff dark horse.

Ten @ Oak – This is one of those games that no one wants to watch.  Two 4-6 teams, both with backup QBs, neither scores a lot of points.  When in doubt go with the home team I guess, and especially after rookie Matt McGloin’s performance last week.  Is he the Raiders’ future?

Dal @ NYG – Like I said, when in doubt pick the home team.  Also, the Giants are hot right now, winning their last 4 games.  Add in the fact that the Cowboys always seem to crumble when there’s the least amount of pressure and you’ve got a game that’s surprisingly easy to pick.

Den @ NE – I don’t like doing it, and it’s the first time I’ve done it all season, but I’m going to have to pick against my Broncos.  They are the best team in football, no doubt, but the Pats are undefeated at home, are playing mad after a loss, and know how to get the job done under the lights.

SF @ Was – This should be a great game, if only because both teams are desperate.  The Niners are fine record-wise, but they need a boost after having lost 2 in a row.  The Skins are a mess; their defense is awful, RG3 is lost, and Shanahan is suddenly feeling some warmth when he sits down.

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Movie Trailer – Grace of Monaco

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Olivier Dahan
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth
Release: March 14th, 2014

The problem with Nicole Kidman is that she’s not believable as a human.  She just doesn’t seem like she fits in with the rest of us and therefor is sometimes hard to watch.  But that actually may work in her favor for this movie as she’s supposed to be an unreachable being.

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Movie Review – 12 Years a Slave

Category : Movie Review

Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch

Year: 2013

No other movie is getting as much Oscar buzz as 12 Years a Slave.  It seems tailor-made for a Academy Award; period piece, dramatic, social issue, big name actors.  In past years this film would have been a shoe in to win Best Picture and probably Best Director as well.  But in today’s Academy, any movie can win.  They’ve expanded the list of nominees from five to nine or ten, including many genres that aren’t usually there.  This year, it seems that there might be a couple films that could give this one a run for its money: Gravity, American Hustle, and perhaps Inside Llewyn Davis.  I might not have liked Gravity much, but that doesn’t mean the Academy didn’t, as they seem to be tapping into public opinion more than they used to, giving credit to entertainment as well as drama.  But if I had to put money on it & before a few contenders have even come out, I would have to say that 12 Years seems to be the front runner.  And apart from This Is the End, which I thought was hilarious, it’s the best movie I’ve seen all year.

This is the true story of Solomon Northup, an African American man living a free life in New York during the years before the Civil War.  He lives there with his wife, two children, friends, is well off, and has all a man could ask for.  The unthinkable happens when Solomon travels with two men to Washington D.C. under the guise of being hired to play his fiddle; the men drug him & sell him as if he were a common slave.  Overnight Solomon’s old life has vanished.  He is now called Platt, taught to forget his privileged background, and sold into bondage.  Over the course of years, Solomon has many masters, meets many slaves, comes to understand the Southern world in which he involuntarily lives, and yet somehow never gives up hope that someday he will be a free man once again.  His determination to live and to keep his humanity in tact creates conflict wherever he goes, but he survives with what dignity he can, accepting the goodness from some and the terrible treatment from others, staying alive no matter what the cost.

12 Years a Slave is one of those films that is hard to watch.  It’s so powerful and so very real that it’s sickening in its brutality & truth.  It’s not unbelievable that man can be so cruel to other men, but it’s difficult to see this vile treatment right before our eyes, to feel the torture and experience the pain of loss; loss of life, loss of family, loss of self.  It’s almost hard to call this film “good” or to claim to like it, as it shows us mankind at its worst and makes no attempt to cover up a terrible story with fake heroics or lessons learned.  There hasn’t been a film as harsh as this since Amistad, another story of slavery, but one that wasn’t as excellent a movie as this one is.  Amistad was not nominated for Best Picture and I’m sure 12 Years will be.  Not only because of its great & compelling story, but because of the way that story was told; quietly at times, often loudly & uncomfortably, and even beautifully at certain moments.  It had great music underscoring the action, excellent cinematography, a light director’s touch, and some wonderful acting.
Chiwetel Ejiofor was very strong as Solomon.  He played him with perfection, giving us a character who was both completely lost & also surprisingly resolute, a man who was a hero in a very vulnerable way.  He deserves a nomination for his role and I would be surprised if he wasn’t up for Best Actor.  Michael Fassbender also did an excellent job with his part.  He played a religiously unhinged plantation master so wickedly that he became the epitome of all that was evil in that world, all that had to change in order for men like Solomon to live freely.  I would perhaps be pleasantly surprised if he were nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but it would be a deserved award.  Past those two men, the side characters were either fine, unnecessary, or just plain bad.  Benedict Cumberbatch was solid, Paul Giamatti wasn’t really needed, and Brad Pitt was actually a distraction and one of the weaker actors in the film.  I’m not a fan of cameos, as they often break down the fourth wall, and I don’t think they strengthened this film.  But putting that aside, the story & the way it was delivered were both gripping in a powerful way, producing a film that is one of the best you will see this year and will be well represented come March 2nd.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰