Monthly Archives: January 2014

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Movie Trailer – Adult World

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Scott Coffey
Starring: Emma Roberts, John Cusack, Evan Peters
Release: February 14th, 2014

Put John Cusack in a movie and I’ll see it.  I’m serious; I watched 2012.  And Emma Roberts isn’t bad either, I think she might be able to hold her own in this one.  I don’t know what it is but I kinda wanna check this one out.  Not super excited, but intrigued.


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Movie Review – On the Road

Category : Movie Review

Director: Walter Salles
Starring: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart
Year: 2012

To even attempt to enjoy this film you absolutely must read the novel first.  On the Road was written by Jack Kerouac in 1957 and is an account of his cross-country adventures with his best friend Nick Cassidy.  It’s a snapshot of the United States in an era of lost souls, the Beat Generation; young people attempting to find themselves through music, poetry, travel, and gregarious self-expression.  It’s a difficult book to read, a lot of random occurrences, jazz clubs, drinking binges, musings on life, strange characters.  But at the heart of it is the relationship between Jack & Nick, or Sal & Dean as they are called in the book & film.  Sal is the narrator, Dean is the catalyst, a figure so wild and free and attractive and young; the spirit of the time.  I describe Dean as Peter Pan, Finny, Gatsby, and Ferris Bueller all rolled into one ball of pure energy.  It’s he who makes the book readable and the film watchable, a character we can all relate to and love in some strange way even while the rest of the action surrounding him leaves us feeling rather bored.
Sal Paradise, played by Sam Riley, is the author, journalist, eye witness, and narrator of this epic story, telling a tale of youth, of freedom on the road that breaks all bonds and opens the mind to all possibilities.  It’s a romantic story, one brought down often by the details of life; money, love, jealousy, family, authority, time.  But if anyone can rouse up an adventure, putting behind all the mundane details of responsibility, it’s Sal’s best friend Dean Moriarty, played by Garrett Hedlund.  Dean always has a plan, is constantly in motion, and never has a girl far from his side.  The colossal road trips that he convinces Sal to accompany him on are usually driven by the desire for women: either Marylou, played by Kristen Stewart, or Camille, played by Kirsten Dunst.  But his wild urges to cross the United States to get to these girls never keep him from having a good time on the way there; with drugs, prostitutes, bars, strangers, old friends, hitchhikers, whatever.  And while Dean carouses, Sal falls more and more in love with his hero, his friend on the road, his companion of youth.
I imagine the film would make no sense whatsoever to anyone who hasn’t read the novel.  The two are very true to each other, the movie being one of the better representations of a book that I’ve seen.  The pace, the spirit, the lines; all pulled from the novel and done well.  Coming into this film having not read the novel would make anyone feel lost & confused, as the plot really only exists within the drive of the characters and the experiences of the road.  It’s a wild ride in which nothing anyone does really makes any sense at all, their emotions deciding on their next course of action.  And so to love the film you might have to have loved the book, and unfortunately I only liked it.  I liked Kerouac’s writing and I related to both Sal & Dean, but by the end of the book I was bored and glad to be done.  I felt the same way about the film; it was well-done and well-acted, but it was also exhausting at times, boring at others.  Hedlund did an excellent job as Dean, the manic protagonist.  And I even thought Kristen Stewart was strong as Marylou.  There were some cool cameos; Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams.  But taken as a whole the film dragged, despite it’s solid pieces.  The blame could go to the novel; it dragged as well, and although it’s undoubtedly a classic with great characters, it’s not the easiest book to read.  I highly recommend that you read Kerouac’s work first and than watch the film version, but that might not help; those who hate the book will hate the movie, those who only like the book will only like the movie, and most likely those who worship the book will probably despise the movie.  So perhaps it’s a lose/lose situation for On the Road and three stars is about the best it’s going to get.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – Run & Jump

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Steph Green
Starring: Will Forte, Maxine Peake, Edward McLiam
Release: January 24th, 2014

What’s up with Will Forte all of a sudden deciding he’s believable as a real actor?  First Nebraska, now this?  What’s next, a WWII epic?  To me he’s still the SNL guy, nothing more.  I’m not saying he can’t act, I’m just saying it’s gonna take me some time.


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Book Review – World War Z

Category : Book Review

Author: Max Brooks
Year: 2006

When I first saw the trailer for the film version of this book I was pretty excited.  I love zombie movies and here was one based on a novel, directed by Marc Forster, and starring Brad Pitt.  I figured it would be a visually stunning and very exciting zombie movie done with all the monetary backing of Hollywood.  And it was, to some extent.  It was cool and epic, but it lacked the punch & gore & grit of lower budget zombie films, making World War Z a good but not great movie.  So then my friend lent me the original book and I was excited again, expecting a more detailed storyline, the film fleshed out.  What I got was a good book, again not amazing, but one that had absolutely nothing to do with the movie whatsoever.  I have never read a book that was so distant from its film version, being only related to each other by the title.
WWZ is subtitled An Oral History of the Zombie War, and that’s exactly what it is.  From the beginning an unnamed narrator/journalist begins interviews of the survivors of the global catastrophe known as the Zombie War.  The war is over during the sessions and each part is told as a history lesson from a firsthand account.  The story is broken into sections, each depicting a stage of the great war.  Warnings; the beginning of the zombie outbreak, from infection to the spread of the disease.  Blame; the causes and potential cover ups.  The Great Panic; when humanity was on the brink of annihilation, on the run from an unstoppable force.  Turning the Tide; the beginning of the war against the zombies.  Home Front USA; how the battle was fought in America.  Around the World, and Above; snapshots of the war across the globe.  Total War; how humans defeated the undead tide.  And finally, Good-byes; the final chapter.
The novel was written in a very interesting way, giving away the ending at the very beginning and then filling us in on the details later.  We knew right away that there was a Zombie War and that humanity won.  But by personal interview we meet the characters who had a part in the battle, those who fought the undead and lived.  We learn how it was done, what changed because of the war, and ultimately why life goes on.  It’s a cool way to tell a story, especially for a history or war buff.  But the only problem with this style is that there aren’t any protagonists, there is no one to root for.  Or in a sense, there are too many people to root for and as a reader you can’t fall in love with any one character.  And when you can’t connect to the story it becomes less real, more imaginary, and it loses its depth.  I enjoyed reading WWZ, it was fascinating and completely different from the movie.  But in the end it left me with no great impression, no lasting feeling; it was just a fun book.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – Maidentrip

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jillian Schlesinger
Starring: Laura Dekker
Release: January 17th, 2014

An incredible true story; could you imagine doing anything remotely like this when you were that age?  I didn’t even like making telephone calls to strangers.  Very impressive.  Now, that doesn’t mean the movie will be any good, but some documentaries speak for themselves.


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Sports – 2013 NFL Year in Review

Category : Sports

Here is my 2013 NFL Year in Review

(169-86-1 for the season, 9-1 for the playoffs)
 

It’s been a great season, especially for Broncos and Seahawks fans, and I’ve enjoyed trying to pick each game each week, including the playoffs.  I didn’t do too bad, guessing right about 66% of the time, and going almost perfect through the playoffs.  Here’s a look back on where I thought each team would end up and what actually happened by the end of the year (2013 record in parentheses).
 
 AFC East 

  1. Patriots – “Tom Brady’s weapons might be changing, but he’s still Tom Brady.” (1st, 12-4) Pretty accurate, the Pats were still a great team, but in the end Brady’s lack of weapons did them in and stopped them one game short of the Super Bowl.
  2. Dolphins – “Their first year as a unit went OK, their second year might be pretty much the same.” (3rd, 8-8) I’d say going .500 is the definition of “OK”.  They almost made the playoffs, falling just short.
  3. Jets “I don’t think these guys know what they’re doing, not at all.” (2nd, 8-8) It was an up & down year for Rex Ryan & Geno Smith, and often they really did seem to have no idea what was going on.
  4. Bills – “New everything, and it’ll probably take a little time.” (4th, 6-10) The Bills showed a little promise and things might have gone better had E.J. Manuel stayed healthy, but they’ve got some reason to be hopeful for next year.
AFC North
  1. Bengals – “The door is open for Cinci, and Dalton could make strides this year.” (1st, 11-5) The division was the Bengals’ to lose all year and they held on to take it.  Unfortunately Dalton can’t seem to win when the game really matters.
  2. Ravens – “Their old defense is gone, but some say their new one is better.  We’ll see.” (3rd, 8-8) Their D was not better and their offense sputtered more often than not.  A mediocre and relatively boring team.
  3. Steelers – “Feels like they’re stuck in a funk.  A good team, but not scary.” (2nd, 8-8) Exactly right, a fine team that isn’t really a contender any more.  Not sure what they answer is but they had better change something.
  4. Browns – “Oh Brownies, how pathetic you are.  It’s almost sad.  Almost.” (4th, 4-12) Predicting that the Browns would be sad is no huge stretch.  They’re just an awful franchise that has literally no hope whatsoever.
AFC South
  1. Texans – “A tough team already, and then you add in Ed Reed.” (4th, 2-14) Wow, talk about wrong.  My only consolation is that everyone thought just I like did and no one saw them as having the first pick in next years’ Draft.
  2. Colts – “Luck could face a sophomore slump, especially with a new OC.” (1st, 11-5) I was pretty off the mark with Luck, but he played in a very weak division and never blew my mind.
  3. Titans – “Jake Locker better show what he can do soon before his time runs out.” (2nd, 7-9) Well the HC’s time ran out and I don’t see Locker lasting long under a new regime.
  4. Jaguars – “An entirely new staff and bad QBs.  Not a good combination.” (3rd, 4-12) The Jags were as bad as expected.  If they could just find a QB they’d have a glimmer of hope for 2014.  Tebow anyone?
AFC West
  1. Broncos – “Denver will ride Peyton Manning all the way to the Super Bowl.” (1st, 13-3) Boom.  Peyton set QB records, the Broncos were the best offense in history, and they’re in the Super Bowl.  Great season.
  2. Chiefs – “A new regime has taken over and I see them improving quickly.” (2nd, 11-5) They did indeed improve.  Andy Reid, Alex Smith, and a solid D made them a tough team to beat.
  3. Chargers – “I’m so tired of Phillip Rivers.  He’s not a winner, and so SD won’t be either.” (3rd, 9-7) Rivers actually had a good year, snuck into the playoffs, and beat the Bengals.  Not bad.
  4. Raiders – “A complete roster overhaul won’t make them contenders.” (4th, 4-12) The Raiders were a throw-away team and didn’t scare anyone.  They have a bad coach & a bad QB; a killer combination.
NFC East
  1. Cowboys – “The pressure is on and I think Romo and the ‘Boys respond.” (2nd, 8-8) Romo did just fine, it was the defense that was the problem.  They allowed so many points that the offense couldn’t keep up and in the end they were a mediocre team.
  2. Giants – “The G-men are always contenders, and this division is always tight.” (3rd, 7-9) Yes they did end up in a tight division, but no they weren’t truly contenders.  They lost too many games early and could never rebound.
  3. Redskins – “I doubted RG3 last year and was mostly wrong, but I’m not sure he makes it through the season healthy.” (4th, 3-13) RG3 didn’t even make it through the season as the starter.  What a horrible year for the ‘Skins.  Goodbye Shannahan.
  4. Eagles – “An all new staff must fix all the problems.  Should take more than one offseason.” (1st, 10-6) They won the division and their offense was scary at times, but the Eagles were never a great team and got booted right away in the playoffs.
NFC North
  1. Packers – “As long as Rodgers is the QB, the Pack will be a Super Bowl contender.” (1st, 8-7-1) Rodgers’ injury almost derailed the Pack, but luckily the rest of the division decided they would all play bad football too.
  2. Bears – “Brand new staff should give Cutler a chance to be a true gunslinger.” (2nd, 8-8) Cutler stepped up his game this year, when he wasn’t hurt.  The Bears had their chances, but their defense was just dreadful.
  3. Lions – “Detroit can’t be as bad as they were last year again, can they?” (3rd, 7-9) Well no they weren’t, but they also weren’t great.  Their HC got fired because of their lack of focus and discipline.  Good move, if you ask me.
  4. Vikings – “AP is a beast, but I have exactly zero faith in Christian Ponder.” (4th, 5-10-1) Absolutely no one had faith in Ponder this year, least of all the Vikings.  A QB carousal and and overall bad team eventually led to a new HC.
NFC South

  1. Saints – “Coach Payton is back from his suspension and NO is back as the frontrunner.” (2nd, 11-5) The Saints were scary good, especially at home.  But the division went to a team I didn’t see coming and NO fizzled in the playoffs.
  2. Falcons – “Hotlanta should be just as fiery on offense and make the playoffs.” (3rd, 4-12) I don’t feel bad for getting this one wrong, the Falcons were just devastated by injuries and lost all chance very early on.
  3. Buccaneers – “I like their chances this year, but it’s a tough division if NO is back to form.” (4th, 4-12) The Bucs weren’t as awful as their record shows, but they still got a new HC and will have to start from scratch.
  4. Panthers – “I’m just not a big Cam fan.  He’s got a new OC, could take a step back.” (1st, 12-4) This was my biggest misread.  Cam was great, the Carolina D was fantastic, they were hard to beat at home, and had a great year.

NFC West

  1. Seahawks – “I don’t see Russell Wilson taking a big step back, so watch out.” (1st, 13-3) Watch out indeed.  Best team in the NFC, best D in the league, and now they’re in the Super Bowl.
  2. 49ers – “I think Kaepernick does regress and the Niners suffer from the hangover.” (2nd, 12-4) Kaep did have a rough time at the beginning, but his running game and SF’s defense came through in a big way, taking them to the NFC title game.
  3. Cardinals – “They made a ton of moves, brand new team really.” (3rd, 10-6) Tough division, but actually a really good year for Carson Palmer and the Cards.
  4. Rams – “I’ve lost faith in Sam Bradford, and you’ve got to imagine STL will too.” (4th, 7-9) They’ve got to be reconsidering Bradford in St. Louis, he’s just not the guy.
Most improved teams: Chiefs, Saints, Cowboys. (Chiefs, Saints, Panthers)
Least successful teams: Browns, Jaguars, Panthers. (Browns, Jaguars, Texans)
Wild Cards: Ravens, Colts, Bears, Falcons. (Chiefs, Chargers, Saints, 49ers)
Super Bowl: Broncos vs Seahawks. (Broncos vs. Seahawks)

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Movie Trailer – Someone Marry Barry

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Rob Pearlstein
Starring: Tyler Labine, Lucy Punch, Damon Wayans Jr.
Release: February 7th, 2014

This is like American Pie for adults.  But the reason I liked American Pie was because I was fifteen.  Now at thirty I can’t imagine watching this movie.  I don’t mind a little dumb humor or a few fart jokes, but a whole film based entirely on them?  No thank you.


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Movie Review – The Wolf of Wall Street

Category : Movie Review

Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie

Year: 2013

I’m one of those annoying people who think that Inside Llewyn Davis is the best film of 2013.  I love the Coen Brothers’ style, they delivered yet again, the film is near perfect, and I left the theatre thinking that I had seen an Oscar winner.  Well, the Academy though differently.  Not only was Llewyn not nominated for Best Actor or Best Director, but it was also left off the list for Best Picture.  Now, I knew that not everyone would love the film the way I did, it’s a unique movie done in a unique way, but I was shocked that the Academy didn’t consider it to be one of the top ten films of the year.  That’s no knock on the other films up for Best Picture, they all had their successes with either critics, audiences, or both.  But I would put Llewyn in front of any of the others that I’ve seen, including the mighty Wolf of Wall Street.

The Wolf in question is Jordan Belfort, a lowly stock broker turned millionaire who lit the financial world on fire in the 1980s.  This is a true story based on Belfort’s own book and follows his career, including all its ups and downs.  Belfort began as a Wall St. broker and quickly began dabbling in penny stocks, worthless companies whose shares can be sold for high profits.  His fledgling company, Stratton Oakmont, became a booming empire almost overnight, and the money started rolling in.  But with the fortune came the problems; drugs, crime, money laundering, coverups.  And while fighting off the FBI, Belfort was also fighting his own addictions; his dependency on Quaaludes and other drugs as well as his penchant for prostitutes.  The high life can’t last forever, and as Belfort’s enemies began to creep closer his empire began to crumble out from under his feet, leaving him with only his friends and his wits to count on.

I have literally never seen a film like The Wolf of Wall Street.  It was insane.  Three hours worth of hard drugs, naked women, mountains of cash, meltdowns, cocaine highs, Quaalude lows, motivational speeches, tidal waves, hookers, midgets, booze, cops, and the ridiculous fashions of the 80s.  It was an intense and wild ride though bright colors and spending sprees, made all the more incredible by its mostly being true.  What a crazy life to have led, what a tremendous roller coaster to have been on.  It stressed me out; I kept having to remind myself that I wasn’t the one doing the drugs, that I wasn’t throwing money off the side of a yacht, that these things were real but were happening to someone else.  Seems dramatic, but the story was that in-your-face, that uncontrolled and explosive.  But it was also well done, taken from real life to a book to a screenplay to the theatre without losing any of its energy along the way.

And the credit there goes to Scorsese, who directed another solid film following the rise and fall of power.  It had a major Departed feel, and I’m sure some of that had to do with Leo being in both films.  DiCaprio was excellent; insane and yet human, unpredictable yet a true friend.  I imagine he’ll win Best Actor for this role, although Matthew McConaughey might give him a run for his money.  Incidentally, McConaughey had a nice cameo in this film, as did some others: Jean Dujardin, Jon Favreau, Rob Reiner.  And they all were excellent, as were all the side characters, including Jonah Hill, who was far better in this roll than in Moneyball, though I think he’ll get beat out for the Oscar by Jared Leto.  The film as a whole was very good, but it wasn’t amazing.  The acting was strong, the plot was cool, but man was it long & crazy.  It could have been more concise, slightly less manic, bottled up just a little bit.  The beginning was tremendous, hilarious, excellent.  And then it fizzled bit by bit until by the end I was ready for it to be over.  It wasn’t better than Llewyn, not even close.  It wasn’t even better than 12 Years or American Hustle.  It was more on par with Captain Phillips or Dallas Buyers Club; a film that was well-made but not mind-blowing.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes.  Love it?  No.  But it’s worth seeing and fun to watch and you should probably check it out.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – Cesar Chavez: An American Hero

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Diego Luna
Starring: Michael Pena, John Malkovich, Rosario Dawson
Release: March 28th, 2014

Umm, Michael Pena is a bad actor.  Are we just supposed to ignore that because he’s starring in a true story?  I mean, Cesar Chavez is an interesting figure, but I don’t think this is going to be a good movie.  Biographies usually suck; bad pace, bad acting, bad editing.  It’s as if directors get caught up in the emotion and forget that they’re still making a movie, not a tribute film.


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Movie Review – Swinging with the Finkels

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jonathan Newman
Starring: Mandy Moore, Martin Freeman, Jonathan Silverman
Year: 2011

Sometimes you watch a movie with the knowledge that it won’t be any good.  That might seem close-minded, but come on, sometimes you can just tell.  I felt that way about this film from the get-go, but I kinda wanted to see it anyway.  I mean, who isn’t intrigued by the idea of Mandy Moore in a romantic comedy about swingers?  She’s just so goody-goody, so bubble gum, that I wanted to see how she would handle a more adult role.  And, honestly, I thought it might be hot.  But still, I knew Swinging with the Finkels would be a bad film and yes of course it was.  The one or two quick scenes of Mandy Moore making sexual reference weren’t enough to mask a horrible plot, terrible acting, and an overall bad movie.
The Finkels are a married couple who’ve gone dry.  They don’t have kids, they both have busy careers, and they just don’t have a passion for each other anymore.  It looks like things are headed towards a breakup, when Ellie Finkel has a brilliant idea; swinging.  Maybe what the pair need is some spice, a little glimpse over the fence to see if the grass is greener.  At first Alvin Finkel doesn’t know what to think about his wife proposing that he sleep with another woman, but he’s willing to take one for the team and give it a try.  Of course, it isn’t as simple as that, and both Ellie & Alvin find that their happiness isn’t that easily saved, that a good marriage takes hard work.
This movie is disappointing.  I mean, I knew it wasn’t going to be great, but it didn’t even end up being about swinging, or even sex for that matter.  It started out a little humorous, a little adult, but quickly became just another stupid comedy that turned into a lesson on life.  It was never very funny, no one actually made me laugh the entire time I don’t think.  And the acting was awful, just awful, from Mandy Moore to Martin Freeman, Jonathan Silverman to Jerry Stiller.  The only memorable part of the whole film was when Moore masturbated with a cucumber.  It was done more silly than sexy, but it was surprising to say the least.  Other than that, the movie was a big dull dud that seemed a cheap knockoff of better films, like When Harry Met Sally.  Now there’s a good romantic comedy; go watch that one instead.

My rating: ✰ ✰