Monthly Archives: February 2014

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Movie Trailer – Walk of Shame

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Steven Brill
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden
Release: April 25th, 2014

Ma’am, no ma’am.  And no thank you.  Brill directed Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds, Without a Paddle, and Drillbit Taylor.  Those movies combined with this trailer make me run screaming in the opposite direction.


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Movie Review – The Monuments Men

Category : Movie Review

Director: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett
Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin
Year: 2014

I guess it was just too good to be true.  When I first saw the trailer for The Monuments Men I was sure it would be a home run.  How could it fail, right?  One of the best cast lists I’ve ever seen, an incredibly captivating setting, a little humor to lighten the heavy mood.  The film had Oscar written all over it, until people starting seeing it.  Then the wide release was pushed back, the buzz surrounding the project started sounding more like boos, and every trailer I saw for it, other than the initial teaser, make the movie look worse and worse.  But I was already pot-committed, already ready to forgive a few flaws because I really wanted to like it.  And so I saw it, saw for myself that all the criticism was dead on, and that this unsinkable ship sank.
World War II is almost over, Hitler is nearly beat.  The Allies are approaching Berlin from every direction; the Russians from the East, the Brits from the South, the Americans from the West.  And while victory is nearly guaranteed, there’s a great threat that is only now gaining attention.  During the War, the Germans had been stealing the art of every country they conquered, taking for their own the very core of the culture of these fallen nations.  And so now, with defeat looming, Hitler will destroy everything he can’t have for himself.  Enter the Monuments Men, a group of artists & scholars who have been tasked with stealing back the stolen art, finding the German treasure troves, and saving the artistic history of Europe from complete annihilation.

It shouldn’t have been possible for this film to be bad, and yet it was.  With a stellar cast such as this, a dud should have been impossible, and yet they figured out a way to make it happen.  Clooney, Damon, Blanchett, and all the side characters fell completely flat, failing to make any sort of mark or convince audiences of their believability even for a moment.  The roles were never developed, never fostered or grounded.  We were left floating from one character’s storyline to the next, never connecting with one individual piece of the greater puzzle.  The whole film was too disjointed, too fragmented, having too many plots going in too many directions.  It left me feeling muddled and disappointed, wishing that I had seen the tight film that I had expected, the acting clinic that should have been put on.  But the film left no room for great acting; too much was crammed into a small space and absolutely nothing shone.
Should we blame George Clooney for the failings of the film?  Perhaps.  After all, it’s not like he’s an A-class director; he’s done a few things but nothing brilliant.  I think he may have bitten off more than he could chew; WWII, Jews, Hitler, art, love, religion, redemption.  It would have been a tough story to convey for any director and perhaps he simply wasn’t up to the task.  At times the film felt like a copy of The Great Escape, a throwback to the old style of war dramas that incorporated characters with specific jobs, comedy, theme songs.  But where those old movies succeeded, this one flopped.  It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t clever, the music was awful, and at times I felt pandered to.  It was like a war movie made for people who don’t like war movies, or at least can’t understand them.  Everything was spelled out, from the plot to the emotions, and I never felt challenged, only talked down to.  That’s not a great way to feel leaving the theatre, like you just watched a history lesson designed for middle-schoolers.  And that’s not the way I expected this film to come off, at least not until all the bad press, and by then I had already decided to give it a chance.  I’m not bitter that it didn’t come out the way I had originally assumed it would; how’s the saying go?  I’m not mad I’m just disappointed.

My rating: ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – The Two Faces of January

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Hossein Amini
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst
Release: May 16th, 2014

I have some major concerns about this one.  First off, all these guys can act, even Dunst who I don’t really like.  But from just the small amount we see here I start to worry that none of them will be able to pull off the over-dramatic/espionage/expatriate thriller.  And secondly, that genre of movie usually isn’t very good anyway.  So I’m not feeling too great about this one.


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Sports – 2014 MLB Predictions

Category : Sports

With free agency over, spring training starting, and no one having any real idea how any of the clubs will actually perform, I think it’s time to make some picks.  So here they are, my 2014 MLB Way Too Early Predictions:
 
AL East 
  1. Red Sox – Why couldn’t they do it again? Added Pierzynski. Lost Ellsbury.
  2. Yankees – Added Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann, & Roberts. Lost Cano & Grandy.
  3. Rays – No longer a surprising team. Added Balfour, Bell, & Hanigan.
  4. Orioles – Their weak spot is their pitching. Added Jimenez. Lost Roberts.
  5. Blue Jays – Shouldn’t be much improved. Added Navarro. Lost Arencibia.
AL Central
  1. Tigers – Should be great. Added Kinsler & Nathan. Lost Fielder & Peralta.
  2. Indians – Francona! Added Murphy & Axford. Lost Perez & Jimenez.
  3. Royals – Nice pitching staff, solid team. Added Infante & Aoki.
  4. White Sox – A team with zero punch. Added Eaton. Lost Reed.
  5. Twins – Seems like a brand new bad team, other than Mauer.
AL West
  1. Rangers – Changing. Added Fielder, Choo. Lost Pierzynski, Kinsler, Murphy.
  2. Athletics – Won’t repeat last year. Added Jim Johnson. Lost Suzuki.
  3. Angels – Could win a lot of games. Added Freese & Ibanez. Lost Trumbo.
  4. Mariners – Could make noise. Added Morrison, Cano, Hart, & Rodney.
  5. Astros – Should be just plain awful again. Added Dexter Fowler.
NL East
  1. Braves – Return an extremely solid lineup. Lost McCann & Hudson.
  2. Phillies – No reason they shouldn’t be contenders. Added Burnett. Lost Halladay.
  3. Nationals – Not much changing here, should be good but not great.
  4. Mets – Losing Matt Harvey really hurts. Added Granderson & Colon.
  5. Marlins – Trying at least. Added Jones, McGehee, Furcal, & Salty.
NL Central
  1. Cardinals – Ready for a run. Added Peralta & Bourjos. Lost Beltran & Freese.
  2. Reds – Great rotation, nice lineup, back from injuries. Lost Choo & Arroyo.
  3. Pirates – Strong team, but should digress just a little bit. Lost Jones.
  4. Brewers – Not a horrible team, but stagnant. Added Garza. Lost Hart.
  5. Cubs – No great talent at any position and won’t make much noise.
NL West
  1. Dodgers – They have so many incredible players they have to sit on the bench.
  2. Giants – Should be much improved. Added Morse & Hudson.
  3. Diamondbacks – Good, not special. Added Trumbo, Arroyo, & Reed. Lost Eaton.
  4. Rockies – So-so pitching. Added Stubbs & Morneau. Lost Dexter Fowler.
  5. Padres – Weak rotation and poor lineup. Very little support or energy.  
Most improved teams: Mariners, Phillies, Giants.
Least successful teams: Astros, Twins, Cubs.
World Series: Red Sox vs Dodgers.

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Movie Trailer – Alan Partridge

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Declan Lowney
Starring: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney
Release: February 27th, 2014

This comedy looks right up my alley.  Brits, innuendos, Steve Coogan; I’m in.


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Movie Review – 300

Category : Movie Review

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham
Year: 2006

I’ve never been a fan of “graphic novels”.  I think they’re the cheap middle ground between novels & films, lacking both the depth of a good book and the vision of a good movie.  If I wanted to read the story I’d want more than word blurbs, and if I wanted to see the story I’d want more than still images.  So I see comic books as a waste of time, but they do spawn some very interesting characters, I’ll give them that.  Superman, Spiderman, Batman, just to name a few super heroes; great figures with cool back stories that have led to a lot of movies, some excellent some awful.  But here’s something a little bit different, which makes a big different to me.  300 is a graphic novel about a historic event, dramatized of course, but brought to life in a very creative way.  And then that story is transferred to the big screen, keeping the artistic elements of the comic in tact but delivering a film that gives you a live action account of an incredibly epic event.
Leonidas is king of Sparta, a militant state of Greece.  The year is 480 B.C. and the greatest empire in all the world in Persian.  The lord of Persia and self-titled god-king is Xerxes, who sees himself as anointed ruler of all the world.  The Spartans are asked to bow down to their new king, along with the rest of Greece, or face annihilation by the largest army the planet has ever known.  The oracle and many leading politicians believe that Sparta should just bend knee, but King Leonidas thinks otherwise.  He leads a band of 300 warriors to meet the Persians on the shores of Greece, at a place called Thermopylae, or the Hot Gates.  There the giant army’s numbers will count for nothing as man will fight against man in a tiny pass through the mountains.  If Leonidas can hold the Gates against Xerxes all of Greece might soon rally to his aid, proving the might of Sparta and the courage of its people.
This film has all the elements to make it great: a “true” story, an artistic approach, and action that will knock your socks off.  I may not like comics, but what Snyder did here was pretty genius.  He took the graphic novel, kept the beautiful colors & images, and transferred that to film.  It’s like watching the pages of the comic come to life, and with history backing the story up it never feels like a wasted effort.  The death, the blood, the soldiers; everything feels slightly fake, but in good way, like you’re watching a series of paintings fly past your eyes.  And that makes the violence more acceptable, less gruesome, because it’s portrayed as a drawing rather than real life.  I wish the acting was as good as the visuals, but sadly it’s just OK with a few moments of crap.  It’s just not strong, nor was the dialogue, so 300 becomes eye candy & awesome, but never amazing.  The movie is history come to life, scene after scene of stunning artwork, and something that is incredibly enjoyable to watch.  It’s kept from being a wonderful film by a lack of strong acting & an overuse of cheesy lines, but that doesn’t stop it from being both entertaining & visually appealing, a wild & bloody ride.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – The Zero Theorem

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Christoph Waltz, Melanie Thierry, David Thewlis
Release: March 14th, 2014

You either love Gilliam films or you hate them.  I happen to love them so I’m excited to watch this movie no matter how strange it is.  Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys; all great ones in my book, but I understand how they might be too weird for some people.  And Christoph Waltz is a genius (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained), so I’m in.


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Movie Review – The Missing

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones, Evan Rachel Wood
Year: 2003

Every once in a while I have a “how’d I miss that?” moment.  I mean, I have a Watchlist of 700+ movies, there are a ton of good ones I know I need to see, there’s just not enough time in a day.  But with The Missing I somehow forgot its existence.  I stumbled across it on Netflix, remembered that I had heard of it, and then wondered why I hadn’t watched it in the eleven years since its release.  After all, the pieces are there.  Ron Howard, a solid director of a lot of good stuff.  Cate Blanchett, perhaps the best actress of the last twenty years.  Tommy Lee Jones, an actor that Lonesome Dove made me love.  And an epic Western setting, putting the film in a genre that’s hard not to enjoy.  Well, some movies prove that random pieces don’t make a perfect puzzle and that there might be a reason why so many people chose to overlook them.
The Gilkesons are a hard-nosed New Mexico family living on their own land, their own wit, and making due.  Maggie is a doctor of sorts, a healer who runs a tight ship at home.  Her daughters, Lilly & Dot, are as different as can be; the elder a proper girl, the younger a tough farmhand.  And then there’s Brake, Maggie’s lover and protector of the bunch.  But the family dynamic changes when one more member comes to town; Maggie’s estranged father Samuel Jones, an Indian by all but birth, a wild & hard man.  He’s not welcome at the farm past one night’s rest, but when tragedy strikes he might be the only one who can help.  Lilly is kidnapped by a group of renegade Army scouts, dangerous men who aim to sell women for a large profit down in Mexico.  The leader of the group is a brujo, or Indian witchdoctor, and he’s not a man who can be defeated easily.  But Maggie, Samuel, and Dot head out on the trail, tracking down the evil men with rescue on their minds.
There were a lot of missed (pun intended) opportunities in this film.  The actors are all strong, but ill-used.  Blanchett, Jones, Even Rachel Wood, Aaron Eckhart, Val Kilmer; I’m not saying that they’re all legendary, but they all have talent and their skills were not well-displayed here.  Blanchett & Jones were one note, while Wood, Eckhart, & Kilmer were barely featured.  Had the movie played upon their strengths I think I would have enjoyed it much more.  As it was, there was too much posse-riding-through-the-canyons, too much voodoo, too many over-dramatic moments, and not enough real grit to really get audiences in the Western spirit.  If you want a similar film better done check out The Searchers, a John Wayne classic that’s at least two stars superior.  It’s not that The Missing was awful, it just failed to grab me and could have been so much stronger, edgier, and more realistic.  I guess there was a reason why I totally forgot about this film; I wish I hadn’t remembered.

My rating: ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – A Million Ways to Die in the West

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson
Release: May 30th, 2014

My first reaction is to laugh and assume that I’ll at least find this movie pretty funny if particularly wonderful.  But then I remember Ted and the fact that Seth MacFarlane is a voice guy, not an actor, and I start getting worried.


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Movie Review – About Time

Category : Movie Review

Director: Richard Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams
Year: 2013

My wife saw this film in the theatre and came home saying that it had changed her life.  To say that I was skeptical would be putting it lightly.  I mean, how could a romantic comedy starring Rachel McAdams be anything more than a chick flick, let alone a life-altering movie?  Even the time travel element didn’t convince me, nor did the fact that most of the actors are British.  Perhaps I should have given it more of a chance, considering Richard Curtis also did Love Actually, a romantic favorite of mine that I watch every Christmas.  But I was still doubtful, even as I sat down to finally watch it.  Turns out the only thing I had to worry about was whether I was prepared to cry in front of my wife, as About Time might not have exactly changed my life but it was one of the most emotionally stirring dramas I have ever seen.
Tim is a gangly, red-headed Englishman who has never been anything but awkward.  He can’t talk to girls, makes frequent bad decisions, and, as his 21st birthday approaches, hasn’t got anything to be proud of except the love of his family.  But his life is about to change forever when his father reveals to him a paternal secret; the men of the family can travel in time.  Of course Tim doesn’t believe him, but when he tries it on for size he soon realizes the he can relive his own life, change the choices that he’s made, and sculpt a wonderful existence out of what has already happened.  It’s not all perfectly easy though, every action has a reaction, but Tim uses his new gift wisely; to fall in love, to help his friends, to enjoy every moment of every day.  But when tragedy strikes, as it’s bound to do, even time travel can’t fix the broken pieces of your life and erase the memories of heartache.  Tim must learn what he can & cannot mend, getting along one day at a time as we all must do.
It would be an understatement to say that this movie affected me.  It got under my skin, it bothered me in a great way, and it did make me take a look at my own life through a different lens.  About Time is a powerful movie with a lot to say.  Love, family, kids, death, sacrifice; they hold nothing back and by the end I felt pretty wrung out.  It was as amazing as Love Actually, if you’re a fan, with a little more of a sad and/or reflective note.  But it was an excellent film, filled with great music, top-notch actors, and a directing style that facilitated the mood perfectly.  To touch on the acting, every single actor was on top of their game.  Domhnall Gleeson was a good storyteller as well as a great character.  Bill Nighy was phenomenal as Tim’s dad.  And Rachel McAdams has never been better, blowing away all her other roles.  In the end the film was about the relationships between the family members, about the idea of living every day with no fear, with appreciation for the details.  It was never really about time travel; that was more a vehicle for the plot, not the focus of the story.  And in the end I cried, I felt it, it got to me.  But its hook doesn’t make it a wonderful film; it did that on its own with real emotion, honest portrayals, and a message that we all need to hear.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰