Monthly Archives: April 2014

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Movie Trailer – Obvious Child

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Gillian Robespierre
Starring: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffman
Release: June 6th, 2014

It’s like a much more Jewish Frances Ha.  I like that it calles itself a subversive rom-com, that both amuses and intrigues me.  I don’t like that this is Robespierre’s first film; that worries me.  And it’s one of Jenny Slate’s only movies too.  Not a good sign, but it could work anyway.


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Movie Review – Oblivion

Category : Movie Review

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough
Year: 2013

I probably hate Tom Cruise less than you do.  I don’t know what it is about the guy, but he’s one of those polarizing actors that you either love or despise.  Maybe it’s his religious oddities, or his marriages, or the fact that he’s small & cocky.  But something about him rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but doesn’t seem to bother me.  I might be forgiving a lot because Top Gun is one of my favorite movies; Maverick can be my wing man any day.  Now, I’m not trying to defend all of Cruise’s movies, because some have been plain awful, but I do tend to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Throw him into a sci-fi movie, which happens to be my favorite genre, and I’m pretty much guaranteed to be on board.  So when Oblivion almost lost even me, it was a pretty sure sign that this film wasn’t much of a winner.  I hung in there though, and was rewarded by a fairly cool post-apocalyptic action movie, one that won’t get much love and probably doesn’t deserve it.
Set a few decades into the future, Oblivion tells the story of a post-war Earth.  Years ago the Moon was attacked and destroyed by a group of aliens called Scavengers, going from planet to planet to gain valuable resources.  Great battles were fought, nuclear weapons were used, and humanity won the war against the Scav.  But the planet was destroyed, left inhospitable to mankind, and so they left in a mass-migration.  Only a few stay behind to monitor and repair a small robot army that protect the  giant power generators necessary to sustain life in space.  Jack & Victoria are a team of workers, living & functioning as a unit to complete their job and join the others humans in space.  But when Jack begins to have strange memories of life on Earth, and when a woman from these memories suddenly arrives in a crashed spacecraft, he begins to question just what his true occupation is and just what exactly happened to a planet that was once a home.
This film is a weird mesh of many others.  Top Gun, After Earth, The Matrix, Moon; borrowing themes, shots, and plot lines from so many movies that there is no way to think of it as an original story.  It was heavily laced with WTF moments, glaring goofs, silly twists, and bad dialogue; two hours of plot held together by a thread.  Tom Cruise held his own, only asked to be an ignorant participant, not a knowledgeable figure, so that worked.  But Olga Kurylenko in a smaller role was so tremendously bad that I had to look away from the screen a few times.  It was on track to be a horrible, horrible movie by the middle of the story, but it was saved by the action at both ends, if just barely.  The beginning was really cool, a nice setup with interesting technology.  And the end was intense, with a lot of loose ends coming together.  But taken as a whole, I think you’d better be a sci-fi buff and/or a Tom Cruise fanatic to enjoy this movie, because there are many more negatives to point to than positives.  I was entertained despite a lot, and the end made up for a good bit of the muddle in the middle, but Oblivion remains a film that is very far away from great.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – Whitewash

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
Starring: Thomas Haden Church, Marc Labreche, Anie Pascale
Release: May 2nd, 2014

Looks thrilling and dark, I can dig it.  And I actually like THC; ever since Sideways he’s been doing some good stuff.  But will it end up being too much like Fargo, just without the quirky humor?  I guess we’ll see, but I can picture this turning out well.


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Movie Review – The Pirate Fairy

Category : Movie Review

Director: Peggy Holmes
Starring: Mae Whitman, Christina Hendricks, Tom Hiddleston
Year: 2014

Who knew the Disney Fairies would be such a hit?  Of course, Peter Pan has always been popular; as a play, a book, a musical, many movies, and ultimately a franchise.  Disney alone has done a ton with this classic story, from TV shows to movie spinoffs.  But none of their projects have succeeded quite as well as the Pixie Hollow Fairies.  It’s not just Tinker Bell that captures audiences, it’s the entire world that Disney has created.  Regions, climates, talents, jobs, leaders; Pixie Hollow is a self-contained fantasy world where anything can happen.  So it’s not hard to understand why one movie was a success; what surprises me is just how big the idea became, just how many movies they were able to make out of one character.  Tinker Bell (2008), The Lost Treasure (2009), The Great Fairy Rescue (2010), Secret of the Wings (2012), and now The Pirate Fairy (2014).  A lot of movies for a short period of time.  And as a father of a 4-year-old girl, I’ve seen them all.
This is the first Fairy movie that isn’t centered completely on Tinker Bell.  It introduces us to a brand new fairy with a little-discussed talent.  Zarina is a dust-talent fairy, working at the fairy-dust mill.  The magical dust is essential to fairy flight & daily life, so it’s an important job.  But Zarina is not your most responsible worker.  She dreams of new ways that fairy-dust could be used, enhanced, improved.  But when her experiments go a bit too far, she’s banished from her occupation.  Fast forward in time to when Zarina returns to Pixie Hollow, steals the powerful blue fairy-dust, and leaves the island of Neverland.  Her former friends, including Tinker Bell,  chase after her, attempting to learn the truth, rescue Zarina, and return the dust to where it belongs.  But all is not as it seems and Zarina might not want to be rescued.  She has plans of her own, plans that include a group of devious humans who await her in a ship just off the coast, a pirate crew who will follow her to the ends of the earth and beyond.
I’ve enjoyed every Pixie Hollow Fairy movie I’ve seen so far, with The Great Fairy Rescue being my favorite.  It also features humans, with their frailties and shortcomings, which makes it a bit more than just a fantasy story.  The Pirate Fairy did the same, incorporating our world in some way to make their world seem that much more real.  And it did more than just that, it also tied itself into the original Peter Pan book, gave us hints of the story that we all love.  Pretty ingenious actually, linking this children’s movie series to that classic tale.  Well, it was always linked I guess, Tinker Bell is in the original text after all, but this is the first Fairy movie to join the tales so openly.  And the movie was mostly about Zarina, her quest, her fears, and the men she chose to deal with.  The other fairies were in the background, with Tink stepping up from time to time of course, but I liked that they moved away from the recipe of the other films just a bit.  My whole family and our friends all enjoyed the movie very much; it’s an easy one to get into, to follow, and to be entertained by.  I still love The Great Fairy Rescue, but this one might have just put itself right up there.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – Pioneer

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Erik Skjoldbjaerg
Starring: Aksel Hennie, Wes Bentley, Stephen Lang
Release: May 1st, 2014

I think the director’s name will probably be the coolest thing about this film by the end.  It just doesn’t look that thrilling or that real or that fun to watch, and it’s supposed to be this exciting true life story.  I don’t know, I just didn’t get it and I have my doubts that there’s much to get.


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Movie Review – Tombstone

Category : Movie Review

Director: George P. Cosmatos
Starring: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton
Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, Dana Delany, Jason Priestley
Year: 1993

What I’ve always said about Kevin Costner is that he’s less of an actor and more of a guy who sometimes pops up in movies.  He’ll usually give you the worst performance you’ll see all year, because he doesn’t actually have any viable talent.  But sometimes he’ll stumble into a role, be himself, and it works for some unimaginable reason.  That’s why Field of Dreams is so good.  Not because Costner is good, of course not, but because he’s just a normal guy who likes baseball, just like Ray Kinsella.  And don’t forget the key ingredient that makes the movie more than just a sports film; Ray Liotta.  He brings the magic, Costner brings the steady hand, and the movie works.  The same goes for Kurt Russell in Tombstone.  He’s only a passable actor, but the role of Wyatt Earp seems tailor-made for his skill set, or lack thereof, with Val Kilmer providing the performance that takes the film from simple to stellar.
The famous days of the Wild West are slowly coming to an end, as fashion and order progress steadily across the vast plains and deserts of the great American continent.  Lawmen like Wyatt Earp have cleaned up many a small town, leaving peace behind them, if not in their own lives.  But Wyatt has decided that the time has come to give up his service and take some time for himself.  So he, his two brothers, and all their wives move out to Tombstone, Arizona, where silver has made life easy and money is rolling in.  The great Doc Holliday is also presiding in Tombstone, and the old Earp team gather again not to fight crime, but to get rich and live lavishly.  But their idyllic new life is quickly challenged by a gang of local outlaws, the Cowboys, a mob of men who take & do what they want.  Wyatt doesn’t want to get involved, but he and his brothers can’t resist the call of humanity, leading to the epic battle at the O.K. Corral and the cementing of an American legend.
The story of Tombstone is partially true, based on the rivalry between the Earps and the Clantons, culminating in a series of personal skirmishes and assassinations.  Wyatt Earp may not have been quite the Western hero that stories make him out to be, but that doesn’t stop us from viewing him as one of the most famous gunslinging lawmen of that time.  Russell plays Earp well enough, falling into a character that suits him more than expelling much acting energy.  He, like Costner, is usually just himself, relying on scripts and his costars to carry him through.  And do they ever.  The story is pure cowboy, perfectly action-packed, with the classic lines & mustaches that we’ve all come to love.  The good guys are great, the bad guys are evil; it’s an excellently simple plot that is pure entertainment.  But it’s Val Kilmer who takes this movie to the next level.  His portrayal of Holliday is the best of his career, crafting something beautiful out of a fairly sinister man, forcing us to love this heartless gambler.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime role, one that defines the movie and holds everything together despite the film’s imperfections.  With a partially true story, a time period that American’s can’t help but love, Russell’s solid base, and Kilmer’s spectacular acting, Tombstone finds itself in unexpected company among the best movies of the 90s.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰


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Movie Trailer – Jersey Boys

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Christopher Walken
Release: June 20th, 2014

First, let me say that I love Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  I grew up listening to the group, was raised on them and the Beach Boys decades after they were popular.  And I love Broadway, I’m a former thespian, I know theatre.  But I also know movies and this won’t be a good one.  The main guy’s voice in annoying, which Frankie’s never was somehow.  The little asides are a dumb trick, not needed when you come down from the stage.  And Clint Eastwood directing?  This is not his thing and he’s gonna mess it up.  I’m predicting a crash & burn, despite my love for the subject matter.



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DVD Review – Twogether

Category : DVD Review

Director: Andrew Chiaramonte
Starring: Nick Cassavetes, Brenda Bakke, Jeremy Piven
Year: 1994

Nick Cassavetes is better known as a director of crappy movies.  He’s appeared in his fair share of films and television shows: Mask, Face/Off, The Astronaut’s Wife, Matlock, L.A. Law, Quantum Leap.  And I guess you could call him a 90s guy; that’s when he did his best work and he really hasn’t done much since.  But it’s in the 2000s that he made his mark, albeit in a negative way.  Some of the movies in his directorial repertoire are as follows: John Q, The Notebook, Alpha Dog, and My Sister’s Keeper.  At least three of the four are horrible, and his newest project (The Other Woman) shouldn’t be much better.  So anyway, what we have in Twogether is a future bad director starring in a film alongside an actress who can be found in such movies as Hardbodies 2, Death Spa, and Solar Crisis, and directed by a man in Chiaramonte who would make this his first & only film.  Add in a cheesy title and it sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Except it isn’t, not quite, avoiding catastrophe through some magical, artsy, 90s, nonsensical way that I’m going to find very difficult to explain.

The Movie

The title tells us what we need to know about the plot of the film.  It’s a snapshot of the love between two people and a time in their lives that they will never forget.  John is a struggling artist, a man who believes in freedom of artistic expression.  He lives on the beach in Venice, California, squatting in a tiny house that he can’t usually pay for.  Allison is a rich girl from Bel Air who has as much baggage as one woman can handle, looking for an escape from her family, a mother & father who demean her for being a woman and have never let her be herself.  When the two meet at an art exhibit it’s lust at first sight, and nothing will keep them from running off together; not John’s commitments or Allison’s responsibilities.  They are in for one wild night in Vegas, giving into their bodies and their passions, letting all fear go, feeling free together in a way they haven’t experienced in years.
But reality is about to give the couple a slap in the face.  Apparently they got married while in Vegas, and what happens there actually does matter outside the city limits.  Divorce is easy, but expensive, and John can’t pay his part, despite his incredible talent as a painter.  With the “marriage” behind them, Allison announces that they have another problem; she’s pregnant.  Now they must decide what to do with the baby, if the world is a safe enough place to raise a child in, if they can be parents without being husband and wife.  And their relationship complicates matters even more.  Has their lust turned into love, can they live with each other, can they live without each other?  It’s not easy to be a progressive pair in the 90s, raising a child, changing the world, trying to survive.

First we’d better touch on a point I haven’t mentioned yet.  This film, which came out in 1994, is rated NC-17.  That, of course, means that it’s not suitable for children and will be fairly sexually explicit.  Things have changed in twenty years though.  Take Blue Is the Warmest Color for instance.  It came out in 2013, is rated NC-17 as well, and contains many scenes of full nudity with long sex scenes that leave nothing to the imagination.  Twogether isn’t quite that over-the-top.  Yes, there are a couple of sex scenes, and yes you will see your fair share of breasts, but most of it is done quickly and/or artistically; Titanic has a longer nude scene.  There is some explicit language too, frank talk about orgasms and arousal, so the story is definitely adult in many ways.  But it’s not an erotic movie exactly, it’s not soft-core porn, it’s not a late-night thrill.  It’s just a very expressive film, artistically and sexually, so be prepared to have your boundaries pushed.
Putting that aside, the film as a whole was surprising good.  I didn’t expect much out of what I thought would be a throw-away movie, a cheap use of art for art’s sake, a collection of untalented filmmakers creating a relatively meaningless finale product.  But that’s not how it ended up.  Yes, it was a little over-the-top at times, a little how-can-art-change-the-world, but at its core it was just a love story.  A unique setup perhaps, but just a love story, just an example of how two people can fall for one another even when they shouldn’t, can make it work even when it’s almost not worth it.  It definitely wasn’t a feel-good movie; there were some incredible highs and lows, some moments when you almost wished they would break up just so you could avoid watching the pain.  But that’s to the film’s credit; they created a feeling that had an effect on me, something that I couldn’t avoid even when it was sad and uncomfortable.
And I guess I should thank the lead actors for that, for forcing me to be invested in a story that I never imagined I would like.  The chemistry between John & Allison was real, I felt it, and they convinced me that their passion for each other was something I ought to root for.  Cassavetes was excellent as John, the starving artist.  At first I had my doubts about this tree of a man who only enjoys sex, sleeping, and painting.  But he quickly won be over and got me to understand the depths of his character.  Bakke was slightly less convincing as Allison, the troubled woman who wants everything that has always been denied her.  She was OK, but her emotional scenes were always a little over-dramatic, a bit acting class; she was at her best playing opposite Cassavetes, where their connection could shine.  Somehow they were able to take a film that shouldn’t have worked and hold it together long enough to get me on board, even if I didn’t walk away wowed.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 16:9, the video is fine but not great.  It was shot in the 90s, after all, and looks more like a made-for-TV movie than anything else.  The picture quality is nothing to write home about, but there is never a time that it looks amateur.  You just have to be aware of the time period, accept a little imperfection, because it’s really not that bad.
Audio – The DVD was done in Ultra Stereo.  You have your choice between English Stereo, English 5.1, French Mono, and French 5.1.  There are no options for the hearing impaired.  The sound quality was also fine, not amazing, with a bit of good 90s music thrown in for fun.
Extras – There are a couple options on the disc.  There is an introduction to the film from director Andrew Chiaramonte.  You can choose to watch the film with director’s commentary.  And there are two trailers, both for the film, one in English and one in French.
Final Thoughts
Rent It.  It’s not much of a compliment to say that a film could have been worse, but I really thought it would be, so I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s still a 90s love story set in a world of expressive art & sex, so you’re getting something that isn’t quite the norm, but that’s not always a horrible thing.  The film delivers some messages, sometimes cheesily, but at least it tries, and at least the actors were invested enough in the project to really sell their story, to hook me into believing that their love was both real and powerful.  Twogether is not the best movie you’ll watch, but it makes an impact, and sadly that is not something every film can say.  The video and audio were just OK and there were a few extras on the DVD.  This is a rental, something to watch if you’re intrigued or if you remember it vaguely from twenty years ago.  It’s not great, but its redeeming qualities were just enough to pique my interest and get my partial approval.
✰ ✰ ✰ – Content
✰ ✰ – Video
✰ ✰ – Audio
✰ ✰ ✰ – Extras
✰ ✰ – Replay

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Movie Trailer – Third Person

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Paul Haggis
Starring: Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Kim Basinger
Mila Kunis, James Franco, Maria Bello, Adrien Brody
Release: April 24th, 2014

Paul Haggis wrote both Million Dollar Baby and Crash, which both won Best Picture.  Clint Eastwood directed the former, which I really liked, while Haggis directed the latter, which I thought was just OK.  You can see some of Crash here, the interlocking story lines, all the name actors.  But I feel like this one will be better, less message and more drama.  And I love Liam Neeson.  And Wilde & Kunis are hot.  So hey, I’m in.


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Movie Review – Transcendence

Category : Movie Review

Director: Wally Pfister
Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman
Year: 2014

The first time I saw the trailer I was iffy about Transcendence.  The second time I saw the trailer I was pretty sure it would be bad.  It’s not that the parts that make up the film are awful.  I love sci-fi, and the A.I. storyline is very interesting.  Johnny Depp is an amazing actor, as is Morgan Freeman.  Paul Bettany is always strong, and I was curious to watch Rebecca Hall.  No, the problem wasn’t the actors or the plot or even the director, who would be making his debut.  The thing that concerned me was the flow of the film.  I know it’s just a trailer, but I could already see signs of a disjointed story, of an overworked idea, of great actors left unchallenged and therefor unmotivated.  Johnny Depp has fallen victim to that before, hired for his name alone and not asked to flex his acting muscles.  When that happens to good actors they phone in their performances, which is exactly what happened here.  There’s nothing wrong with the pieces of the puzzle, but the finished project wasn’t put together correctly, creating a film that I’d love to love but can’t even begin to like.
The future of human existence is in the capable hands of three well-known scientists in this dramatic sci-fi thriller.  Will Caster is the leader of his field, creating a super-computer that can almost think for itself.  His wife, Evelyn, is a genius in her own right, focusing on how artificial intelligence could save Earth.  And lastly, their friend Max Waters, a scientist and philosopher who understands the dangers that a self-aware non-human could pose to humanity.  The three are on the verge of a technological breakthrough when Will is shot by a member of a radical terrorist organization bend on destroying his work.  With only weeks to live, he and his team race to upload his thoughts, memories, and brain waves into the super-computer, essentially keeping him alive though his body has died.  But when he begins to ask for more power, for more connections, for total autonomy, Max begins to question just what they have done.  Evelyn is just happy that Will is “alive” and will fight to keep him that way, leading to a struggle that will decide the fate of the planet.

Transcendence was really a movie in three parts.  The first third of the film was everything you’ve already seen in the trailer: the idea of artificial intelligence, Johnny Depp getting shot, his wife unable to let him go, his “spirit” uploaded into a computer.  That part was pretty cool, but we knew it was coming.  The second third of the movie was about the development of Will Caster’s self-aware second self.  This was by far the best forty minutes of the film.  It was really fascinating, the scope of what a computer that powerful could do if we could just produce it, the imagination that went into creating these ideas and possibilities.  But then the last third came and that was all left behind.  There were over-dramatic scenes, nonsensical battles, people chasing each other through the desert, and the story disintegrated into a silly muddle.  Anything that was built earlier was abandoned and the only thing that seemed to matter was CGI, which actually wasn’t even that impressive.
The movie had great actors who were more than capable of saving a dying plot line, they just didn’t do it.  They were only half present, only kind of trying to convince us that they cared.  Johnny Depp was horrible as Will Caster.  I never believed him for a moment and he literally could have played most of his part via webcam.  Morgan Freeman was just there because he draws an audience; he probably drove by the set and filled in just for fun.  Rebecca Hall wasn’t much better, but at least she seemed like she was trying.  And last but definitely best, Paul Bettany was the highlight of the film as the conscientious scientist.  Had he not been in it to at least salvage a couple scenes I’m not sure what would have happened.  As it was, Transcendence was a throw-away film.  It had a neat base and some great actors, but failed to use any of that to its advantage.  Maybe some of the blame goes to Pfister as an amateur, but it’s hard to pin it all on the director when the cast was obviously not giving their all.  A disappointing way to spend two hours and not something I’d recommend.

My rating: ✰ ✰