Monthly Archives: June 2014

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Movie Trailer – Are You Here

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Matthew Weiner
Starring: Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler
Release: August 22nd, 2014

I’m gonna chalk this one up to a very badly made trailer.  I just don’t believe it’ll be as crappy as it’s been made to look.  Owen Wilson has real talent.  I know he doesn’t always show it, but it’s there.  And I think the same can be said about Zach Galifianakis, if not Amy Poehler.  I know she’s kinda funny, but that doesn’t mean she’s a great actor.  Anyway, I’d be willing to give this film a shot; I think it could surprise us.


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Movie Review – Jaws

Category : Movie Review

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
Year: 1975

Not every classic lives up to its fame decades after its release.  Maybe the film was great in its era but loses something over time.  Or maybe years of hype lead you to expect perfection when it’s not even close.  I’ve seen Jaws a few times in my life and I can say this with certainty; it is as good as advertised.  It’s not stuck in the 70s, it’s not lost in translation, it’s not overrated.  It is a phenomenal film that is as close to directing perfection as you’re likely to see.  Don’t brush it aside as just another classic film that’s probably not as good as people say.  And also don’t write it off as a horror movie that will scare you out of going in the water.  It’s much more than just those things, and the only way you’ll find that out is by watching it, which I would strongly recommend.
The small town of Amity has a big problem.  A young girl and an even younger boy have both become victims of a shark attack, leading the island community to panic about the safety of their waters.  Problem is, it’s 4th of July weekend, and while the chief of police wants to shut down the beaches, the mayor knows that the city will go broke if they don’t have holiday traffic.  So they do remain open and the shark does strike again.  There is no shortage of volunteers to catch the beast, but no one has ever gone up against a shark this size before.  So a trio of would-be hunters set out in a boat to kill the monster; Chief Brody, a veteran fisherman named Quint, and the young scientist Hooper.  The men go out to catch the fish, but may not return with their lives, as the great white shark they’re up against is unlike any that these waters have ever seen.
At its core I guess Jaws is a horror movie, but that’s not giving it enough credit.  It’s so much more than just a film about a man-eating shark and the adventure to kill it.  Creature features are a dime a dozen, but it takes magic to scare audiences this much and to make them unable to forget the haunting feeling that your project delivers.  A lot of that has to do with the music, that classic duh-nuh-duh-nuh that makes you want to draw up your legs and never set them down again.  Spielberg created a mood of terror and helplessness that lasts the entire movie, a certainty of death that’s really hard to shake.  And his actors were more than capable of helping to deliver that feeling.  Roy Scheider is strong as the straight man, Robert Shaw as the detestable ship captain, and Richard Dreyfuss as youth, intelligence, and comedy all rolled into one.  There’s not a piece of this film that isn’t wonderful; even the first half of the film featuring all the silly 70s side characters isn’t awful, it adds to the set up and gets you ready for the second half.  And it’s that latter part that’s genius, that will frighten you, excite you, impress you, and hopefully convince you that this is a classic film that deserves every accolade it’s ever received.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆


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Movie Trailer – Sharknado 2: The Second One

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Anthony C. Ferrante
Starring: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox
Release: July 30th, 2014

If you saw the first one you’ll know what you’re in store for.  Sharknado was probably the worst movie ever made.  Now, that didn’t stop me from enjoying it, and I will definitely be seeing this one as well.  I mean, sharks from the sky?  I can’t not watch that.


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Movie Review – Jersey Boys

Category : Movie Review

Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen
Year: 2014

I grew up on Frankie Valli.  My dad was a big Four Seasons fan and instead of being raised on Def Leppard and Lynard Skynnard like a lot of my Ohio friends, I was raised on 50s & 60s pop: The Four Seasons, The Beach Boys, The Monkees.  This is the music that defined my taste, and even though I did eventually branch out, I never stopped loving the golden oldies that I grew up digging.  So now that a play has been produced using Frankie Valli as a platform, and now that a movie has come from that play I was right there in line to see the show.  I knew I’d enjoy the music; it’s some of the best the genre has ever produced.  But I had my reservations about how the story & the songs would translate to the big screen.  Unfortunately my doubts were all realized, as the music was phenomenal, of course, but the rest of the movie?  Not so much.
It’s a portrait of the American dream; a group of young men who might be a little rough around the edges but who never give up, who always knew they’d leave the old neighborhood behind, make it big despite such small beginnings.  And it all revolves around Frankie.  His voice is one in a million, and when he & his friends finally form a cohesive band, the sky’s the limit.  After a slow start, the band produces hit after hit, becoming the icon that we all know today.  But the road wasn’t always paved smooth.  Like all band mates, there was trouble, conflict, and tension that living on the road together 250 days out of the year didn’t help.  Money became god, family was left behind, and even the mob of the old days reared it’s ugly head.  The boys stuck by each other through thick & thin, keeping the old honor code alive, and finally becoming the Hall of Fame group that America loved so much.

Let me say first off that I have a bias toward biopics.  I just don’t like them, especially when they’re about musicians.  It’s just too easy to hook us in.  Take a true story, play the music that we all love, and get an actor to play the lead singer.  Show what he went through, how his genius shone, and give us a happy ending.  That’s all you really have to do to get most audience members to enjoy your film.  But what work did you do?  The soundtrack was enough, nothing more was needed, it’s excellent music already that you as a filmmaker had nothing to do with.  So to get me to like a biopic there has to be something more, something that stands out, something that goes beyond just pretending to be a famous singer & belting his old tunes.  At first glance it seems like Jersey Boys brings that extra trick, bringing the stage to the screen, portraying the group from a slightly unusual angle.  But sadly no, it’s not really new at all, it’s just more of the same.
Yes it’s a Broadway musical, but it still sticks to the same tired biopic timeline, complete with tragedies, high points, addictions, money problems, misguided fame.  I know it’s a true story, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like just another attempt to win audiences over with good music badly done.  I tried to be as forgiving as possible, knowing my bias and knowing that this was basically a play not a film, but I couldn’t help myself; it wasn’t a well-made movie.  These actors aren’t film guys, they’re not used to this, it isn’t their thing.  That showed too clearly and I couldn’t forgive them their lack of acting chops.  And on top of that, JLY has a good copycat voice, he kinda sounds like Frankie, but he is nowhere near as great.  What Frankie did was wow us with a voice that should have been annoying but never was.  JLY annoyed me plenty, never impressing me with his instrument, always sounding like a lounge singer trying to pass as famous.  I’m sure the play is better, I’m sure it comes across better in that medium, and I assume the jokes & dramatic moments all feel a little more believable.  It just didn’t work on film, although a lot of the older crowd where I watched enjoyed what I found to be stereotypical, recycled, and slightly juvenile humor.  So the music is excellent if you like Frankie Valli, the movie feels like a play, and it’s not a complete flop by any means.  But judged as a film, it’s full of mediocre talent, amateur filmmaking, and uneven performances.  If you grew up loving these songs and you don’t have extremely high standards, then by all means enjoy yourself.  Otherwise, this one’s not for you.

My rating: ☆ ☆


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Movie Trailer – School Dance

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Nick Cannon
Starring: Bobb’e J. Thompson, Luenell, Mike Epps
Release: July 2nd, 2014

Worst movie ever.


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Movie Review – Out of the Furnace

Category : Movie Review

Director: Scott Cooper
Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson
Sam Shepard, Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker
Year: 2013

There are a select few names that get my attention immediately, names that I might watch in a film even if every sign pointed to disaster.  Tom Hanks, Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Daniel Day-Lewis; actors that I respect enough to trust with almost anything.  Christian Bale is right up there on that level.  He’s a proven talent who brings something new to every role, who can get me into a theatre with nothing more than a mention.  Now, let’s be honest, he’s had his fair share of clunkers.  Public Enemies, Terminator Salvation, Reign of Fire; all films that failed, at least in my mind.  But it really doesn’t matter, he still draws me in, because I know he’ll produce another American Hustle, The Fighter, or American Psycho.  Luckily, Out of the Furnace is in the latter category, a film that succeeded on every level and is one of Bale’s best, if more quiet, performances to date.
It’s a tale of two brothers, as classic as the idea of kinship and revenge.  Russell & Rodney Baze may be related, but they live quite different lives.  Russell the hard-working, reserved older brother, Rodney the impetuous, troublesome younger.  Russell has worked at the town mill all his adult life, just as his father did before him.  Rodney joined the army but never really escaped, finding himself in debt and in over his head more often than not.  But it’s Russell who makes the big mistake, drinking & driving & spending time locked away.  When he gets out, Rodney has sunk deeper into an underworld of gambling, bare-knuckle boxing, dirty money, and dangerous people.  But the two are brothers and that bond can’t be severed.  So when Rodney get’s into the biggest trouble of his life, his family is right there at his back, willing to pay any price for revenge, restitution, and the balance of honor.
Of course Christian Bale is excellent in this film, let’s just get that out of the way now.  He plays Russell with a silent strength, with a deep rumble that you can feel just beneath the surface.  It’s one of the more understated roles I’ve ever seen him play, and that sort of control over your talent is something not often seen.  It’s not the most dramatic or impressive performance perhaps, but every action and every expression speak volumes, creating a mood that I just loved.  I appreciate very much when a director lets the film do it’s own talking, when every emotion doesn’t have to be spelled out, when I’m allowed to find my own way through the story.  Out of the Furnace exhibited this kind of restraint, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I can’t fail to mention the side actors, as they did an incredible job as well.  Affleck & Harrelson especially, two characters who were excellently cast and performed perfectly.  This is a film that I would have rated five stars had there been anything to love, but it just wasn’t that kind of movie.  It was dark, quiet, laden, and allowed its actors to tell its story in a way that was great to see.  Hard to love perhaps, but with a quality that’s impossible to deny.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆


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Movie Trailer – Very Good Girls

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Naomi Foner
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Boyd Holbrook
Release: June 24th, 2014

Oh man, and I had high hopes for this one.  Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, a coming-of-age drama.  Problem is, they’re both in their twenties and this movie looks like it was made by a 13-year-old.  Sorry, Naomi Foner, but your directorial debut might be your last; this looks awful.


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Book Review – The Phantom Tollbooth

Category : Book Review

Author: Norton Juster
Year: 1961

When I was young, my sister & I would watch the movie version of this novel as often as we could.  We’d borrow the VHS from the library, keep it for a week or two, and have a ball.  It was a strange film, filled with 70s psychedelia, hand-drawn animation, and characters that made little to no sense.  There were greater points being made than my young mind could wrap around, but I enjoyed the story nonetheless.  Now, as an adult reading to my children, I appreciated the plot on another level, understanding more of the intricacies than I did the first time around.  It was nice to read the actual text after all these years, and my kids had fun with the whimsical story, the colorful characters, and the weirdness that is The Phantom Tollbooth.
Milo is a pretty boring boy.  He doesn’t love anything, can’t get up the energy to get excited about anything, and wonders what the point is of doing literally anything.  His world consists of the daily activities he must do just to live, nothing else, with no room to actually turn his head to notice anything that could potentially be interesting.  Until, one day, Milo receives a large package.  It’s addressed to him, although it’s not his birthday, and when he opens it he discoverers a very odd present.  Inside is a tiny tollbooth, complete with a small car and change to pay your way.  When Milo gets in the car and drives through, he finds himself transported to a strange world, one in which nothing is as it seems.  A dog who functions as a clock, a spelling bee who buzzes words, a doctor of sound, a conductor who orchestrates sunrises, a king who mines numbers from caves; the list of extraordinary characters goes on & on.  Milo must try to make sense of it all and rescue the princesses of rhyme & reason if he is to put this chaotic land back in order and get himself back to a life that might not be so boring anymore.
It’s quite a trippy ride, an adventure akin to Alice in Wonderland.  There are a lot of random oddities, nonsensical conversations, and puns galore.  It makes only a little sense, but then that’s not really the point.  As a kid I enjoyed the funny & wild story, but as an adult I enjoyed it for other reasons.  Milo’s journey is one through academia, visiting Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, the Valley of Sound, the Mountains of Ignorance, the Doldrums.  The land is presented as an example of what knowledge can do, what one can learn if any effort is made, what mistakes one can make if wearing blinders through a colorful world.  In the story, Rhyme & Reason being gone has turned the world upside down, so things are a little confused, but that only aides in making the lessons of the book stand out; knowledge over ignorance, the importance of balance, exposure to different studies.  It’s an interesting book from an adult’s perspective, an enjoyable one from a child’s.  But either way, a fun read, a good story, and a fascinating viewpoint.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆


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Movie Trailer – The Green Inferno

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Eli Roth
Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Kirby Bliss Blanton
Release: September 5th, 2014

Part of me really wants to know what’s going on in this movie, part of me really, really doesn’t.  I’m sure it’d give me nightmares to see just a couple actual scenes, so I should be thanking whoever pieced this trailer together and didn’t terrorize my mind.  But there’s still that other part, and I still kinda wanna know.  Kinda.


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DVD Review – Mischief Night

Category : DVD Review

Director: Travis Baker
Starring: Brooke Anne Smith, Marc Valera, Malcolm McDowell
Year: 2014

It’s not every day that you get a twisted take on a classic.  When I sat down to watch this movie I never expected to see anything but another cookie-cutter slasher, just one more Halloween killer-on-the-loose film.  Well technically it’s the night before Halloween, not the actual holiday, so maybe that’s how they got away with being different.  Because different it was, an original take on a standard set up; not something you see everyday.  Especially out of this genre, where more money is spent on fake heads than on quality actors, much to my continued dismay.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bloodbath, but I also love when there’s enough talent behind a character to keep me from wanting to reach into the screen and throttle them.  Thankfully Mischief Night was a surprisingly interesting film, one that took the old premise, mixed it up a bit, and left me pretty satisfied.

The Movie

It’s the night before Halloween, Mischief Night, an evening made for tricks, pranks, thrills, and danger.  Teenager Kaylie is stuck babysitting, filling in for a friend who may or may not be sick.  It’s not that she minds overly much; the baby is behaving well, the house it full of free booze, and what else would she be doing anyway.  Not talking to Graham, that’s for sure, the boy who holds her heart though he doesn’t even know it.  Graham might be hooking up with Daphne anyway, the sick friend, so what’s it to Kaylie if she’s working while they’re out sucking face.  Other than a strange old guy going around warning people to lock their doors the night is pretty quiet, and Kaylie settles in to drink away her problems.
But here’s where things start to get interesting.  Kaylie notices a figure outside, a masked man who is assuredly up to no good.  Phone calls to Daphne produce nothing, locking the doors isn’t working, and it’s almost a foregone conclusion that, whoever this guy is, he is getting in and killing whoever he wants.  Seems like the classic babysitter-gets-attacked-by-a-psycho story.  Not so much.  Because yes he gets in, and yes he’s a sociopath, but things don’t go as planned.  Kaylie isn’t the goody goody he expected, he’s not the cold blooded killer he appears, and the night’s events aren’t going to follow the order that you’ve seen a thousand times before.

I guess that’s what makes Mischief Night work; it doesn’t stick to the standard timeline or parade the typical events across the screen like you’ve seen done a thousand times.  It changes what you predict will happen, and that makes it interesting.  It’s a fresh take on a classic story, a new & strange way to look at the genre, and that’s always nice.  Had it gone the opposite way I think it could have worked as well, if it had become a spoof or a homage, following the typical events down to the letter.  That idea has been successful, and really I thought that’s where this one was heading, so I was even more surprised when it went in a new direction.  Pleasantly surprised though; apparently I was ready for a little variety in my slasher film.  Well this movie delivered.
Not to say that it was incredible.  I liked the plot, liked the original direction they took it, and enjoyed that it was something a little unexpected.  But it was still a low budget slasher movie, it still had the fake heads, the butcher knives, the hot young things.  Which, I guess could be to its credit if that’s what you were looking for.  They definitely kept a lot of old school ideas in play, sticking to the common themes, but adding in those new ideas that ending up being why I liked the film.  But again, it still wasn’t amazing.  The acting was OK, Smith & Valera both doing a commendable job with what they were given, Malcolm McDowell producing a nice cameo that kinda stole the show.  There was a little blood, a little sex, nothing too spectacular, nothing that horror aficionados would really be impressed by.  In the end the new take on the old concept was the best part of the project, with the pieces being fairly throwaway, culminating in a movie that was enjoyable but not wonderful.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 16×9 Widescreen the video is pretty great.  The film was shot using a Red One MX camera with Red Pro Prime lenses.  The picture quality is really nice, with a clear, clean image and good color balance.  The majority of the movie was shot at night in a dimly lit house, so the visuals aren’t amazing but at least the picture is there to support a few nice shots when called upon.
Audio – On the disc you have the choice between English 5.1 Dolby Digital and English 2.0 Dolby Digital.  There are also Spanish or English SDH subtitles.  The audio quality was fine, nothing spectacular, with a good sound balance.  The film had a lot of personal dialogue, it was well produced, and the sound was never really an issue.
Extras – There are four trailers on the DVD: You’re Next, Texas Chainsaw, the Saw series, and Children of Sorrow.

Final Thoughts

Rent ItMischief Night was a fun, quick, watchable film that took an old concept and freshened it up a bit.  The acting, direction, and budget were all still a little suspect, but at least they tried to do something different and succeeded in getting my attention.  It’s a movie that fans of the genre should enjoy, if only because of the twist, and perhaps despite the lack of gore & nudity.  The video was really nice, the audio fine, but there weren’t many extras on the disc.  All in all, an enjoyable horror movie, nothing spectacular, but a refreshing take on an overused plot.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ – Replay