Monthly Archives: December 2014

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Movie Review – Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Category : Movie Review

Director: Larry Roemer

Starring: Burl Ives, Billie Mae Richards, Paul Soles

Year: 1964

Here’s a little-known fact; Billie Mae Richards, the voice of Rudolph in this classic film, is a woman.  Not only that, but she was 43 when this movie was made.  Yes, the one-year old reindeer in this story was voiced by a middle-aged lady.  Odd, but not unusual for Billie Mae, as she also voiced a boy on the Spider-Man TV series of the late 60s and she was the voice of Tender Heart Bear in the Care Bear TV show and movies.  Oh the world of voice-over people; how unusual it must be.  These days, animated characters are all voiced by pop stars, rappers, and the latest teen sensations, anything to draw in a crowd.  But in the olden times, like the 50s, when people still rode horses to school, the animation industry was completely different, a word of artists & voices, not computers and Kristin Chenoweth.  Anyway, back to Rudolph.  Here is a stop-motion film that will always represent a distinct era, a relic perhaps, but one that’s still entertaining all these years later, and one that I doubt ever goes away.

We’ve all hear the song about Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer; well now it’s come to life.  Sam the Snowman narrates the tale, a story about the worst winter in North Pole history and the little reindeer who saved Christmas.  Rudolph, the son of Donner, was born with an oddity; a red nose.  Not only was is discolored, but it shone, it beeped, and it made him completely different from all the other young reindeer.  Rudolph just wanted to be normal; try out for Santa’s sleigh team, impress some does, make some friends, but his nose had different ideas.  Because he was so unusual, Rudolph decided to go out on his own, but was soon befriended by Hermey, the elf who wanted to be a dentist.  Surviving the wilderness wouldn’t be easy, especially with the Abominable Snow Monster of the North out there somewhere, but with a little luck, and help from a prospector named Yukon Cornelius, the unlikely pair just might make it.  Meanwhile, Rudolph’s family wants to find him and bring him back, as the storm of the century approaches and Christmas becomes a little more doubtful.

It’s more than a classic really, it’s a movie that’s now a holiday icon.  You almost have to watch it around Christmas if you want to be allowed to put up a Christmas tree, as it’s as much a representation of the season as mistletoe.  It’s a story that American children learn as a part of growing up, and a song you can hear on the radio anytime between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.  But this movie fleshes out the legend, brings life to the characters, and adds in new lovable aspects.  The songs are the most impressive part, some written for the movie itself.  Jingle Jingle Jingle, We Are Santa’s Elves, There’s Always Tomorrow, We’re a Couple of Misfits, Silver and Gold, A Holly Jolly Christmas, and of course Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; great songs all, holiday favorites that seem to be prepared to endure for another 50 years.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Trailer – Black or White

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Mike Binder

Starring: Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, Anthony Mackie

Release: January 30th, 2015

Did Kevin Costner become a great actor all of a sudden when I wasn’t watching?  Why does everyone want him in their movies these days?  He’s not good!  He sometimes stumbles into a role that fits that one-note character he developed in the 80s and hasn’t changed since, but I don’t think the grandfather of a mixed race child whom he has to fight against Octavia Spencer for is one of them.


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Movie Review – Wild

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffman

Year: 2014

Reese Witherspoon has never been what you might call a big hitter.  Sure, she’s been around for years and we all feel like we know her, but she’s the ultimate girl-next-door; not seen as a sex symbol but also not seen as this amazing actress.  Perhaps it’s the way she looks, the skinny girl with the pointy chin and the odd way of talking who seems precocious but not exactly hot.  Or perhaps it’s her choice of roles, with movies like Overnight Delivery, Legally Blonde, Sweet Home Alabama, Just Like Heaven, and Four Christmases turning us off from the fact that she has real ability.  And she definitely does, just watch her in something with a little more substance, like Election, American Psycho, Walk the Line, or Mud.  She won an Academy Award for her portrayal of June Carter alongside Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, proving that she’s a tiny tornado of talent when she picks the right project.  Wild fits that description, a film that allows Witherspoon to shine rather than phone it in, a movie with a role that suits her perfectly and could win her another Oscar.

This is the true story of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who embarked on a thousand-mile journey along the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to find what had been lost.  In her past life, Cheryl was a feminist intellectual, attending college alongside her mother, who she also lived with and looked up to.  Her family had escaped from an abusive father years before, living a poor but happy life, taking strength from a mother who always looked on the positive side of life, even when battling a terminal illness.  Cheryl’s life began to spiral out of control after the passing of her mother, after turning to drugs & sex for comfort, after giving up on a marriage that had made her so happy.  To find the woman she one was, Cheryl leaves everything behind, loads up her backpack, and hikes into the wilderness, hoping to return a changed person, having put her grief aside and discovered the best path.

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It’s a heavy story that never lets up.  It’s about heroin, random sex, death, giving up, hating yourself, and betraying those you love.  Not easy to stuff to watch, but the honesty of the film and the hope for something better make it bearable and even uplifting in a very strange way.  I say the film is honest, and that’s one of the biggest compliments I can give.  It doesn’t shy away from the darker parts of the story, doesn’t gloss over the mistakes & choices this character made that really paint her in a horrible light.  Because of this sincerity, we as audience members are allowed to judge Cheryl harshly, but then to understand her as well.  I can imagine writing the book this movie is based on must have been a horribly difficult task, baring your imperfect soul to the world and talking candidly about the abuse you put your body and your loved ones through.  But in the end, it’s a story of redemption, of knowing what you did wrong, putting that behind you with no excuses, and moving forward, since, after all, what else can you do?

This was a role tailor-made for Witherspoon and crafted in a way that allowed her best.  She took the project entirely on her shoulders, with her mother being the only other character that had any significant lines or impact.  For her part, Laura Dern might deserve a Best Supporting Actress award, as this is the best I’ve ever seen her on screen.  Witherspoon most definitely deserves a shot at Best Actress for a performance that could not have been easy.  She totally abandoned her good-girl image, not transforming like Charlize Theron in Monster perhaps, but becoming someone else in way that was authentic and believable.  She also didn’t shy away from the hard stuff, showing us drug use, sex addiction, self-hatred, and horrible irresponsibility without flinching and without embarrassment.  This film is about two things: the power of the true story and the incredible acting of Reese Witherspoon.  Both came together seamlessly, making Wild a must-see.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

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Movie Trailer – What We Do in the Shadows

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement

Starring: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement

Release: February 13th, 2015

This duo from New Zealand are comedic geniuses.  They worked together on Flight of the Conchords and Eagle vs Shark, a TV series and a movie filled with a unique brand of humor.  Waititi would also direct, star in, and write Boy, a five-star film that will stick with you.  Clement has his own career as a comedic actor and animated film voice.  Here they do a mockumentary about vampires?  Sounds odd, but I trust them with my time.


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Movie Review – Exodus: Gods and Kings

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Maria Valverde

Year: 2014

Ridley Scott & Christian Bale are untouchable icons.  Scott has been a successful director since 1979, with a long line of major motion pictures.  Alien, Blade Runner, Legend, Thelma & Louise, G.I. Jane, Gladiator, Hannibal, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster, Robin Hood, Prometheus, The Counselor; not every one was a hit, but you can see by this list that Ridley Scott is one of the most formidable directors in Hollywood.  And Christian Bale is no less formidable as an actor.  American Psycho, The Machinist, Batman Begins, The New World, The Prestige, 3:10 to Yuma, The Dark Knight, Terminator Salvation, The Fighter, The Dark Knight Rises, Out of the Furnace, American Hustle; again, not perfect every time, but these are just a few of his adult roles.  With Scott & Bale coming together for this film, you’d expect near perfection, especially with a story that has already cemented itself in our minds.  But the result was less than stellar, showcasing the worst the pair have to offer, not the best.

It’s a plot as legendary as has ever been told, the tale of Moses.  He grew up the adopted son the Pharaoh of Egypt, Seti the King of the Nile.  His companion was Ramses, the heir to the throne, and the two were as close as brothers.  But Moses’ origins were to ultimately break the bond that he had developed with the royal family, tearing his life apart and forcing it to begin anew.  Moses was Hebrew by birth, a baby found by the river, a child of slaves.  For 400 years the Hebrews have built the monuments of Egypt, living & dying by the word of the Pharaoh.  Now knowing his lineage, Moses is cast out of the country, reduced to nothing, left to wander as he will.  But his purpose is a great one, and he will return to Egypt soon.  God begins to speak to Moses, commanding him to talk to Ramses, to bring about the release of an enslaved people, God’s chosen people, no matter the will of the King.  A war will begin that is bigger than any mere man, that will change the course of history, and will show the world  the power of God in his utmost rage.

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Bible stories tell themselves and thus make excellent movies.  Whether or not you believe these stories to be truth or fiction doesn’t matter; they are epics on an enormous scale, full of treachery & power.  They excite us because they have both historical context and magical elements, weaving together a story that seems believable and unimaginable at the same time.  The Moses story has been done before, as has any Bible story that has even the slightest action, excitement, or war; those translate to the screen the best.  So we can only give partial credit to any team that produces an excellent Bible story, because most of their work was done fore them, the seed was already planted.  All that’s left for the director to do is to make the film visually appealing.  And all that’s left for the actors to do is to bring the story to life.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I could make a movie about David & Goliath today and make a million dollars.  What I’m saying is that it’s a smart crew that chooses this kind of tale to tell, because we know the background and we’re ready to like it.

So it really came as a shock that this movie wasn’t great.  The trailer made it look so spectacular, so full of life, so exciting, so violent, and it was none of these things.  Other than one badly-shot fight scene at the beginning, there was zero war, battle, or contest.  Zero.  It was pathetically reigned in, with no allowance for blood.  Sure, there were whipped slaves, hangings, chariot chases, and some archery practice, but it seemed like every exciting scene must have been cut from the film in a wild night of bad decision making.  The highlight was the plaguery; that was well-done and intense, with the awesome power of God overshadowing anything man could do.  Perhaps this was a point the director wanted to make, that any war violence would have looked silly set against natural disasters, but those disasters took up 15 minutes during the middle of the film; the rest was a snooze fest.  Bale as Moses was boring, coming across like a William Wallace wannabe, teaching Jews military tactics that they wouldn’t use, talking to a God no one else could see, switching personalities like clothes.  And let’s not even get started on Joel Edgerton as Ramses, John Turturro as his dad, and Sigourney Weaver as his mom.  It was an odd cast to say the least, one you had to physically force yourself to accept if you wanted any chance of enjoying the film.  As it was, I barely did, the credit for which goes to the story base and the excellent Nature Attacks scenes.  The acting did nothing for me, the pace was poor, the action was DOA, and the movie as a whole fell flat, keeping my interest through shear spectacle.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

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Movie Trailer – Knight of Cups

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Terrence Malick

Starring: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman

Release: 2015

I am taking a stand.  I am not seeing this man’s movies any more.  I do not like them.  They are bad.  (The Thin Red Line, The New World, The Tree of Life, To the Wonder)


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Sports – NFL Picks 2014, Week 16

Category : Sports

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Here are my NFL Week 16 Picks

(11-5 last week, 148-75-1 for the season)

Bye teams: none

iconJaxTen @ Jax – It’s gone beyond a joke just how bad Thursday Night Football is.  It’s as if they hand-picked the worst possible games, and the few that could have actually been good were somehow blowouts.  Bad TV doesn’t begin to explain it; I wonder how the ratings look.  This week’s matchup has got to be the worst ever, two teams that can barely call themselves such.  Both are 2-12, have two of the worst net point totals in the league, and are playing pathetic football.  I guess someone will win this game by default, but it won’t matter in regards to anything except who gets a better Draft spot.

iconWasPhi @ Was – Can we all agree that Sanchez is not the savior of the Eagles?  He’s a mediocre QB at best who can beat bad teams (Car, Ten) and lose to good ones (GB, Sea).  Perhaps he hasn’t bombed in the way I had imagined he would, but he hasn’t shone either, going 3-3 as a starter with 9 touchdowns in those games and 9 turnovers.  You can’t get more “meh” than that.  Maybe it’s best that the Eagles miss the playoffs, because I can’t see Sanchez leading them very deep.  I even think he’ll lose this game, with RG3 back at the helm of the Redskins and looking to stop a horrible six game losing streak.  Don’t get me wrong, I dislike Griffin too, but Washington has to win sometime.

iconSFSD @ SF – If I was right over the years about Sanchez & RG3 not being very good, I was dead wrong this year about the Niners being a playoff team.  Last week they were eliminated from contention, as they are currently 7-7 and even winning their last two games wouldn’t make a playoff difference.  What an awfully disappointing season, losing winnable games and failing to score anywhere near the point totals this offense is capable of.  Harbaugh & Kaepernick have proven to be less than stellar at their jobs, and there is absolutely no excuse for completely eliminating Vernon Davis from your offensive game plan every week.  The Chargers are nearly as bad, and I can’t see SD pushing around the SF D, so I’m going with the home team despite how they’ve let me down.

iconCarCle @ Car – After missing one game in which Derek Anderson took care of business, Cam Newton has returned to practice following his car accident and should be good to play on Sunday.  The Panthers are on a two-game winning streak and can actually win the division, based on the bad play of the NFC South, not on their own success.  But whatever, it doesn’t matter how you get in the playoffs.  The Browns are about to lose all hope of the postseason after starting so surprisingly well.  They’ve switched to Johnny Manziel at QB, have lost three in a row, and seem to playing themselves right out of the AFC North.  I can’t imagine Johnny Football does any better in Carolina than he did at home vs the Bengals.

iconDetDet @ Chi – Monday Night the Bears became the first team to allow 400 points this season.  409 to be exact, which is 29 points per game.  Just awful.  And now there’s problems between Cutler & the O-Coordinator, talk about buyer’s remorse, players speaking out, Jimmy Clausen stepping in; it’s a shit show.  The Bears are a colossal disappointment this year and, what’s more, they’ve played horribly at home, going 2-5.  It’s not like the Lions are great on the road (3-3), but they’re undefeated in their division, have something to play for, and have allowed the least amount of points in the league.  Their offense still isn’t playing great, but they should play well enough to win this game.

iconBalBal @ Hou – I keep calling Baltimore the best team in the AFC North; this week would be a good time to prove that.  They have a tough road game, but not one that’s unwinnable, while Cinci gets Denver and Pitt hosts KC.  If the Ravens can win here and their division comrades lose, they’ll be on top all alone with only one game left.  And they won’t have stiff offensive competition from the Texans, as they’re having QB injury problems and might start Case Keenum.  Hmm, I can’t imagine that going well, especially considering the solid Ravens D.  Baltimore is only OK on the road, but they are the better team here and should could away with a victory.

iconMiaMin @ Mia – This is an odd matchup and brings to mind Dante Culpepper.  Anyway, both of these teams have similar situations.  Both are middling and probably won’t make the playoffs, both have young QBs, solid defenses, and are pointed in the right direction.  Minnesota doesn’t play well on the road, going 2-5, but Miami isn’t especially good at home, going 3-3.  I think it comes down to who can score points, and Tannehill & Co. have the advantage their.  I like the Vikings, don’t get me wrong, but this a tough one that could go either way.  I just have to side with the home team.

iconNO1Atl @ NO – No doubt about it, the Saints have not played like the Saints.  They’re 3-4 at home, 6-8 overall, and can’t play a lick of defense.  Well, more specifically, I should say that they haven’t played like the Saints of late.  This isn’t like Brees & Payton to not seize the opportunity of taking the division away from much weaker teams, allowing the Falcons and the Panthers to hang right in there.  But I can’t be the only one who feels like it’s not over ’till it’s over.  Brees is still a special QB and, even without a defense, can win games.  I picked NO as my NFC Super Bowl team, and although that hasn’t looked too smart yet, I still think they can get it done.

iconNENE @ NYJ – The Pats have already won the AFC East, like they always do, and are now just playing for postseason seeding.  They’re the polar opposite of the Jets, going 11-3 while NYJ is 3-11.  Also, NE has a net points total of +162 while the Jets’ is -130.  So obviously there’s a mismatch here.  But all 3 of the Pats’ losses have come on the road, where they are 4-3.  I’d be a little worried if I were Brady & Co. that Rex Ryan & Crew might play balls to the wall; what do they have to lose anyway?  I’d pick the Jets as an upset here if they had any talent whatsoever or any hope of scoring right alongside New England, but I think that’s a hopeless cause.

iconPitKC @ Pit – Who are the best defenses in the AFC?  The Bills and the Chiefs, though neither team scores a ton of points to back that up.  Kansas City is just “aight”, with an 8-6 record and a shot at a Wild Cars spot, but with no great fire.  The Steelers, on the other hand, are hot, with Big Ben & Le’Veon Bell scoring in bunches.  On a side note, the famous Big Ben in London actually refers to the bell, not the tower.  Big Ben, Bell, you see it?  Ok, nevermind.  Anyway, Pittsburgh is in line for the playoffs and is playing well, and I think they can beat the Chiefs at home, where they are 4-2.  Win this week, win next week vs Cinci and the division is theirs.

iconGBGB @ TB – Remember when these teams used to be in the same division?  It was the NFC Central for years and the Bucs played right alongside the cold-weather teams like Green Bay & Chicago.  Seems weird now.  Anyway, last week I almost called for the upset, Buffalo over GB, but I was a bit too chicken.  The Pack just isn’t good on the road and was due for a loss, and the Bills are a legit team, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise.  This week, I’d be shocked in TB played the same role.  They’re not the team Buffalo is, not the defense especially, and should not be able to shut Rodgers down, especially when he’s playing mad.

iconNYGNYG @ STL – Ugg, not one that I feel confident picking.  The Giants are on a tiny streak, getting two of their 5 total wins in the last 2 weeks.  They’re still awful and I sense some change in the air, but it’s not like they’re the Jets.  The Rams are the same sort of team, one that’s not pathetic but also not very competitive.  I’m still not sure how they beat my team the Broncos; I guess I’ll chalk it down to Peyton having a bad game and the run game not arriving like it seems to have lately.  I have no idea who’ll win this one, but I have a better feeling about the G-men than about St. Louis.

iconInd1Ind @ Dal – Odd statistic; the Cowboys are 7-0 on the road, 3-4 at home.  That’s opposite of almost every good team out there (NE, Den, Sea, Ari, Det, Phi).  For some reason they just play better away from Jerry World; maybe it’s Jerry.  Whatever the reason, I’m not sure a home game this week is a great thing.  Especially not against the Colts, a team that’s as good away from home as they are in Indy.  The Colts are the better team, allowing less, scoring more, with more points than every team in the league except the Pats & the Pack.  With Murray dinged up a bit and Indy knowing that they had better double Dez, I think Dallas is primed to lose.

iconBufBuf @ Oak – Wouldn’t it just be fitting for such a wild year if the Bills beat the Packers and then the Raiders beat the Bills?  Home field does wonders, as GB never loses in Lambeau and Oakland’s only wins have come in the Black Hole.  So can my bandwagon Buffalo team lose a game they shouldn’t?  Of course, especially since it’s not like they’re this Goliath of a ball club.  Thing is, the Raiders can’t score and the Bills won’t let anyone.  I’d call for the upset if Oakland scored more than 15 points per game, a total I doubt they come close to against a team that plays better D than they’re used to facing.  I’ll stick with Neckbeard and the wagon-circling Chicken Wings.

iconSeaSea @ Ari – Here we go, it comes down to this.  The Seahawks and the Cardinals face off for what could be the division-deciding game.  Big game, only problem is, Arizona is starting their 3rd string quarterback.  After injuries to Palmer and to Stanton, the Cards are forced to go with Ryan Lindley.  Now, they’ve already mathematically clinched a playoff spot, so this game isn’t do-or-die, but man would they like to host a few games this postseason.  Arizona is 7-0 at home, with their defense leading the way.  But this week I think they’ll get their first home loss.  Seattle has a strong D too, one that’s good enough to beat a mediocre offense’s backup’s backup.

iconDen1Den @ Cin – The Broncos have clinched the AFC West and are setting their sights on the Super Bowl.  They know how much easier the road will be if it funnels through Denver as opposed to through New England, Cincinnati, or Indianapolis.  Now, next week they play in Denver vs the Raiders, so lets assume (knock on wood) that’s a win for the Broncos.  That makes this game losable while still grabbing the #2 spot.  But I don’t think Peyton sees it that way.  The Bengals better watch out because a loss here & in Pittsburgh next week could knock them right out of the playoff race.  They’d better stop Denver’s run game and hope Peyton isn’t out to prove that he still has some arm strength left.


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Movie Trailer – Alien Outpost

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jabbar Raisani

Starring: Adrian Paul, Rick Ravanello, Riley McClendon

Release: January 30th, 2015

It took me a long time to realize where I’d hear the name ‘Adrian Paul’ before.  Once I realized, I knew that I just had to see this movie.  Highlander fighting aliens in the desert after the Earth is almost destroyed during an invasion?  Umm, yeah!  I’d watch him fight almost anything, I just hope he says “there can be only one” at some point.


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DVD Review – Gutshot Straight

Category : DVD Review

Director: Justin Steele

Starring: George Eads, AnnaLynne McCord, Stephen Lang

Year: 2014

I’ve seen some extremely bad movies in just this style.  I’m not sure what it is about this genre; perhaps I’m not the target audience, perhaps it’s near impossible to make a good shoot-em-up movie, or perhaps they’re just money-makers that don’t really try that hard.  Whatever it is, the crime/action/thriller is not my cup of tea.  Two films came to mind when I sat down to watch Gutshot Straight, partially because of the genre and partially because of the actors involved.  The first was A Good Man, a Steven Seagal guns-blazer that is among the worst movies you’ll ever see.  The second was Throwdown, an only slightly better but still horrible mob/law/human-trafficking mess of a movie co-starring Vinnie Jones.  Now, both Seagal & Jones have small parts in this film, and that worried me, forcing me to assume I was about to watch something as terrible as I’d ever seen.  But thankfully, a surprise was in store in the form of George Eads who, strange as it is to say, saved the day.

The Movie

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For low-life gambler Jack, every day is a struggle.  A struggle to make money, a struggle to pay debts, a struggle to come to grips with the fact that he’s an absolute failure as a father, a completely absent figure who can’t even get his own shit straight, much less improve the life of his daughter.  Jack plays cards for a living, reading people and taking their money, trying to keep his head above water, often without success.  After getting beaten up & threatened by two very powerful men to whom he owes a lot of money, Jack is desperate to score some dough.  So he calls up a man he just met, a wealthy gambler named Duffy, a man who just might have a way for Jack to make some money.  The new “partners” spend the evening at a strip club, get drunk, make bets, all is going well, until they go to Duffy’s house and meet May.

She is a beauty that Jack immediately desires.  She’s a natural seductress, a pawn in some sort of game, and seems to want Jack right back.  But here’s where things get interesting.  What May is to Duffy isn’t exactly clear, and when he offers Jack thousands of dollars to sleep with her, it seems to good to be true.  When Duffy offers even more money if he can watch, that’s when Jack begins to get a little uncomfortable.  The events that unfold that night at that beautiful house will put Jack in a pot that’s about to boil, a complicated situation that he’s just not that clever enough to figure out.  After all, he’s just a two-bit gambler, not a criminal mastermind, and definitely not a killer.  To get himself out of this sticky situation, Jack turns to the two men who own his life, a move that may be necessary, but can’t be very smart.

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Gutshot Straight has a lot of the same elements you’ll find in countless other cheap, exciting crime movies.  It’s got guns, boobs, booze, cards, cars, the mob, sleazy hotels, whatever you could ask for.  There are fights, betrayals, twists, handguns, drinks, strippers, passion, redemption; about everything you’d expect from a genre that boasts quick action and even quicker resolutions.  And it even has the same faces; Steven Seagal as the cool crime boss that holds a hundred fates within his hands, Vinnie Jones as the muscle behind the throne who’ll break your nose if you look at him funny.  Throw in Stephen Lang the consummate bad guy and Ted Levine who’s always creeped me out and you’ve got a cast & a plot that sticks to its guns & conforms to what the people want.  So if you’re a fan of this type of film, you won’t be disappointed.

But as someone who things this genre is crap, I liked this movie for a completely different reason, and that reason was George Eads.  I’d never seen the guy before, though I know he has a following from 14 straight years on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.  Coming in, I wasn’t expecting him to be the savior of the film, but he definitely was.  He took Jack and made him likeable, relatable, everyman.  Eads made the character funny & pathetic, but in a way that made him an easy hero to root for despite his many flaws.  I wanted Jack to survive & to win, and I haven’t been able to say that about many other characters in this genre.  Alongside Eads, AnnaLynne McCord was a solid secondary character, sexy & mysterious in a way that at least made your curious if not in love with her.  Eads carried the film, bringing humor and believability to a movie that should have been utterly ridiculous.

The DVD

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (16×9 Widescreen), the video quality of the film was perhaps the highlight of the entire project.  Scenes were sharply shot, with an eye for color that set the mood.  Much of the film was dark, with a sinister & secretive feel that was juxtaposed by the bright desert sun.  The picture quality was high, with clear images and a casino vibe that added to the enjoyment of the movie.

Audio – Done in Dolby Digital, the DVD has only a setting for English 5.1.  There is also an option of English or Spanish subtitles.  The audio quality was fine, with a good use of sound & sound effects, but without any impressive elements.  There was a ton of dialogue with only a sparse use of music, but the sound in general was solid.

Extras – There are a good many extras on the disc.  First is a chance to watch the film with commentary from director Justin Steele and composer Keith Waggoner.  There is a 21-minute section of behind-the-scenes & interviews with the cast & crew, mainly displaying clips of the film with discussion by the director and George Eads.  There are two very short deleted scenes with Jack that were cut from the film.  Also, there are four trailers: Gutshot Straight, The Prince, Throwdown, and A Good Man.

Final Thoughts

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Rent It.  I was surprised that this film was a step above others of its kind.  It stayed true to the genre, but smartly relied on one great actor to lift the plot over the normal trash.  George Eads brought a lot to the character of Jack, taking the movie on his competent shoulders and forcing it to be better than what it might have been.  The video was strong, the audio solid, and the extras many.  Watch Gutshot Straight expecting a dirty crime caper and be pleasantly shocked when you also get good acting and a story.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 


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Movie Trailer – Far from the Madding Crowd

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen

Release: May 1st, 2015

Period pieces about 1800s romance will always be popular as long as women long for “classic love”.  What’s ironic is that they rarely show love in any form other than confused passion.  However, I can’t say I’ve never enjoyed a good Victorian era love affair movie, and I’m fairly willing to trust Carey Mulligan in one.  She’s an excellent actress, a great young talent.  Pride & Prejudice, An Education, Never Let Me Go, The Great Gatsby, Inside Llewyn Davis; all stellar roles that prove she can handle any story.