Monthly Archives: February 2015

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Movie Trailer – The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Guy Ritchie

Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Hugh Grant

Release: August 14th, 2015

My dad was a big fan of this TV show from the 60s, and I imagine he’ll be there opening weekend to see it.  I think a lot of people will, not only those who remember the show, but anyone who has an eye for good action.  Bad action is all to common; at least this one has a back story, quality actors, and a director in Ritchie who I trust.


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Movie Review – Kingsman: The Secret Service

Category : Movie Review

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson

Year: 2015

When a movie starts out with the bombing of a Middle East fortress whose exploded bricks spell out the credits, one might become concerned.  When the first scene of that movie includes Mark Hamill and a woman with knives for feet, that concern turns into alarm.  Truth be told, I never expected high quality entertainment from a movie about young intelligence agents, a hopped up Spy Kids as it were.  When I first saw the trailer back in June of 2014, I guessed that it would end up being a 2/5 star film, an action-packed dud with too many one-liners and not enough original content.  I like James Bond as much as the next person, and I like Austin Powers too, but success might lie in picking one or the other as a model, not splitting the difference and emulating both.  Well, as often happens, I was wrong about this film, and, as happens just as frequently, I’m glad I was.

Meet the Kingsman, a group of internationally active spies and investigators whose mission is to the keep the world safe from the shadows, to change the future for the good without ever receiving credit.  When a member is killed while attempting to discover the secrets behind a new terror plot, the Kingsman must each appoint a candidate for the vacancy, beginning a competition for the most dangerous job in the world.  Harry chooses Eggsy as his project, the son of a former Kinsgman who was also killed while on duty.  Eggsy is street tough, skilled beyond what his address might reflect, and more than ready to make his mark.  But while the new recruits train, a madman is on the loose.  A world-famous genius named Valentine is hatching a plot to begin a New World Order, and only the Kingsman stand in his way, ready to do whatever it takes to save the day.

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There were two things that surprised me about this film: the ridiculousness of the action and how much that added to my enjoyment.  From the very first, it’s an over-the-top and chaotic mix of action & spoof, of silly deaths & comic falls that bring gasps as often as laughs.  I wasn’t expecting such cheek, such flippance, such irreverent dark comedy that never asked for permission to disgust & surprise.  And I didn’t expect so much blood, so many dead bodies, and so few breaks from the action.  It was a wild ride if ever there was one, a joke of a movie that quickly became a joke on audiences, a slap to the face that you began to enjoy after the initial shock wore off.  The story was part farce, part adventure, part spy flick, and always high motor.  Sit down ready for few breaks, even fewer missed beats, and a whole lot of kick-ass.

Kingsman proved me wrong, showed that you can make a mash of drama & comedy and come out with something worthwhile.  It’s a bit Bond, a bit Powers, a bit silly, a bit gory, and a lot of fun.  Colin Firth as Harry Hart, or Galahad as he is code-named, is the epitome of a gentleman under pressure, the suave Brit who can kill or choose a shoe with equal expertise.  Taron Egerton, the brand new face, was spectacular as Eggsy, with a great accent and even greater presence, holding his own among such great company in a way that shows a star may have been born.  SLJ, the old standby, is one hell of a villain, bringing his own form of incredibly goofy behavior to what could have been a throwaway role, changing it into a show-stealer.  With a cast rounded out by Michael Caine, Mark Strong, and Jack Davenport, Kingsman just might claim the title of most entertaining film of the year.  If it’s perfection you’re wanting, go somewhere else.  But if excitement & enjoyment are your goals for the evening, look no further.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

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Thought – 2015 Oscar Picks

Category : Thought

Sunday February 22nd, 2015, the Academy Awards!  I’ve very excited about this year’s Oscars; there are a ton of excellent films represented as well as the annual snubs left out.  It should be a great show, with Neil Patrick Harris hosting, and I’ll be live-tweeting the event on Twitter (@OlieCoen).  You can check out my Oscars page for a complete listing of the nominees in the six major categories, but here are both my predictions and my picks for the best films of 2014:

Best Actor

Best Supporting Actor

  • Winner – J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
  • Runner-up – Edward Norton – Birdman
  • My choice – J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Best Actress

Best Supporting Actress

Best Director

  • Winner – Richard Linklater – Boyhood
  • Runner-up – Alejandro G. Inarritu – Birdman
  • My choice – Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Best Picture

 


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Movie Trailer – Trainwreck

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Judd Apatow

Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, LeBron James

Release: July 17th, 2015

This movie, of course, looks like a ripoff of a million rom/coms and, more recently, of the new fad of making girls the leads in raunchy comedies.  But if one was ever going to work, this would be it.  I remember Amy Schumer from Last Comic Standing; she was pretty damn funny.  And I happen to feel the same way about Bill Hader, though not everyone does.  Also, I’m a Judd Apatow fan, so really, what’s not to like.


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Movie Review – Finding Nemo

Category : Movie Review

Director: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich

Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould

Year: 2003

It’s hard to believe that Nemo is so old.  It feels like this movie came out just recently, not twelve years go.  I guess that makes the film timeless, though that word is used sparingly when it comes animated movies.  Only a few have ever taken that title, mostly Disney films, and they’ll live on forever, reminding us of our childhoods every time we hear their names.  With this new crop of Disney/Pixar & other animation studio films, it will be our children we remember when we think back, not our own youth, and that makes this films timeless in a completely different yet still effective way.  Nemo, though different from the classic princess or Grimm tales, holds its own as one that we won’t quickly forget.

On the coral reef of Australia, there lives a nervous clown fish and his son.  Marlin is the world’s most worried dad, having lost him wife & children to a freak accident some time past.  Nemo is his only son, an adventurous little guy with one little fin, not the best swimmer but full of confidence.  Marlin is overprotective to a fault, and one day he pushes his son too far.  Nemo swims out into open water just to show that he can, and becomes captured by a diver.  Marlin begins a frantic search for this son, meeting a flighty blue fish named Dory on the way.  The pair go on a journey that becomes the thing of legends, all to find a very little fish who is lost in a very big ocean.

Finding Nemo does something with very little music and background that not many others could pull off.  Wall-E comes to mind, a movie that didn’t have to use a classic fairy tale, didn’t need pop songs, and still delivered a major message in a small amount of time.  Nemo is that type of movie, a film about the adventure and the feelings driving the characters, a clean tale of love conquering all.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Disney sing-along, but this film doesn’t need that crutch.  The drama and the humor inherent in the plot are enough to carry it through to the end.  Ellen is spectacular as Dory, the forgetful heroine, and really alleviates the stress that Marlin puts on the journey.  The characters we meet along the way are all excellent as well; Mr. Ray the teacher, the tubular turtles, the Tank Gang, the pelicans & seagulls.  It’s a great sea creature ensemble and a great movie, one that doesn’t need a lot of tricks to stick with you and to pop up in your mind years later as a film worth watching again.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Trailer – Home Sweet Hell

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Anthony Burns

Starring: Katherine Heigl, Patrick Wilson, Jordana Brewster

Release: March 13th, 2015

While this movie does look terrible, at least it looks like they know it.  It’s part spoof, part late-night comedy, with a little bit of Stepford thrown in for good measure.  Now, none of these actors are very good, leading me to believe that the movie will not be either.  But you’ve got to give them credit for going all out, over the top, and just hacking the cinematic norm to pieces.


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Movie Review – Fifty Shades of Grey

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan

Year: 2015

If you haven’t heard of Fifty Shades, you’ve been living in a cave.  What started as a fan-fiction series detailing sexual escapades between Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight characters Bella & Edward quickly became much more.  When the nature of the content began to make a stir, author E.L. James took her stories to her own website, ultimately releasing them as three books with original character names.  Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed would go on to become international best sellers, creating a female-dominant fan base that would launch the series into obsession status.  It wasn’t long before a studio picked up the rights to the book, created a film, started a marketing blitz, and brought Fifty Shades to the screen for all to see.  For better or worse, this story is now of part of American pop culture and has become a must-see, if only to understand just what everyone is talking about.

When Anastasia Steel meets Christian Grey, both their lives with change forever.  Ana is a quiet, intelligent, reserved college student studying English Lit. at Washington State University – Vancouver.  Christian is a young, powerful, successful businessman running his own corporation in Seattle.  Filling in for a friend, Ana interviews Christian at his office, becoming instantly attracted to the handsome and dominant man.  But she has no idea just how dominant he can be.  As the two begin a friendship that ultimately turns into a relationship, Christian starts the process of taking complete control of Ana’s life, from her car to her computer, how much she drinks to what she wears.  And as Ana struggles to decide whether these changes are positive or negative, Christian proposes to take it many steps further.  He wants Ana in his bedroom, his playroom, and in his life, but the price is bound to be high.

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Let’s begin with the book;  I’ve not read it.  After all, I’m not a middle-aged woman secretly yearning for a fantastic sexual escape.  From the reviews I’ve read, the book is poorly written but exciting, a sexually explicit page-turner but not a great work of fiction.  I’m sure some loved it and some hated it, but for this review I guess that doesn’t matter.  Regardless of its quality, Fifty Shades became a book series that was popular to the extreme, a story that became something more than mere books.  And so it has a following ready to watch in on the big screen, with preconceived notions no doubt, but also with a fervor to see what they’ve read.  As someone who hasn’t read the original material, all I can go off of is the movie.  And so, sitting there in the theatre with a clean slate, I was able to critique the film as a film, and I’ve got to say, I’m quite torn.

After about 20 minutes, I had two predictions: the film wasn’t going to have as much sex as I expected and it was going to be better than I expected.  After all, he couldn’t tie her up all movie long, could he?  And the movie couldn’t be as awful as early reviews claimed it was, could it?  As it turns out, both my predictions were mostly wrong.  Let’s start with the sex; there was a lot.  The film quickly became soft-core porn, with multiple sex scenes, nudity from the female lead, foreplay galore, and bondage ranging from light (a tie) to moderate (leather cuffs).  And it was partly due to the multitude of these scenes that the film went poorly.  Not the sexuality of them, but the frequency of them; the movie became a repetitive attempt at something that might have worked once or twice but couldn’t continue.  The sex scenes, the breathy conversations, the angst of making choices, the Thomas Crown Affair displays of wealth; it all became redundant and overworked, an obvious attempt to fill space where the book hadn’t left much original content.

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And now, switching gears, let’s talk about another controversial aspect of this film; the domination of women.  It’s going to be difficult to talk about this without throwing in a few spoilers, so read at your own risk, but I’ll try to be circumspect.  The popularity of this story is an oxymoron in itself, as its audience is almost completely female but its largest criticism is that it objectifies women.  And not only that, it seems on the surface to promote abusive & controlling behavior by men, to glorify being told what to do and being punished for not following those instructions.  You can say that this is all a fantasy, that women are enjoying the thought but aren’t understanding the reality, and you’d be partly right, until you got to the end of the movie.  Ultimately, and this might be a shocker, this is a story of feminism.  Throughout the film, Ana is changing Christian, not the other way around.  His attempts to control her are shown as exciting, but insane, and Ana revolts against them continuously, only giving in when it pleases her and forcing Christian to take her as a “normal” girlfriend.  As his character is revealed as being completely fucked up (to use his own words), hers is revealed as being level-headed, healthy, and independent.  In the end, without giving away what happens, Ana experiments with Christian’s twisted desires but refuses to be changed.  She becomes the dominant one, deciding which way the relationship will go.  I don’t mean that literally, that she’s whipping him at the end of the movie or something; you’ll just have to watch it to understand.

That’s the great thing about this franchise; you have to watch it.  Whether or not you really wanted to, whether or not you’ve read bad reviews, whether or not you leave the theatre shaking your head, you’ve just got to find out what’s happening.  Give all involved some credit for creating something so titillating that it became a phenomenon; that can’t possibly be easy.  And give Dakota Johnson some credit for baring it all, for taking on this difficult role, and for becoming a central figure in the debate around this film.  Like I said earlier, I feel torn about this film.  It’s not wonderful, it has flaws, it’s too repetitive, the acting isn’t stellar, and with an R-rating everything you want to see can’t be put on screen.  But I doubt that the book was a very strong base to work off of, that it offered much in the way of depth, or that it did much to help this film other than to get people in the theatre.  Should you see this movie?  That’s a tough call, because of the explicit nature, because of the controversial content, and because of the ridiculous hype.  But, then again, maybe that’s exactly why you should.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

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Movie Trailer – Aloha

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Cameron Crowe

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams

Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin

Release: May 29th, 2015

Cameron Crowe’s resume speaks for itself.  Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky; these are movies that made careers.  No lead actor in this film needs their career made, but a solid Crowe drama couldn’t hurt.  I might get a little worried with all these stars, with a confusing story, and an ending that’s sure to be cheesy.  But I’ve learned to trust Bradley Cooper, Crowe knows what he’s doing, Emma Stone has upped her game, Murray & Baldwin are consummate pros, and I even enjoyed Rachel McAdams in the last thing I saw here in (About Time).  So, hey, I’m in.


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Sports – MLB 2015 Old Faces New Places

Category : Sports

The 2015 MLB season is almost here.  Before we start predicting who will win what, let’s take a look at the new places that some old faces have landed during the offseason.  Here are fifteen free agents in their fresh uniforms that might change the future of their new clubs:

scherzer

Max Scherzer – SP

Detroit Tigers —> Washington Nationals

lester

Jon Lester – SP

Oakland Athletics —> Chicago Cubs

samardzija

Jeff Samardzija – SP

Oakland Athletics —> Chicago White Sox

 ramirez

Hanley Ramirez – LF

Los Angeles Dodgers —> Boston Red Sox

cruz

Nelson Cruz – LF

Baltimore Orioles —> Seattle Mariners

 shields

James Shields – SP

Kansas City Royals —> San Diego Padres

 sandoval

Pablo Sandoval – 3B

San Francisco Giants —> Boston Red Sox

donaldson

Josh Donaldson – 3B

Oakland Athletics —> Toronto Blue Jays

kemp

Matt Kemp – LF

Los Angeles Dodgers —> San Diego Padres

robertson

David Robertson – RP

New York Yankees —> Chicago White Sox

upton

Justin Upton – LF

Atlanta Braves —> San Diego Padres

heyward

Jason Heyward – RF

Atlanta Braves —> St. Louis Cardinals

 martin

Russell Martin – C

Pittsburgh Pirates —> Toronto Blue Jays

cuddyer

Michael Cuddyer – RF

Colorado Rockies —> New York Mets

cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes – LF

Boston Red Sox —> Detroit Tigers


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Movie Trailer – Jauja

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Lisandro Alonso

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Viilbjork Malling Agger

Release: March 20th, 2015

This seems like half spaghetti Western and half Wes Anderson.  We know what happens when Quentin Tarantino does a spaghetti Western (Kill Bill) but I’m not sure what will happen in this one.  Am I excited about watching ol’ Viggo walk around in the desert for two hours?  Not really, though I am a little curious to see what that might be like.