Monthly Archives: March 2015

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Movie Trailer – Spectre

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Sam Mendes

Starring: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz

Release: November 6th, 2015

My excitement for this movie doesn’t stem from the trailer, since it’s merely a teaser and not really that intriguing.  It all comes from Skyfall, which I thought was simply excellent.  If Spectre is anything like Skyfall we’re in for a great time.  And the supporting cast looks great, with the addition of Christoph Waltz as the villain.  I’m ready, bring it on Bond.


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DVD Review – The Song

Category : DVD Review

Director: Richard Ramsey

Starring: Alan Powell, Ali Faulkner, Caitlin Nicol-Thomas

Year: 2014

Coming in I expected a whole lot worse from a movie about a Christian rockabilly singer who can’t decide whether the good or the evil path is more fun.  After all, and with full disclosure so you know where I stand, I’m no Christian.  I’d go so far as to say I’m not merely non-religious but anti-religious, someone who believes that all religions affect the world negatively.  Though, like the Devil himself, I know my Bible front & back, having been raised in evangelical churches until I was a teenager.  That’s when my wicked ways started and I never looked back.  Anyway, let that help you decide whether or not you’d agree with me on the religious aspects of this film.  But putting belief aside, I’ll say it again; this film could’ve & should’ve been much worse than it was.

The Movie

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This is a story in two parts.  In the first chapter, we meet Jed King.  He is the son of a country rock legend named David King.  David was no saint, singing about the gospel while sleeping with another man’s wife, becoming a part of messy breakups, bad decisions, and ultimately a son who he loved dearly.  David died young, leaving Jed with a legacy to live down.  He’ll always be David King’s son, the spawn of a man who let a lot of people down, a boy in the shadow of his father, a musician who just isn’t quite as good.  Part of that is because Jed has nothing to sing about, no passion, that is until he meets Rose Jordan.  It’s love at first sight for Jed, and he sets about winning Rose over, taking things slow the way a good Christian boy should, building her a chapel in which to ask for her hand in marriage, beginning a relationship built on faith & love, built to last.

Which brings us to part two.  Fast forward a few years and Jed, with Rose as his muse, has become a star.  His music is finally passionate, his love for his wife & for his God fuels his artistry, and the world is hearing the message of Jed King.  And now enter the Devil, in the guise of a beautiful musician named Shelby Bale.  She shows Jed everything he could have that he’s been denying himself; women, drugs, money, freedom, fame, and of course Shelby herself.  Jed must decide which path his life will go down: the path of the righteous or the path of the wicked.  And his decisions affect the wife & child he leaves at home every time he goes out on tour, spreading the good word while being tempted by a bad crowd.  For a man who once prayed to God for wisdom, life has become a complicated affair, full of pitfalls, but also with hope for redemption.

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First let’s touch on the religious element.  This film is based on the Song of Solomon, a book of the Bible filled with romantic verse and the celebration of love, marriage, and sex.  Pretty racy for the Bible, as Songs takes a step away from God and his laws, focusing instead on the joy of marriage and the beauty of humanity.  I always applaud films that use the Bible as a background for their plots.  After all, the Bible is full of wonderful stories, basic struggles, classic good vs evil concepts, and some of the greatest fairy tales ever written.  Whether you think the Bible is fact or fiction, many scholars agree that the majority of the stories within are morality tales, guidelines for how humans should live, warnings for what can go wrong.  So here is a movie based on a unique section of the Bible, dealing with something Christians often shy away from talking about, and for that I give it credit.

Now, is it a good movie, that’s the ultimate question, and the answer is “sure”.  It’s much better than it appears on the surface, even better than the first 30 minutes would suggest.  It begins with an overly sappy feel, with a lot of voice-over Bible quotes, and a promise to be a Hallmark original with an overtly Christian viewpoint.  But the film gets better as it becomes darker, adding in more troublesome elements and less security.  Faith takes a bit of a backseat, human error steps up, and the story produces Jed as a main character who is highly flawed.  But I can’t go so far as to call this a great film.  It has so many elements that are available in other movies that are much better.  You want songs?  Watch Rudderless instead.  You want musical heartbreak?  Check out The Broken Circle Breakdown.  You want family cheese?  Try Banner 4th of July.  These movies are all much or slightly better, and when added together create the same feel as The Song.  If you have time to kill watch those three, if you’re on a crunch you could do worse than to watch this one.

The DVD

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, the video was quite excellent.  The film was shot using a Red Epic camera, and a lot of focus was put on creating high picture quality.  The color balance was very nice, the visuals were clear, and the film had a clarity that was very appealing.  Hopefully the stills in this review do justice to the quality of the film, because a lot of effort was put into the video and it showed.

Audio – There are a ton of audio options on the DVD.  In Languages, there is a choice between English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai, all done in 5.1 Dolby Digital.  In Subtitles, there is a choice between English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Commentary Subtitles, French, Korean, Korean Commentary Subtitles, Portuguese, Portuguese Commentary Subtitles, Spanish, Spanish Commentary Subtitles, Thai, and Thai Commentary Subtitles.  The sound quality of the film was high, with great musical clarity and nice balance.

Extras – Many extras can be found of the disc.  The film can be watched with commentary from writer/director Richard Ramsey.  Meet the Cast is a nine-minute segment with scenes from the film with actor interviews.  King Solomon on Screen is a four-minute extra on the Bible meeting the film.  Author Kyle Idleman on Love, Sex, & Marriage is an eleven-minute discussion of faith as it affects God’s gift of sexuality.  Metaphors & Poetry is a five-minute experience of many of the themes of the movie.  Bryan and Amy: Hope Restored is a real couple talking about their experience at the National Institute of Marriage.  Awaken Love: A Journey For Couples is an advertisement for a couples study.  And lastly, there are four trailers: The Remaining, When the Game Stands Tall, Annie, Moms’ Night Out.

Final Thoughts

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Rent It.  At least The Song had a clear message and wasn’t afraid to deliver it.  It’s based on the Christian faith and the Bible, but doesn’t back itself into a corner that it can’t escape.  The beginning is more religious than the end, the film becoming more about people and less about God.  At least that’s how I saw it as someone who is anti-religious, understanding the message while not being turned off by a bludgeoning of faith.  I can’t say that it’s an amazing film, but it was definitely better than I expected and created with a passion that was evident.  The video was great, as was the audio, and there are so many extras on the DVD.  Rent this film with confidence if this review has piqued your interest; I doubt you’ll be let down.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 


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Movie Trailer – Southpaw

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker

Release: July 31st, 2015

That this film looks bad ass is beyond argument.  Jake is ripped, Rachel is hot, Forest as a trainer, Fitty with a cameo; all that is cool.  But wow does the story look cheesy.  Sly Stallone got away with it in the 70s because he wrote the script in a couple hours and succeeded in making Rocky the grittiest thing people had ever seen.  I’m worried that in today’s world we won’t be as forgiving.  I don’t know, maybe it was just a bad trailer, but I was more excited about this movie before I saw this.


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Movie Review – Inventing the Abbotts

Category : Movie Review

Director: Pat O’Connor

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Liv Tyler, Billy Crudup, Jennifer Connelly

Year: 1997

Lately I’ve randomly been watching movies with excellent ensemble casts, and here’s one more.  But this time is unique in a very specific way.  It’s a very young cast, four main characters who used this movie as a platform to launch their careers.  But they didn’t do it in an American Pie sort of way, exploiting themselves for the sake of fame.  And they weren’t already household names based on other projects, looking to make themselves into adults overnight with their roles here.  So you can look at it as a Brokeback Mountain moment for a quartet of young stars, but all the more daring for being earlier in their careers, not having a hot director take on the project, and not looking to make a splash at the Oscars.  Inventing the Abbotts is just a great film that happens to showcase the early talents of some great actors, and for that I will always love it.

Small town life in the late 50s; peaceful and complicated at the same time.  For the Holt brothers, this joy and stress all radiates from the Abbott girls, three sisters who spin Jacey & Doug around in circles.  The Abbotts are wealthy, popular, prestigious, and throw the best parties.  The Holts are poor, without a father, a little lost, and can’t seem to escape a connection to the Abbott destiny.  Jacey is jealous of the Abbotts’ wealth, angry that his father was once business partners with Lloyd Abbott but didn’t leave any money behind.  Doug is more vaguely aware of the Abbott’s sway over him, not harboring the issues his older brother can’t forget.  When Jacey falls for Eleanor Abbott and Doug falls for Pamela, the brothers begin a series of years that will change the course of their lives, force them to leave the small town they both love & hate, and forever connect them to a family that will always be larger than life.

This film certainly has a style all its own, something you have to adjust to early if you want to enjoy it.  There’s a great 50s vibe, a narrator in the style of the times, and a use of language that fits the setting but can sound a little awkward.  Michael Keaton is actually the voice of the narrator and does a great job.  So does the entire cast, for that matter.  Joaquin Phoenix has always been and will always be a terrific actor.  He’s just so natural, so honest, and never goes too far.  Billy Crudup was made for this part, the brooding brother, handsome & tortured.  Jennifer Connelly is beautiful as always and perfect in this smaller role.  And last but not least, Liv Tyler, who isn’t a wonderful actress, but pulls off the young, naive, rich girl very well, playing off Joaquin with great skill.  Inventing the Abbotts is a gem of a film, with an original feel, a spectacular cast, an ease of delivery, and a time capsule approach made doubly awesome watching the movie almost 20 years after it was made.  It’s a movie of quiet moments and of memorable scenes, a coming-of-age story expertly done.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Trailer – Max

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Boaz Yakin

Starring: Josh Wiggins, Thomas Haden Church, Jay Hernandez

Release: June 26th, 2015

I want to like this movie, I really do, it just looks so cheesy.  I’m hoping that they people involved were all able to pull together, tell an honest story, and let the emotion speak for itself without forcing a lot of propaganda forward.  But I’m worried, and I think perhaps I might need to be 20 years younger or older to appreciate this movie the way it might be delivered.


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Movie Review – The Discoverers

Category : Movie Review

Director: Justin Schwarz

Starring: Griffin Dunne, Madeleine Martin, David Rasche

Year: 2012

Little Miss Sunshine was a film that caught me off guard with its perfection.  It took the classic road trip story to a higher level and painted a picture of a family in crisis as well as any film had ever done before.  It was funny, heart-felt, real, sad, and ultimately uplifting; everything that The Discoverers aspired to be.  The latter could be considered an indie version of the former, or at least the comparison wouldn’t leave my mind once I thought about it, and I couldn’t help feeling a little let down that this family walked instead of driving a VW bus.  The two films share a lot of the same story elements, a few of the same character types, and a general feel that permeates the plot.  But where Little Miss Sunshine stuns, The Discoverers droops, proving to be a mediocre reboot of a story that we’ve seen before and will see again.

Lewis Birch is a man who has failed at life.  He used to be a respected professor, used to be married, and used to have a promising career as a novelist.  But now he’s got nothing.  He’s a teacher at a tiny college, his wife is off with her new rich beau, his kids are distant, his apartment sucks, and his latest book in an unwanted 6000 pages long.  One last chance remains; a conference in Oregon where someone might pick up Lewis’ book and make him a success again.  So he & his children set out on a road trip under the guise of a vacation.  However, when his mother suddenly dies, a detour is in order, one that might be longer than expected.  Lewis’ grieving father escapes reality by going on a discovery hike in the woods with history re-enactors, something Lewis was forced to participate in as a child.  So now he’s walking through the forest with his dad one more time, when he’d rather be doing anything but.

There are just so many elements that remind me of Little Miss Sunshine, unfortunately so since that movie is so much better than this one.  The road trip, the father with a pipe dream, the dysfunctional children, the death of a parent, even the oddity of the journey itself.  Instead of a beauty pageant, this film features Lewis & Clark enthusiasts reliving the historic pair’s expedition to the Pacific Ocean.  Pretty weird, and probably the best part of the story.  Forced to dress up in period garb, the family must fit in to help out Grandpa; funny stuff made more so by its juxtaposition with the heavy nature of the base plot. But the rest failed to support what is a good idea on paper.  The acting was only OK, the dialogue wasn’t impressive, and the pace led to more than one dull moment where I felt myself drifting away from what was supposed to be grabbing my attention.  The Discoverers is only good, taking a cool premise and failing to lift it to any special level.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Trailer – Paper Towns

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jake Schreier

Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevigne

Release: July 24th, 2015

I knew I watched Behaving Badly for a reason.  Now I at least know who Nat Wolff is and can say that I saw him when if this movie becomes a big hit or he becomes a name actor.  When I pulled up this trailer, I was shocked to see that millions of people had already viewed it.  I must have been in a cave, because I didn’t know they were making another John Green movie (The Fault in Our Stars) and I didn’t know he was so popular.  Well, I actually think this looks watchable in a sappy kind of way.  Coming-of-age movies are always drawing because we know what that’s like.  It just takes a good director, script, and an actor to pull off the inherent over-dramatic story.  We’ll see, but I at least have hope.


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Movie Review – Get Hard

Category : Movie Review

Director: Etan Cohen

Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Craig T. Nelson

Year: 2015

Well I laughed, though often against my better moral judgement.  And when it comes down to it, wasn’t laughter the sole purpose of this film?  Will Ferrell is nothing more than a comedian, though he has attempted a bit of drama a few times.  Since his SNL days, Ferrell has succeeded when he’s made us laugh, often by making a fool out of himself.  Zoolander, Old School, Elf, Anchorman, Wedding Crashers, Talladega Nights; these were all hits, at least in the comedy world, produced numerous quotable lines, and contained some of the most uniquely funny cinematic moments you’re likely to see.  He followed those films up with Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro, Step Brothers, Land of the Lost, The Other Guys, Casa de mi Padre, The Campaign; movies that mostly bombed.  So, would Get Hard be a return to Ferrell’s proven side-splitting talent or just another in a recent line of duds?  Well, like I said, I laughed, which is at least something.

James King has the perfect life.  He’s an extremely wealthy broker, just made partner at his firm, lives in a mansion, and is married to his boss’ daughter, who happens to be incredibly hot.  But when millions come up missing, James is declared the culprit, even though he has no idea what happened.  To teach a lesson to white-collar criminals, the judge convicts & sentences James to the maximum penalty allowed by law; ten years in San Quentin, hard time.  He has 30 days to get his affairs in order and, with the help of Darnell, to prepare himself for prison.  James wrongly assumes that Darnell, the black man who washes his car, was a convict, and so hires him to begin prison preparedness training.  The pair will have to work together to teach James to survive jail, while also attempting to figure out just where all that money went and who’s behind the actual crime.

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Was it funny?  Of course it was.  That is, if you enjoy Will Ferrell’s ass and the idea of objects being hidden inside it.  Still there?  Well then this movie is for you.  It’s one giant over-the-top goofball of a comedy, a relentless barrage of bodily humor, prat falls, fake martial arts, and grown men crying.  And that you might have been ready for, but Get Hard doesn’t stop there.  It takes a turn for the wrong with almost every joke.  Prison rape, homosexual blowjobs, sphincters, racist jokes, gang warfare, Latino housestaff, neo-nazis; there really isn’t a subject that feels OK to laugh at, but you laugh anyway.  And that’s where they get you I guess, they make you laugh in spite of your knowledge that you shouldn’t.  Call it comedic genius or a simple bludgeoning of our good taste, but in the end we laugh, which was the goal all along.

I liked Will Ferrell in this role and I felt like he was finally not trying too hard.  He’s a funny guy, plain & simple, and when he can bring a little of himself to a character that’s when we love him.  James King was likeable despite his flaws, normal after you put aside the money, and so it worked.  Kevin Hart also worked, which I’m sure is not a surprise to a lot of people.  I don’t know his work very well, but I know he’s popular, and I can see why.  He’s naturally funny too, as well as being physically perfect for this part; a small black man with a high-pitched voice standing next to a giant Irish guy with a pink complexion.  For Etan Cohen’s first attempt at directing, it could have gone much worse.  I assume he let the lead actors take charge, let their humor slide out organically, and sat back enjoying the ride.  Get Hard isn’t the greatest comedy of the last few years, but it’s nice to see Will Ferrell do well, Kevin Hart made a good impression on me, and, hey, I laughed.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

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Movie Trailer – Spring

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead

Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker

Release: March 20th, 2015

So, what’s wrong with this girl?  Is she a vampire or something?  I’m intrigued at least, which is something, though I’m not sure it’s enough to get me into the theatre if this movie would happen to come to my city.  That’s the thing with these low-budget films; unless they get a ton of buzz they just go unseen.  Seems a bit of a waste for what looks like it could be a pretty good movie.


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Sports – NFL Veteran Combine

Category : Sports

The NFL hosted its first ever Veteran Combine recently, showcasing the talents of just over one hundred free agents, giving them an opportunity to show what they got and perhaps make a pro roster this summer.  Some players impressed with honed abilities, while other disappointed expectations.  Here’s a look at a few key takeaways from this experimental showcase.

Michael Sam – DE – Age 25

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Became the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL.  Played in the preseason with the Rams.  Joined the Cowboys practice squad after his release from St. Louis.  Came to the Combine leaner but slower.  Confident about his return to an active roster.

Jamaal Anderson – DE – Age 29

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Played four seasons with the Falcons.  Was part of three teams in as many years following his release from Atlanta. Recovering from injuries.  Big, physical, not fast, could make a roster as a backup DE.

Felix Jones – RB – Age 27

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A Dallas Cowboy for five seasons, known for his speed and special teams ability.  Played one season with the Steelers, but was out of the league last year.  Had a slower than expected 40 time and inconsistent agility drills.

Michael Bush – RB – Age 30

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Longtime veteran who spend years with the Bears, Raiders, and last year with the Cardinals.  Ran an extremely slow 40 time, and when told about the results, commented that his career was most likely over.

Mikel Leshoure – RB – Age 24

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Young back who played four season with the Lions.  Ran a good time at the Combine and seems to be the most valuable running back in the group.  Should easily make a training camp roster and perhaps a regular season one as well.

Brady Quinn – QB – Age 30

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Veteran backup quarterback who has played eight seasons with a total of seven teams.  TD-Int ratio of 12-17 in his career.  Performed unevenly at the Combine, throwing with low velocity and mediocre form.  Won’t get many looks from NFL teams.

Michael Kafka – QB – Age 27

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Quarterback with almost no pro experience.  Drafted by the Eagles, spending two years with the team.  Impressed at the inaugural Combine, showing arm strength, mobility, and precision passing.  Should get an invitation to a training camp.