Monthly Archives: December 2015

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Movie Trailer – Eddie the Eagle

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jo Hartley

Release: February 26th, 2016

Taron Egerton is a real talent on the rise, someone we’re lucky to be watching learn, grow, and succeed.  Kingsman, Testament of Youth, Legend; he shines every time we see him, and now takes on a true story that I have never heard of but am still intrigued by.  Hugh Jackman doesn’t always make the best choices, but he does lend a little stability to this film, with Egerton as the newcomer lead.  I’m up for a feel-good, real life, win-against-the-odds story, especially with these guys involved.


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Sports – NFL Picks 2015, Week 16

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 16 Picks

(13-3 last week, 145-79 for the season)

Bye teams: none

 

oakraidersSD @ Oak – Well, Phillip Rivers got all teary-eyed about possibly his or the entire team’s last game in San Diego, as who can predict what the offseason will bring.  Call me insensitive, but I couldn’t care less about Rivers’ weepy nostalgia.  He’s been an ass for the majority of his career, chirping during game only to cite his faith during the rest of the week.  The guy bothers me more than a little, and I’d be happy never to see his face on my television screen again.  I hope something does change in San Diego, mix it up a little, and hey, start with your quarterback and head coach.  Though only a slightly better team and only slightly less hateable in my book, the Raiders are at least on their way toward improvement, as long as they stick with Carr and keep helping him out through the Draft and Free Agency anyway.  There was a time when Oakland had a shot at a Wild Card spot, and although that’s no longer likely, I still will be rooting for them to put up a good showing and send the Chargers packing to Denver, where hopefully they’ll lose to the Broncos in Week 17.

 

phieaglesWas @ Phi – Inexplicably, the Redskins find themselves on top of the NFC East with a 7-7 record.  Much of that is in part to an amazing home record for a mediocre team, 6-2.  But, do the math, that leaves them at 1-5 on the road.  Washington can’t travel this season, or Kirk Cousins can’t play well on the road, maybe both.  Whatever the reason, winning the division and getting a home playoff game will be the only way the Redskins will advance past the first round of the playoffs.  Ironically, they have to play their final two games of the season on the road, in Philly and in Dallas.  Vs the Cowboys is a winnable game, but this one won’t be so easy.  The Eagles are only one game away from taking the division themselves, with this home game next followed by a visit to the New York Giants.  I don’t know what all the tiebreakers are, but I do know that this division will stay messy all the way to the end.  Because it’s a road game, I think I have to pick against Washington, at least until they prove that they can win the tough games away from home when it matters most.

 

atlfalconsCar @ Atl – Part of getting 2/3 of the games correct on a consistent basis is not going wild with upset picks.  Upsets happen, of course, but they’re unpredictable, that’s why they’re upsets.  Trying to guess when they’ll happen is a sure fire way to get most of your calls wrong.  Sure, you’ll get a couple right a season and you can brag about that if you want to, say you saw it coming a mile away.  But I’ll stick to being right 66% of the time, and stay away from booms & busts.  That said, I think the Panthers lose this week.  I don’t see it as an upset pick exactly, although the Falcons winning vs the league’s unbeaten team will surely be seen as an upset, but consider the hurtles for Carolina.  Injuries to some key players, distractions from last week’s game vs the Giants, and the pure probability that this team will lose at some point this season.  Well, the season’s almost over, and that brings us to another point; the Panthers don’t have much left to play for.  They’re tired, Cam’s getting banged up, the coach will begin to worry about the health of his team come playoff time, and they’re on the road vs a division opponent who just now realized that they’re magically still in the Wild Card hunt.

 

pitsteelersPit @ Bal – This game won’t mean as much as it was set up to at the beginning of the season.  In other years, it might decide the division, this year it’s a speed bump on Pittsburgh’s road to the playoffs.  With the Broncos, Chiefs, and Jets all vying for the same slots, the Steelers need to keep winning, though that hasn’t really been a problem as long ad Big Ben is playing quarterback.  Pitt is currently on a 3-game winning streak, score at will, just beat Denver, and won’t pause to take a look at who they stomp in the final two weeks.  The only facts that cloud that confidence are the Steelers’ road record of 3-3 and their division record of 2-2.  Not great, but this team is hot right now, and the Ravens shouldn’t really put up much of a fight.  Baltimore checked out weeks ago and there really isn’t a reason for them to show up for this game.  It’s been a lost season, and one they’ll hope to soon forget, a miserable year when nothing went right.  They’ll be back in 2016 as strong as ever, or so I assume, but you can count them out of this one.  The Steelers will be rooting for the Broncos to beat the Bengals, and so will I.

 

bufbillsDal @ Buf – It just keeps getting worse for the Cowboys.  Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and now Kellen Moore; what an extremely odd season.  I liked Moore coming out of college, thought he could be much better than people expected, a Drew Brees type little guy.  After all, he was amazing at Boise State, or at least his team was solid, and I thought he deserved a chance.  Well, he threw a ton of interceptions vs the Jets last week but his team almost won the game, so we’ll see how he does with a opportunity to start.  I’d bet mediocre, but then again the Bills are mediocre too, so maybe Dallas has a tiny chance.  They play better on the road than at home, and Buffalo hasn’t won against the NFC yet this season, so were I placing bets I wouldn’t put any money on the Bills winning this game.  But I have to pick the better team here, and I guess that’s Buffalo at home.  If I were the Cowboys I would be completely checked out by now, but I doubt the Bills are, behind a coach that’s bad in my opinion, but fiery in a way that gets guys to play for him.  Not a watchable game really, but someone’s gotta win.

 

detlionsSF @ Det – The Niners couldn’t score if they were given the ball in the endzone and allowed to kneel down for the touchdown.  202 points scored on the season, that’s about 14 points per game.  Not enough, especially when you’re defense isn’t any good either.  San Fran has more problems than answers, this season looking more & more like a failed experiment.  Where’s Colin Kaepernick, haven’t heard his name in a while.  Is he done in SF, done in the league, off home to kiss his muscles & his money?  Good riddance, I say, but it doesn’t seem like the Niners are much better off without him.  The Lions have their fair share of issues, but at least they seem to have some idea how to solve them.  They fired some people, might fire more in the offseason, but I think will wisely stick with Matt Stafford, who could have a nice year in 2016 if Megatron is healthy and they give him some more talent to work with.  For this one game, at least Detroit plays fine at home, while San Fran is 1-6 on the road.  Nothing to play for here, but at least the uniforms will look good; red & gold vs blue & silver.  Look on the bright side, I always say.

 

kcchiefsCle @ KC – At least the Browns didn’t score much against my Seattle fantasy defense last week, aiding in my run to the Championship; too bad the Seahawks can’t play them two weeks in a row.  But some Kansas City fantasy defense owner is going to be very happy when the Chiefs blank the Browns and Cleveland continues their pathetic season.  I’m out of both criticism and fresh ideas for the Browns, so let’s just move on.  The Chiefs are refusing to lose and that is making me very angry.  As a Broncos fan, I am watching my team figure things out, take some hits, get back up, learn; it’s kinda fun.  But it would be much more enjoyable if the goddam Chiefs would just lose a game!  Since starting 1-5, Kansas City has won 8 straight, now even threatening the Broncos for the AFC West.  Who’s gonna beat them, the Browns or the Raiders, both games in Missouri?  I doubt it, so that means that Denver will need to go 2-0 in their final games as well, both also at home, vs the Bengals and the Chargers.  It’d be nice if someone would play spoiler, but the Chiefs are just on too much of a big run to let that happen.

 

miadolphinsInd @ Mia – The other shoe was always going to drop for the Colts, there was no way Hasselback could keep up the streak he had going.  Well, they’ve now lost three in a row, Luck isn’t coming back, and Old Matt keeps starting despite a laundry list of injuries.  The loss last week to the Texans might have been the nail in the coffin, though they’re still only one game out of the division lead and both of their final games are winnable.  Question is, are they a talented/healthy/well-coached enough team to take advantage, and the answer is probably “no”.  I predict that Indy will lose this week, miss the playoffs, and that Pagano will be fired in the offseason.  It’s becoming apparent that it was Luck’s success, not his coaching, that led to the Colts wins in the past.  For the Dolphins, this game has no meaning, so that could swing things in Indy’s favor, but I doubt they completely give up.  After all, some of them are auditioning for next season, especially Campbell, so maybe they’ll have a little fire left.  It’s too bad that so many of these games are pretty pointless; whatever happened to that parity thing?

 

nyjetsNE @ NYJ – I say no upset picks and then I pick against the Panthers, and now I’m about to pick against the Patriots.  New England has been one of the best teams in the league all season, even battling through a bit of a rough patch and returning to their winning ways.  But the season is almost over, the #1 spot is almost wrapped up, and even the best of teams let down their guard sometimes.  Against a tough division opponent when they are playing for more than you are and you’re in their house, New England could easily lose this game.  The Jets are a force to be reckoned with, as their offense now matches their defense in intensity and they’re not rolling over for anyone.  Fitz, Decker, Marshall, Ivory; these guys have been scoring all year and won’t stop just because the Patriots are good.  And this defense will be going after Brady on every snap, knowing that knocking him down with be the key to winning this game.  The Pats just have less to play for, have to travel to an unfriendly environment, and might fly away with a loss that doesn’t hurt them much.  Again, not exactly a huge upset, given the context.

 

tbbuccaneersChi @ TB – The Bears just got booted to the bottom of the division where the Lions had been living all year.  Not great, and knowing deep down that this might be the best your this team is going to be doesn’t help.  Think about it; Fox coming in to fix the program, Cutler healthy, a nice combo of running backs in Forte & Langford, Jeffrey one of the best receivers in the game.  If this team goes 6-10, is there really hope that next season will be different?  So many teams had terrible luck/injuries; the Bears just plain sucked.  Much of the blame falls on their defense, but that might take years to rebuild, since apparently the old regime wasn’t planning ahead when all its stud defenders starting getting old.  I’m much more hopeful for an improved Tampa team, and that’s taking into consideration my dislike for Famous Jameis.  The Bucs were this close to being a legitimate Wild Card threat, but two straight losses derailed those plans.  Now, the season is pretty much over, but it hasn’t been a disaster and there’s room for improvement.  Winston showed flashes, and this Bucs team could be on their way up.

 

houtexansHou @ Ten – Now that the AFC South is theirs, it’s hard to imagine the Texans giving that up.  They’ve fought hard all year to be in the thick of things, even with a relatively mediocre team.  This defense has stepped up when needed, Hoyer has played well enough, and they got a little break with the Colts playing so badly.  But give them credit, they took advantage of that opportunity, and could finish the season 9-7 with a division title.  That means the playoffs, and I would laugh if that also meant a game against the Bengals, though that matchup would be in Cincinnati if it came to that.  But I get ahead of myself; Houston needs to win in Tennessee first.  And they ought to, since the Titans are the worst team in the league and have now shut down Marcus Mariota for the rest of the season.  The kid showed potential, but in the end couldn’t help his team score points consistently.  Add in a defense that’s just as bad and a 1-6 record at home needs no more explanation.  The Texans are 3-1 within the division, the Titans are 1-3, so this game could be a bit of a foregone conclusion.

 

nosaintsJax @ NO – The Jaguars, like the Buccaneers, had a moment there where the playoffs were an attainable goal, at least if the team kept winning.  Well, they didn’t, and now postseason hopes are no more.  Mark this up as just another wasted game on the schedule, as neither team has anything to play for here.  The Jags at least found their man in Blake Bortles and will look to shore up a defense that was leaky to say the least.  Dante Fowler Jr. will be back next season, that should help immediately, and this Jacksonville team could be an instant contender if the Texans & the Colts don’t fix their mistakes next year.  The Saints will soon be on the lookout for quarterbacks, as Brees & McCown won’t be the answers much longer.  I don’t even know why Drew Brees is going to try to play through his foot injury; pride I guess.  But his team is done, his career in New Orleans might be done as well, and I think the best thing for him right now would be to just sit down & rest.  Payton might be gone as well, but maybe his team has one last hurrah in them, especially against a Jags team that’s 1-5 on the road.

 

aricardinalsGB @ Ari – The Packers will be happy limping into the playoffs as long as their offense shows signs of improving each week.  Since Mike McCarthy took back over the play-calling duties, Green Bay has looked better, but still not the gun-slinging, point-racking team we’ve come to expect.  That’s fine though, win with the run game & good defense, with Rodgers there to bail you out if you need a 4th quarter comeback.  The only problem is, against teams like Arizona, you’re gonna need a little more than just improvement, you’re gonna need perfection.  The Cardinals are solid everywhere you look, and seem to be poised to play in the NFC Championship at least, if not the Super Bowl.  They’re excellent in every phase, are on a hotter-than-usual streak, and like the Patriots have dealt with loss before & know what their weaknesses are.  I don’t see the Cards taking their foot off the gas or resting their guys; I think they play hard all the way to the last second in hopes that the Panthers fall off and the #1 seed goes up for grabs.  Either way, Arizona is the better team and wins this week, barring a miracle.

 

seaseahawksSTL @ Sea – With Gurley pounding the ball and this defense playing nice, solid football, the Rams have saved their season from being a complete disaster.  They went 5-3 at home, are currently 6-8, and have played respectably for the most part.  Their QB is still a question mark, but let’s see if they address that in the Draft, grabbing a mid-1st rounder with talent who can surprise everyone.  I’d like them to be competitive in this game if it weren’t for their terrible 1-5 road record and the fact that the Seahawks are quietly playing some of the best football in the league.  Russell Wilson has gone & lost his mind and this defense is playing lights out; a combination that I remember working out in their favor the last couple years.  That Super Bowl loss must still taste bitter, and what a perfect time to be playing your best football.  I wouldn’t want to be traveling to Seattle right now, and the rest of the league is lucky that the Seahawks got off to such a poor start, putting them solidly behind Arizona for the the division.  Still, this is a scary team; don’t put too much money on them to lose any time soon.

 

minvikingsNYG @ Min – It’s insane that the Giants are even still in playoff contention.  They squandered such a perfect opportunity, with the Cowboys losing Romo, the Redskins losing almost every away game, the Eagles sputtering on offense.  But they never did close the door, and so now find themselves on the outside looking in.  They desperately need a win here and another next week vs Philadelphia, but I highly doubt either of those things is going to happen.  The G-Men needed to beat the Panthers last week, but instead OBJ decided to have a fistfight and is now suspended for this game.  Not good, especially against a defense that was probably going to shut you down anyway.  The Vikings allow among the least points in the league, but their problem all season hasn’t been defense, it’s been their offense.  Bridgewater just isn’t leading his team to enough points, allowing other teams to win when this defense is good enough to beat almost anyone.  Minnesota still finds itself in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card spot and maybe even a division win, but a win here would make everyone feel a lot better.

 

denbroncosCin @ Den – Last season the Bengals hosted the Broncos on Monday Night in December and got the big win.  That was Dalton vs Manning, but a few things have changed since then.  McCarron will be under center for the Bengals, and he’s looked fine as the starter, winning big in San Fran last week in part to a ton of Niner turnovers.  But he’s not being asked to put everything on his shoulders, since this defense has played just as well as this offense all season long, turning a mediocre team into a big contender.  And things are different in Denver too, with Brock Osweiler taking the reins.  He’s been up & down, playing well but not well enough to make up for his team’s turnovers & dropped balls.  Also, the Broncos have been simply awful in the 2nd halves of recent game, failing to score and allowing their opponents to come back after early Denver leads.  In Mile High, in December, with the postseason in their heads, I look for the Broncos to play some great football.  They know what they have to fix to close out games, and ‘Son of a Bum’ Phillips knows how to rattle an opposing quarterback.

 


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Movie Trailer – Mojave

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: William Monahan

Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Oscar Isaac, Hayley Magnus

Release: January 22nd, 2016

Monahan might not have a ton of films under his directorial belt, but this guy can write!  Kingdom of Heaven, The Departed, Body of Lies, Edge of Darkness, The Gambler, and now Mojave; he knows his stuff.  And I trust these actors too, Hedlund & Isaac, two proven talents who were actually in Inside Llewyn Davis together not too long ago.  The trailer does make the film seem a bit too thrilling, too violent, as if it doesn’t have a real point other than to make audiences uncomfortable.  But I’ll hope that it pays homage to old thrill-rides of the past while bringing something new as well, finishing better than the trailer would have us guess at this moment.


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DVD Review – The End of the Tour

Category : DVD Review

Director: James Ponsoldt

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel

Year: 2015

David Foster Wallace began working on his novel Infinite Jest in 1991.  Five years later it was published.  And in 2005, Time magazine listed it among the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923.  To this day, Wallace’s 1000 page epic, American, dystopian commentary remains as one of the most dissected books of our time, revealing its layers of complicated theme & critique one careful peeling at a time.  In 2008, at the age of 46, Wallace hung himself from a rafter, leaving behind an unfinished manuscript and clouds of confusion surrounding his brilliant legacy.  But amongst these key events in this man’s timeline was an interview with Rolling Stone journalist & writer David Lipsky.  The pair of David’s spent five days together at the end of Wallace’s Infinite Jest book tour, an experience that profoundly affected Lipsky and prompted the penning of his own novel, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, detailing his conversations with a fascinating mind that was gone too soon.  The End of the Tour is their story.

The Movie

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After the release of Infinite Jest, David Lipsky knew that interviewing authors like David Foster Wallace was what he should be doing as a journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, not editing pieces on boy bands, but real in depth work, breaking the facades of the most interesting people in America.  A writer himself, Lipsky knew the struggles of the industry, knew how hard original brilliance was to come by, and knew that a fascinating man must be behind the novel that the entire literary & academic world was talking about.  And so Lipsky convinced his boss to let him work on the interview, got Wallace to agree to be interviewed, and set out on a road trip to Indiana to meet a recluse who just wrote a 1000 page masterpiece of modern fiction.

But David Foster Wallace wasn’t exactly the type to enjoy meeting a new friend, to revel in the publicity that the magazine would bring his way.  He was a solitary figure, someone who liked dogs more than people, who lived in the middle of nowhere, who taught at a tiny college, who thought that eating at McDonald’s was fancy.  Wallace was concerned about how pretentious he would appear to the public, how his bandana & long hair would come off as affects instead of natural choices.  But despite his trepidations, Wallace began an odd friendship with the man who was sent to find out his deepest secrets, even letting him stay in his guest room and share his Pepsi 6-packs.  The conversations between these two talented men might be the most honest we’ve ever heard, and among the very hardest to accept.

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When a movie can make you immediately contact your local library and reserve a copy of the book it’s based on, you know something just went very right.  And, actually, I reserved two books, Infinite Jest to lay the groundwork and Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself to learn more about the time shared between these two utterly interesting men.  The film plays as a conversation bouncing between tall poles, with audiences in the middle soaking up the cynicism.  Commentary on advertising, junk food, pop culture, the meaning of life; you don’t get much more profoundly existential while still staying grounded.  And therein lies the magic; Wallace is a regular guy with unparalleled insight into the depression that we all feel to some degree.  His thoughts are our thoughts, just expressed more cleverly than we could ever hope to regurgitate.

Credit Jason Segel for harnessing this role and forcing it to accept him as an unworthy actor who would try his very best.  And, ultimately, he did more than try, he succeeded in portraying a complicated man in a way that allowed us to be a part of this strange world of geniuses that we can only dream of understanding.  Segel was vulnerable, authentic, believable; perhaps the best performance of his career.  And Eisenberg wasn’t very far behind, as the star of the film in an odd way, but definitely our guide on this wacky tour of another man’s mind.  Add in a few unusual cameos and you’ve got a cast that doesn’t sound like much on paper, but rises above their previous projects to impress anew: Ron Livingston, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack.  The End of the Tour is a heartfelt & philosophical tale of the everyman, but told from a true story perspective that adds special weight in a way we don’t see often enough.

The DVD

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (16×9 Widescreen), the video never lives up to its medium’s possibilities.  The picture quality is always fine, always normal, but never exquisite, failing to impress in any way.  Now, that said, there’s no need for a stunning visual here; the look of the movie isn’t the point.  The message is delivered by the characters, not by their surroundings, which are kept cold, bleak, and colorless for the majority of the film.

Audio – The disc was done in English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, with an option for Spanish or English SDH subtitles.  The sound quality was nondescript, without helping or hindering the film.  There was a nice selection of 90s music to aid in the vibe of the time period, and that actually helped those of us who enjoyed that music at that time to feel connected to the era in a way the Wallace’s book might not exactly do.

Extras – There are a few extras on the DVD.  The film can be enjoyed with audio commentary with director James Ponsoldt, writer Donald Margulies, and actor Jason Segel.  Behind The Tour is a 24-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that allows us access to the making of the film.  A Conversation With Composer Danny Elfman is an 8-minute segment of the composer’s thoughts behind the simple theme he created to act as a background to the action.  Six deleted scenes can be viewed, as well as five trailers: Amy, American Ultra, Mississippi Grind, Mr. Holmes, Room.

Final Thoughts

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Highly RecommendedThe End of the Tour is a touching film in a very weird way.  It details a real life experience, paints a portrait of two men in a five-day period of their lives, and gives us a taste of a novel that might mean more than we are truly ready to accept.  But the emotion of the movie comes from the budding friendship that is almost too fragile to exist on camera, something that was fleeting yet not without meaning.  Eisenberg & Segel were the perfect pair for these roles, as odd as their resumes might make that seem, helping to create a film that’s at once feel-good and feel-very-bad.  The video was only OK, the audio the same, and there are a few extras on the disc for those looking for a bit more.  Reading the books involved might be the only way to really find more though, which is something I will be doing ASAP.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Trailer – The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Joann Sfar

Starring: Freya Mavor, Benjamin Biolay, Stacy Martin

Release: December 2015

I know nothing about this film, its director, or actors, but the trailer intrigues me.  A Belgian thriller about a beautiful woman who may or may not be a killer?  Who knows, perhaps it’s a shot in the dark, but it could be excellent.


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Movie Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Category : Movie Review

Director: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver

Year: 2015

No movie in recent memory has been as colossally anticipated as The Force Awakens.  As each poster, trailer, or image has been given to the country as a teasing gift, audiences have eaten it up & immediately asked for more.  We want Star Wars, we want this world to engulf us, and, for many of us, we wish we had been alive to see the originals in the theatre, to experience such a phenomenon firsthand instead of from VHS tapes handed down to us from our parents.  Episodes I, II, and III weren’t enough to satisfy our desire for this universe, only serving as an appetizer to the main course.  Well, the meat is finally here.  The Force Awakens is a movie event unlike anything I have ever seen, combining the old, beloved stories with the new hype, creating a brand new franchise to drive us wild.  And while I won’t be the critic to knock down something that we all want to hold high, neither was the film a perfect execution.  Instead, it was exactly what we wanted, gift-wrapped and filling a need, but not an original masterpiece by any means.

Thirty years after the events of the war the Rebellion waged against the Galactic Empire, a new threat has arisen, threatening to take over the galaxy the way Darth Vader and the Emperor envisioned long ago.  The call themselves the First Order, led by a hologram of the Supreme Leader, a general named Hux, and a man called Kylo Ren, one strong in the dark side of the Force.  Together, and in the absence of Luke Skywalker, who has fled to remote space for his own secret reasons, these demons & their First Order will soon control the world.  But a Resistance has sprung up, led by the fabled Princess Leia, a movement whose hope is to find Luke, bring him back, and use the light side to conquer evil once and for all.  But first, three adventurers will join together to fight for the good of the galaxy: Poe the pilot, Rey the scavenger, and Fin the Stormtrooper.  They will find old heroes, meet new allies, and defy the First Order with every breath, or die trying.

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Visually breathtaking, emotionally stirring, musically genius; The Force Awakens is what we’ve been waiting for since 1983.  It continues the plot of a galaxy far, far away, beginning with the trademark rolling script, ending with a view to future films, and packed in the middle with everything we sat down to see.  Returning characters, old theme songs, classic references, lovable robot, brave heroics, and the constant struggle between light & dark; it’s all there, you won’t be disappointed by the omission of a single nugget of the universe you’ve come to love.  And not only that, but the new elements were crafted to slide right into the gaps, creating a brand new story arc that excites us with new possibilities.  Poe flying an X-wing, Rey holding a light saber; the melding of new with old was brilliant, giving us everything we wanted while bringing the franchise into the modern era.

But before I gush any more, let me bring up the few negatives I noticed, because the film was far from perfect, and I think the filmmakers involved understood this, thinking correctly that it really wouldn’t matter much overall.  John Boyega as Fin was awful, just terrible, over-acting every facial expression under he began bringing down everyone he came in contact with.  Carrie Fisher was almost as bad, with a frozen face, gravely voice, and evaporated talent.  Also, I just hated the Maz Kanata character, felt it was much to convenient, but that may just be personal taste.  The other problems, mainly the bad acting and overuse of shots that worked once but felt tired by the time they were used four times, were a bit more obvious and showed a general lack of execution from a director who was more concerned with pumping out a solid crowd-pleaser, and rightly so.  I can’t blame anyone for falling a little short on a specific element, because the film was never meant to be dissected, it was meant to please.  It’s pleasing, it’s entertaining, it’s giant, it’s what we want, and it’s a great beginning to a new phase.  I look forward to the next two films, thinking that they could be even better, and will perhaps reach the goal of being an unbelievable blockbuster AND a phenomenal stand-alone film.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Anesthesia

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Tim Blake Nelson

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Sam Waterston, Corey Stoll

Release: January 8th, 2016

Did I write this screenplay in high school?  Tim Blake Nelson, who was only good in one thing (O Brother), tries his hand at writing/directing again (Leaves of Grass) and comes across as an angsty teen who uses obvious metaphors and existential crises to make himself feel better about his own fear of death.  And the connected yet disconnected large cast setup so rarely works that I can’t imagine that this movie & these actors will be the latest to get it right.  Pass.


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Movie Review – Love Actually

Category : Movie Review

Director: Richard Curtis

Starring: Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson

Martin Freeman, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant

Year: 2003

Every red-blooded American has their favorite holiday movie, the film they must watch while wrapping presents in order to get into the festive spirit.  Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, the classic animated shorts (Rudolph, Frosty, Grinch), or the old favorites like It’s a Wonderful Life; movies mark occasions so very often, and the holidays aren’t the same without your favorite Christmas film.  For me, it happens to be Love Actually.  It not only captures the season in an hour and a half, but presents us with a big-cast romance that has never been done better.  Hollywood has tried, and it seems every month has its own dedicated ensemble rom/com, but none has ever lived up to Love Actually, a story of emotion not only between couples, but between humans & the world around them as well.

Many interwoven stories take place in the weeks before Christmas in London and around the globe, connecting so many with tales of chance, passion, betrayal, heartbreak, and ultimately love.  Jamie’s wife cheats on him with his own brother, prompting a retreat where he meets a beautiful Portuguese girl.  Billy Mack, an aged rock star, attempts a comeback with a dreadful holiday tune.  Daniel & Sam, stepfather & son, grieve the loss of their wife & mother.  Harry & Karen go through the motions of marriage, while his secretary puts on the moves.  Colin dreams of a life in American where women might find him sexy.  John & Judy stand in for stars while filming sex scenes.  Mark watches his best friend marry a girl he doesn’t speak to.  Sarah has longed for Karl since they day they began working together two years ago.  And the new Prime Minister of England finds his aide a horribly arousing distraction.  Love takes many forms, some beautiful, some frightening, but it can’t be denied, especially right before Christmas.

There has never been a better rom/com, except perhaps for When Harry Met Sally, but that film is pure New York City, friends fall in love, wit hiding true feeling, happenstance getting in the way, standard romantic comedy stuff, a film that every movie in the genre has looked up to since the day it was released.  Love Actually is different in many ways I suppose: many connected story lines, both happy & sad endings, a holiday feel, and an overarching point that love is all around, whether we want it to be or not.  Richard Curtis knows how to get you deep down where you’re sensitive; just watch About Time if you dare.  And he does it here in his directorial debut with a skill that has been unmatched since.  And this cast, whoa, just look at these names, each actor giving the natural performance of their lives, many of whom would go on to great things: Freeman as Bilbo, Lincoln in The Walking Dead, Chiwetel Ejiofor in you name it.  This is a film that transcends others, that became to me a special piece of my life above & beyond my job as a critic.  I can’t predict how it will affect you, but I can recommend that you see what it can do.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Kubo and the Two Strings

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Travis Knight

Starring: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes

Release: August 19th, 2016

This is Laika animation and that has come to mean quality stop-motion.  Corpse Bride, Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls: visually stunning & oddly dark films that amuse us all but are also build upon a high standard.  This looks a bit like The Book of Life, but done in Laika style, which should mean a solid movie.  Animated Oscar next year?  We’ll see.


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Movie Review – 45 Years

Category : Movie Review

Director: Andrew Haigh

Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtnay, Geraldine James

Year: 2015

I first saw Charlotte Rampling in Swimming Pool, a solid French/English thriller that allowed Rampling to shine as a deep dramatist, while still giving us a insecure character that we could understand.  Though not a perfect film as a whole, it had a lot to say about jealousy, aging, women, sexuality, and the darker side of the mind.  The same could be said about 45 Years, though the premise is much less in-your-face.  The message is deep down, requiring you to reach farther and dirty yourself further in order to grasp the concept, but that only aids the film in becoming something more than strong.  45 Years is one of the better films I’ve seen this year, and should get its due recognition.

Kate & Geoff Mercer are preparing to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary in a small English town.  The couple is retired, childless, a bit lonely, but overall happy, and this party is something they’ve been looking forward to since five years earlier when Geoff had a surgery that required them to cancel their 40th celebration.  But in the week leading up to the event, a letter comes to Geoff that will shatter the couple’s seemingly idyllic life.  In his 20s, Geoff fell in love with a woman, planned to marry her, but lost her in a tragic climbing accident.  Her body has just been discovered, locked away in ice in the mountains, but the emotions attached to her come flooding back with a vigor that Geoff had all but forgotten.  Now Kate must wade through her feelings of jealousy for this lost love, even as she uncovers more secrets surrounding Geoff’s past life, all before the couple’s marriage will be on display before all their friends come the weekend.

45 Years is a slow burn if I’ve ever seen one, but one that rewards our patience with great drama.  Not that there’s a knife-chase scene in which Geoff is revealed to be a serial killer or anything; it isn’t that type of film.  But twists will occur, and even small ones can be enough to throw off the balance of a relationship that has been based on the past much more than either Kate or Geoff has ever been able to admit before.  There is a lot being said here about old love, whether it vanishes or not, how it affects future love, how both parties in a relationship deal with it.  And getting old, man, rarely has that topic been broached so carefully and so expertly as in this film.  It’s a movie that you should be wary watching, not for any typical Hollywood reasons, but because the emotions buried deep down might just surprise you with their ferocity & truth.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆