Monthly Archives: February 2016

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Movie Trailer – Mother’s Day

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Garry Marshall

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis

Britt Robertson, Julia Roberts, Timothy Olyphant, Margo Martindale

Release: April 29th, 2016

Garry Marshall, the director of Overboard, Beaches, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries, Raising Helen, Georgia Rule, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and now Mother’s Day.  I can only assume he’s very in touch with his feminine side and has absolutely no taste when it comes to film.  Oh, and also that he’s a sadist.  These might ne movies your Baby Boomer mother would enjoy, but for the rest of us they’re complete crap.  And I feel bad for Jason Sudeikis, who really should be above this.  Kate Hudson, not so much.


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Movie Review – Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

Category : Movie Review

Director: David Lowery

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster

Year: 2013

With about as underrated a case as you will ever come across, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a movie buff’s paradise of unrecognized talent, dedication to mood, and general slow burn.  Those aspects don’t always appeal to your average audience member, and more often than not they’re over-utilized when brought into a project, resulting in a film that not even critics can enjoy.  Luckily for us, or at least for those looking for a little more depth to their classic, Texan crime story, this movie delivers the subtle aspects of solid film-making while not becoming an art house buzz kill.  It successfully blends popular with indie, creating a deep tone while also giving us plot.  Straddling both worlds, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints has the potential to be a crowd-pleaser and a respectable nod to the critical mind, though its lack of accolades might suggest that I’m the only one who thinks so.

In Texas a few decades back, a love story unfolds that is as tragic as it is beautiful.  Bob & Ruth are inseparable sweethearts, both taken in by a man they now view as a father, Skerritt, along with his son who has become a best friend.  The trio do odd jobs for Skerritt, mostly criminal, amassing a long list of enemies along the way, only a few of which are federal.  One particular job goes particularly wrong, ending in a shootout with the coppers where one officer gets shot, one friend dies, and the other two give themselves up.  With Ruth pregnant, Bob takes the fall, but vows to escape from prison one day to come back for his girl, or for his girls rather, including the daughter that’s on the way.  Four years later and Bob hasn’t forgotten his promise, Ruth hasn’t forgotten her baby’s daddy, and the town won’t ever forgive the young criminals who were so deeply in love.

A nice mix of artistic and grounded cinema, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints has a little something for everyone.  It’s mood-driven, with intentional music, focused cinematography, and a dark atmosphere that should appease the most critical movie-goer.  But it also brings a few typical ingredients to the table, including a revenge story, a father figure, gangsters, shoot-outs, love, redemption, choosing between two diverging paths.  There’s a lot here that should appeal to audience members from various groups, resulting in a film that shouldn’t completely disappoint anyone.  It isn’t O Brother bold or Out of the Furnace heavy, but a good combination of both.  Affleck, such an underrated actor, is superb here, as is Mara in a pre-Carol role, and Foster, who I’ve always enjoyed & should be given a ton of credit for rising above his childhood stardom.  It won’t go down as the best of its year, nor can I claim that I’ll remember it forever, but what we have here is a solid film with solid pieces, something to respect.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Bastille Day

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: James Watkins

Starring: Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Kelly Reilly

Release: July 13th, 2016

If anyone can pull this type of shitty movie out of their proverbial ass, polish it up, and pawn it off as a diamond, that man is Idris Elba.  I don’t mean to be crass, and I definitely don’t want to insult Elba’s …anything.  No, my ire is directed at this genre, a style that produces bomb after bomb similar to their content; all noise and no substance.  Some would say that the Bourne movies fixed that, but I would disagree.  Can Bastille Day?  Perhaps not, but I have a sneaky feeling that critics walk away from this one saying, “you know, that wasn’t half bad.”


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Thought – 2016 Oscar Picks

Category : Thought

Sunday February 28nd, 2016, 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 Chris Rock 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 2015:

Best Actor

Best Supporting Actor

  • Winner – Sylvester Stallone – Creed
  • Runner-up – Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
  • My choice – Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Best Actress

  • Winner – Brie Larson – Room
  • Runner-up – Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
  • My choice – Cate Blanchett – Carol

Best Supporting Actress

Best Director

Best Picture

 


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Movie Trailer – Sing

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Garth Jennings

Starring: Taron Egerton, Scarlett Johannson, Matthew McConaughey

Release: December 21st, 2016

This is a pretty impressive voice-over list, including the hot new item Taron Egerton, who can literally do no wrong.  Johannson & McConaughey aren’t doing too shabby lately themselves, and then there’s the rest of the cast: Reese Witherspoon, Nick Offerman, Seth McFarlane, John C. Reilly, Tori Kelly.  I’m not a Despicable Me fan, so maybe this style won’t be my fav, but there’s enough here to pique my interest.


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Movie Review – A War

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tobias Lindholm

Starring: Pilou Asbæk, Tuva Novotny, Dar Salim

Year: 2015

Up for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year is A War, a Danish drama focusing on the difficult life of a soldier & his family as he serves a tour of duty in Afghanistan.  As Americans, we’re used to seeing war movies; the guts, the glory, the guns.  And we’ve become used to New Age war movies; the tan camo, the desert, the RPGs, the suicide bombers, the snipers, the translators, the terrorism.  Bradley Cooper & Mark Wahlberg & Jeremy Renner have all showed us what war in the Middle East in like, or so we think, and perhaps we’ve even become desensitized to the violence there, now that it’s become Hollywood mainstream.  But A War paints a different picture, reminds us that we’re not the only ones fighting, that every soldier is simply a human being who often makes bad decisions, and that war is still, at its core, hell.

Claus Pedersen is a commanding officer from Denmark who leads a squad of soldiers in the hills of war-torn Afghanistan.  His team’s mission is to keep the peace, protect the innocent, practice routine patrols, show their friendly presence in the area, and, when necessary, drive off & kill Taliban agents who inhabit the region.  After a patrol leads to the death of a young soldier, and after helping a nearby village causes increased violence, Claus and his unit are on high alert and on edge, with the constant threat of death weighing on their shoulders every day.  One quick decision in the heat of battle will soon cause Pedersen more trouble than he bargained for, putting he & his men in danger of court-martial and dishonorable discharge.  War is never simple, as this commander and his family soon find out, and sometimes the most noble deed can be your downfall.

This is a war movie like none other and one of the best overall films of the year, foreign or otherwise.  Given a new perspective, the genre gets a refresh from a movie that approaches the subject from a different angle, that turns war into people, that shows how every action has a consequence, and how those consequences aren’t always proportionate.  It’s striking what is acceptable during wartime and what is not, this film giving that juxtaposition a frightening face and bringing that idea to life in a way I’ve never seen before.  Using almost no music whatsoever, the action unfolds one sequential step after another, taking realism to a whole new level.  While also focusing on the lives of those the soldiers leave behind, A War quickly becomes a film that captures the grand evils & quiet triumphs of a terrible landscape where simple men must make life-altering choices.  Not only should it win Best Foreign Film, but this movie deserves to be in the conversation for Best Picture, one of my Top Ten of the year.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Trailer – The Driftless Area

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Zachary Sluser

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Zooey Deschanel, John Hawkes

Release: April 26th, 2016

It might seem like just another romance with a ghost added in for good measure, but I think the odd, quirky element of this film will set it apart from the rest.  These main actors are solid, even though I’m not smitten with ol’ Zoooooey, & the side actors are strong as well: Frank Langella, Ciaran Hinds, Aubrey Plaza.  And it would be remiss of me to fail to mention that Yelchin is one of the finest young talents out there right now, you can trust him in pretty much anything, even if the movie itself isn’t the greatest: Star Trek Into Darkness, Rudderless, Green Room.


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Sports – MLB 2016 Old Faces New Places

Category : Sports

The 2016 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 ten free agents in their fresh uniforms that might change the future of their new clubs:

David Price – SP

Toronto Blue Jays —> Boston Red Sox

davidprice

Zack Greinke – SP

Los Angeles Dodgers —> Arizona Diamondbacks

zackgreinke1

Johnny Cueto – SP

Kansas City Royals —> San Francisco Giants

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Jason Hayward – OF

St. Louis Cardinals —> Chicago Cubs

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Jordan Zimmerman – SP

Washington Nationals —> Detroit Tigers

jordanzimmermann

Justin Upton – OF

San Diego Padres —> Detroit Tigers

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Jeff Samardzija – SP

Chicago White Sox —> San Francisco Giants

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Mike Leake – SP

San Francisco Giants —> St. Louis Cardinals

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Ben Zobrist – IF

Kansas City Royals —> Chicago Cubs

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Daniel Murphy – IF

New York Mets —> Washington Nationals

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Movie Trailer – The Darkness

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Greg McLean

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, David Mazouz, Lucy Fry

Release: May 13th, 2016

No thank you, no nightmares for me please.


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DVD Review – Meadowland

Category : DVD Review

Director: Reed Morano

Starring: Olivia Wilde, Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi

Year: 2015

Stories of loss necessitate a skilful touch when creating or adapting them for the screen.  For one, a tragic death is not something we have all experienced, not something we can all understand, is more often something we refuse to contemplate unless we are unlucky enough to have it happen to our family.  In that way, this is a subject that we don’t want to discuss, which creates a unique challenge.  Secondly, tragic dramas are depressing, it’s as simple as that, so a director & his cast must relay the inherent emotions without ruining their audience’s collective evening.  It’s not a genre that can be chosen out of hand, nor is it simple to make a movie that relies on heavy emotion, even if emotion is intrinsically why we come to the theatre in the first place.  Meadowland isn’t a drama that hits all its goals or avoids all the serious pitfalls of its style.  Instead, it’s heavy, slow, unwieldy, and unrelatable; not, I assume, what they were going for.

The Movie

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Sarah & Phil experience the most terrible loss a parent can suffer; the disappearance of their child.  At a gas station on a road trip, little Jessie goes into the bathroom, exits unseen through a back door, and isn’t seen again.  His frantic mother & father search for their son, but to no avail, and eventually they’ll have to accept the fact that their boy is gone.  What was once a happy family has been torn apart by, perhaps, a kidnapper, a death, an accident, they don’t even know, and that quickly becomes the hardest part to live with.  They don’t even get the relief of closure that an unfortunate death would bring, all they have is a future that was once bright darkened by the loss of their only child, constantly wondering if he will return.

A year later finds Sarah & Phil no better, if not worse.  Their inability to move on from Jessie’s disappearance has begun to seriously damage their marriage and their decision making.  Phil, at least, has joined a support group, but this stoic cop has no idea how to cope, and only makes his fellow group members uncomfortable with his suggestions on how to deal with the loss of a loved one.  He also can’t help his own wife, a woman who is growing further & further away.  Sarah is a teacher who begins a friendship with an autistic boy at her school, but quickly becomes obsessed with his well being and with the memory of her son that he keeps alive.  Neither parent knows how to continue, failing to support each other through this terrible time.

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This movie was set up to fail if any ever was, with too many hurdles to jump over on its way to being a quality drama.  It’s far too heavy, which seems silly to say about a story of loss, but it’s true as well.  Constant pressure became oppressive rather than fascinating, with no time given to a break for the audience.  There weren’t other elements to offset the sadness, only more sadness and more oppression.  At least with a movie like Cake there’s a little inspiration, and with a movie like I Smile Back someone had the balls to hold nothing back.  But with Meadowland, there aren’t those aspects to grab on to, aren’t shifts to enjoy between the troubling ebbs & flows of the story, and so the entire thing becomes a brick of dread that’s difficult to stomach.

Give some credit to the pair of leads here, as they both reached deep down for quality performances in a film that could not possibly have been easy to work with.  As I said before, grief is not something we want to talk about, and most of us won’t experience something this tragically terrible.  For these actors to live it for the duration of this film must have taken a tremendous effort.  Olivia Wilde, who often plays the sexy female side character, was strong as the lead of this movie, embodying loss with every expression.  Luke Wilson, not known for his serious work, held up well when given the difficult task of being the father at a loss.  And the side actors were solid as well: Ribisi, Elisabeth Moss, John Leguizamo, Kevin Corrigan.  But these fine actors couldn’t save what was ultimately a bludgeoning of the heart, an overkill of emotion, and an impossible pill to swallow.

The DVD

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the video quality of this film is good enough not to take any attention away from the impending doom of the situation, allowing the visuals to remain solid while the emotions of the characters shine through.  In other words, the video isn’t the highlight.  The film was shot using an Arri Alexa XT camera with Zeiss Master Anamorphic and Angenieux HR Lenses.  The muted colors are intentional, with Olivia Wilde sporting a highlighting bright yellow sweater in some scenes as a specific draw of attention.  Overall, the visuals are fine & the clarity is passable, but not the focal points.

Audio – The disc was done in English Dolby 5.1, with no menu options or language choices of any kind.  The sound, again, was presented at the bare minimum, forcing audiences to feel the pain rather than escape through the technical aspects on the movie.

Extras – There are two special features on the DVD: Behind the Scenes of Meadowland is a 22-minute featurette on the making of the film and there is also a theatrical trailer available to view.

Final Thoughts

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Rent It.  I found this film too much to take, and I don’t say that from an overly sensitive position.  Tragic plays of this nature are hard enough to accept on their own, they need every ounce of talent the filmmakers & cast have to offer to lift them up to eye level at all.  Unfortunately, Meadowland wasn’t deftly done and the result was a clunker of a drama.  The emotions were too static and audiences never get a much-needed break.  A few moments of levity would have helped, or even the briefest time to step away.  Perhaps the constant pressure was intentional, meant to force us to empathize with these characters.  But while I can appreciate that, I can’t enjoy it.  The video of the film was OK, the audio was indifferent, and the extras were few.  There are better tales of woe out there, and I’d recommend that you find them if you just must depress yourself for the night.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay