Monthly Archives: March 2016

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Movie Trailer – Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone

Starring: Andy Samberg

Release: June 3rd, 2016

This looks like a brilliant combination of Spinal Tap and the Dick in a Box sketch.  Those are two things everyone loves, right, Christopher Guest meets SNL?  I don’t know about you, but sign me up.  At the very least, it looks nothing like Hot Rod.  And did you see the cameos?  Imogen Poots, Adam Levine, Sarah Silverman, Joan Cusack, Bill Hader, Carrie Underwood, Will Forte, Martin Sheen, Snoop Dogg, Pink, Seal, Tim Meadows, Usher, Simon Cowell; how’d they get all these people in one place?!


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Movie Review – Shelter

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Bettany

Starring: Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Connelly

Year: 2014

As much of a professional as I’m sure Paul Bettany is, it must still be difficult to direct your wife in such a physical film.  And by physical I mean that her acting goes far beyond emotion in this film, becoming something much more real.  Vomiting, defecating, shooting heroine into your pubic region, wiping semen from your face; directing & portraying these scenes would be hard enough and must have been doubly difficult given the marriage between Bettany & Connelly.  And to go back to the disturbing physical aspect of this film, it’s something you as an audience member will have to face if you want to try to enjoy this movie.  It might also be the strongest part of the project, overshadowing the mediocre acting & direction of a film, a movie that tried more than it actually accomplished.

Tahir is a homeless illegal living on the streets of New York.  His violent outbursts keep him under watch from law enforcement, his status as an illegal alien keeps him in constant danger of deportation.  But he sticks to his faith, believes he has a purpose, and refuses to give up.  He meets a woman on the streets named Hannah who was once a someone, but who now sees herself as a worthless no one of the city’s dirty underbelly.  The two fall in love, clinging to each other since there’s nothing left to grab hold of, eventually revealing their stories to one another, the reasons that they no longer have a place to call home.  Addiction & despair keep them from moving forward with their lives, and only love will keep them from giving up completely.

This was Paul Bettany’s directorial debut, and unfortunately you could tell.  The themes & conversations were much too expected, too overdone, and not delivered with a light enough touch to impress a knowledgeable audience.  Add in some terrible editing choices and you’ve got a film that doesn’t exactly scream ‘competence’.  Anthony Mackie was solid as Tahir, with an accent that got a bit tiresome, but otherwise with a character that was honest.  Jennifer Connelly felt very forced, failing to nuance her role the way it called for.  The slap-you-in-the-face physicality was pretty impressive, and credit to the team for not holding back, but as a whole the film just didn’t completely come together.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Ella Purnell

Release: September 30th, 2016

Tim Burton is the only logical choice for director of this movie, his style fits this book like a glove.  Asa Butterfield I actually never liked until recently when I saw him in A Brilliant Young Mind, where he was quite good.  Eva Green, well she’s perfectly creepy for this role, and look at some of the other stars who make their way into this film: Samuel L. Jackson, Allison Janney, Judi Dench, Chris O’Dowd, Rupert Everett.  I’m excited for this one.


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Movie Review – Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

Category : Movie Review

Director: John Lee

Starring: Paul Reubens, Joe Manganiello, Alia Shawkat

Year: 2016

It takes a certain type of person to love Pee-wee Herman.  That type would be those who also love the Three Stooges, who are well-connected with their inner child, and who don’t apologize for their strange sense of humor.  I respect those people, but I just happen not to be one of them.  I actually wasn’t allowed to watch Pee-wee as a child; I guess my parents thought he was crude or weird or something, and we all know about the trouble Reubens found himself in years later.  So I never experienced his comedy when I was young, never looked into it when I got older, and never thought I’d watch one of his wacky films.  But I gave this one a shot, hey why not, and what I found out was an affirmation of what I had always suspected; that it takes an unusual individual to love this unusual individual, which just so happens not to be me.

Pee-wee has never left his small hometown of Fairville.  He’s comfortable there, knows everyone, has a good job, lives alone, has a routine, and has no idea what might be beyond the city limits.  But, one day, he meets an exciting man named Joe.  The two are an awful lot alike, enjoy the same things, finish each others’ sentences, the whole lot.  But Joe loves the city, the open road, danger, adventure.  He counsels Pee-wee to live a little, to leave his comfort zone, to experience all that the world has to offer, starting with Joe’s birthday party in New York City.  So Pee-wee takes a chance, loads up his car, and heads out on the highway.  Little does he know that he’ll see more than he ever imagined: giant snakes, bank robbers, mountain men, the Amish, crazy farmers, and so much more, as he hits the road on the journey of a lifetime.

I spent most of the movie chuckling to myself, wondering what in the hell was going on.  It wasn’t like the humor was foreign to me exactly, it was more like it wasn’t humor at all, but rather any thought that went through Paul Reubens’ head spilled out onto the screen.  Not only was it not funny, but it wasn’t even a true attempt to be funny; it was like he didn’t care what happened next.  Maybe that’s his style of comedy right there, but if so, count me as someone who just doesn’t understand it.  I did laugh uproariously at one scene, when Pee-wee made a balloon make funny sounds for about 5 minutes straight.  The shear audacity of that scene cracked me up, and I guess I can see how that theme played throughout the film, how Reubens did what he wanted regardless of how little sense it made.  But I can’t say I liked the film, not it any way, and I found it a complete waste of time.  If you already love Pee-wee I can only assume this is more of what you grew up with, but otherwise stay far, far away.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – One More Time

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Robert Edwards

Starring: Christopher Walken, Amber Heard, Hamish Linklater

Release: April 8th, 2016

This could actually be great, as surprising as that sounds.  Walken & Heard in a film by an amateur director about a washed-up singer?  That doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.  But I think there’s a little spark of magic here that just might work.  Walken seems relaxed & invested like you don’t normally see him; maybe he’s at the perfect age.  And Heard is someone I haven’t seen a lot of but who seems to have talent.  I don’t know, but I guess that it works.


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Sports – Feisty Foxes 2016

Category : Sports

Spring is in the air and that means baseball!  A new season is right around the corner, time to root root root for the home team.  And with the beginning of the MLB year comes the beginning of fantasy baseball.  If you play you know how addicting it is; the daily lineups, the trades, the hot/cold players, the DL stints.  And if you’ve never played, hop on board & enjoy the ride, it’s a great way to enjoy a great game even more.  Here is my fantasy baseball team this year, once again christened the Feisty Foxes.  I went home run heavy with a bullpen of solid pitchers.  Let me know what you think and/or how your fantasy draft went this year.  Good luck everyone!

C – Travis d’Arnaud – New York Mets

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1B – David Ortiz – Boston Red Sox

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2B – Neil Walker – New York Mets

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3B – Nolan Arenado – Colorado Rockies

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SS – Corey Seagar – Los Angeles Dodgers

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LF – David Peralta – Arizona Diamondbacks

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CF – Brad Miller – Tampa Bay Rays

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RF – Chris Davis – Baltimore Orioles

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Bench – Danny Valencia – Oakland Athletics

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Bench – Marcell Ozuna – Miami Marlins

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Bench – Welington Castillo – Arizona Diamondbacks

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SP – Max Scherzer – Washington Nationals

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SP – David Price – Boston Red Sox

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SP – Dallas Keuchel – Houston Astros

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SP – Tyson Ross – San Diego Padres

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SP – Marcus Stroman – Toronto Blue Jays

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SP – Jeff Samardzija – San Francisco Giants

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SP – Drew Smyly – Tampa Bay Rays

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RP – Zach Britton – Baltimore Orioles

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RP – Brad Ziegler – Arizona Diamondbacks

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RP –  Steve Cishek – Seattle Mariners

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Movie Trailer – I Am Wrath

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Chuck Russell

Starring: John Travolta, Christopher Meloni, Patrick St. Esprit

Release: April 15th, 2016

For me, the only cool thing about this movie is that it was filmed in CBus, better know to out-of-towners as Columbus, Ohio.  I actually contacted the extras department, got some info, was gonna head down to the courthouse to be part of a crowd scene.  I didn’t, in the end, part of my noncommittic personality I guess, but that would have been pretty fun.  You know what won’t be fun?  Actually watching this movie.


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DVD Review – Life

Category : DVD Review

Director: Anton Corbijn

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Joel Edgerton

Year: 2015

Brilliant pieces don’t always fit together to form a beautiful puzzle, and such is the case with Life, a film whose entirety does not live up to its parts.  Anton Corbijn is coming off what is by far his greatest movie, A Most Wanted Man.  Robert Pattinson has moved  far past his brooding vampire character with a stellar performance in The Rover.  Dane DeHaan proves with every project to be an enigmatic presence who is here to stay.  Joel Edgerton is possibly the hottest ticket in Hollywood right now.  James Dean makes for perfect dramatic material, a good-die-young story that begs to be told.  And yet Life fails to elicit any excitement or intrigue of any kind, due mostly to its snail’s pace and its reliance on historical impressions.  To say the ball was dropped here would be an understatement; the ball was bounced ever more slowly until it came to a complete stop and every player in the game fell asleep.

The Movie

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Dennis Stock is a young man off to a bad start.  A New Yorker originally, Dennis joined the coast guard as a teenager, got married early, got divorced quickly, and doesn’t get to see his little son.  Now in L.A., Dennis takes pictures of celebrities for a living, though what he wants most is to become an artistic photographer, someone with a portfolio that matters, a game-changer in the industry.  He could work for Life magazine if only he could find a subject great enough to warrant an exposé, but instead he simply slogs along the red carpet, shows up at studios, scrapes by, and slowly leaves his dream further & further behind.  California is not a gold mine for everyone, especially not for Dennis Stock, as every day becomes worse than the one before.

But that all changes when Dennis meets James Dean.  The young and mostly unknown actor just hit it big in Elia Kazan’s East of Eden, bursting onto the scene with a dark charm that is sure to win the hearts of American moviegoers.  Dennis recognizes this talent, sees the potential, and decides that he must get Jimmy to agree to a photo shoot.  Only problem is, the budding star has no interest in fame, he’s in it for the art.  He wants the lead in the upcoming Rebel Without a Cause quite badly, but doesn’t really want the stress & rules that go along with becoming a leading man.  Stock & Dean begin a rocky friendship that will take them to Time’s Square, to Indiana farm country, and to whatever the future might hold.

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First the positives.  Considering he was only in two major films and died before his talent could actually be realized, James Dean is a surprisingly fascinating & iconic individual.  His demeanor & approach still catch our attention to this day, so what better subject matter for a film than the true story behind his historic photo shoot for Life magazine.  So the plot is there for the depicting, and the talent was on board to make sure it was done properly.  Pattinson is a better actor than some of his film choices would have us believe.  DeHaan has a edgy swagger that translates well to the screen and draws our attention right to him like a magnet.  And Joel Edgerton turns everything he touches into gold, so adding him as a side character was a no-brainer.

Now the negatives.  Anton Corbijn isn’t actually a successful film director.  He mostly did music documentaries in the past, dabbled in film a bit, made a mediocre hit out of The American with George Clooney in 2010, wowed me in 2014 with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last starring role, but hasn’t really produced anything else.  That he doesn’t exactly know how to weave drama through a fictionalized true story shouldn’t be all that surprising when you really think about it.  And Life faltered because of exactly that; a lack of drama and, ironically, life in the spare moments of the film.  The acting was great, the representations of famous characters interesting, but the gaps between quality scenes were glaringly dull and made without magic.  In the end, the film became boring if anything, cold & pointless, with an ending on its way that we all knew was coming eventually.

The DVD

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and shot using an Arri Alexa camera with Panavision Primo lenses, the video quality of the DVD is a high point of the film.  Though not colorful, the dark theme of the visuals set the mood for the story and represented James Dean very well.  The attention to detail to bring these historic shots to life was impressive, with the visuals translating very well.  Without a clarity that will catch your eye, the film still succeeds in painting a beautiful picture, and at least got the cinematography right.

Audio – Done in English Dolby 5.1, there are no other audio, language, or subtitle options on the disc menu.  The sound quality of the film is fine, with a classic background soundtrack and a good audio balance, but without any memorable moments.

Extras – There are just a few special features available on the DVD.  One is a trailer for the film.  The other is a set of interviews from the cast & crew: Anton Corbijn, Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Joel Edgerton.

Final Thoughts

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Rent It.  Although well-made, Life is ultimately too tedious to recommend.  I’m sure there’s an existential point to be made there, but let’s just stick to the film.  Crafted with solid talent and representing a viable real life story, the film nevertheless failed to take that difficult step toward a strong independent project.  It relied too heavily on our interest in James Dean, brought up historic figures perhaps too often, and spent a lot of time attempting to recreate reality.  In the meantime, no drama or excitement or investment was pumped into the plot, leaving most moments feeling flat, picking up only when an actor was specifically producing a key scene.  Ultimately, that led to a movie that was 70% boring.  The video was fairly impressive, the audio was fine, and the extras were few.  Rent if you’re already a Dean or DeHaan fan, but otherwise take your time getting around to this one.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Born to Be Blue

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Robert Budreau

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo

Release: March 25th, 2016

Jesus god, the only thing more boring than jazz music is a movie about jazz music.  Who cares about Chet Baker or his goddam “comeback”?  Who wants to watch Ethan Hawke pretend to the play the blues for two hours?  Who could possibly survive this much cinematic torture and come out alive on the other side?!


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Movie Review – About Alex

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jesse Zwick

Starring: Max Greenfield, Aubrey Plaza, Nate Parker

Max Minghella, Maggie Grace, Jason Ritter, Jane Levy

Year: 2014

In a scene at a dinner table, About Alex compares itself to The Big Chill, with a character noticing that events are falling out just like an 80s movie, all the friends gathering back together after all these years to discuss the past & look toward the future.  And while it’s alright to make a nod to the past, especially to a film you’ve been ripping off since the opening credits, I don’t know if forcing the connection is a good idea.  After all, many have tried, few have succeeded, and matching one of the greats of the genre might be a near-impossible task.  If you want a modern Big Chill, check out Beside Still Waters, a movie with heart & nostalgia in large, impressive, Indie doses.  But don’t expect the same from About Alex, a film that tries more than it succeeds.

A group of six college friends, with the addition of a Plus One, reunite following the attempted suicide of one of their number.  Alex the troubled loner who never felt like he fit in.  Ben the writer whose surface seems more successful than his actual actually is.  Siri his perfect girlfriend who has always been by his side.  Josh the cynic who has always loved Siri.  Sarah the caregiver who sleeps with Josh but who loves Isaac.  Isaac the Republican money-maker who doesn’t put much stock in feelings.  These friends come together for a weekend to support Alex but leave having learned valuable lessons about themselves; what made them who they are, what mistakes they’ve made so far, and how bright the future can still be if they start making good choices.

There’s a little too many obvious themes/lessons/morals for About Alex to be an exceptional film.  Actually, there’s no way it could be exceptional by definition, since its much more a genre film than it is an exception to any rules.  It sticks to the standard recipe, acknowledges that fact, and hopes we enjoy our 90 minutes anyway.  And in some ways I did.  The characters are likeable, relatable, if becoming caricatures far too quickly.  They all represent certain aspects, which is fine, but which also stunts the growth of any one of them individually.  Greenfield, Plaza, & Parker are the strongest, but even they can’t save the film from becoming a little too typical for its own good.  Check out Beside Still Waters instead; it’s more dynamic & enjoyable, while still capturing the feeling we all secretly yearn for.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆