Monthly Archives: April 2016

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Movie Trailer – The Family Fang

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jason Bateman

Starring: Jason Bateman, Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken

Release: May 6th, 2016

Invoking the name of Tenenbaum?  How dare they.  It looks more like This is Where I Leave You than The Royal Tenenbaums, which makes total sense, since the former is more up Bateman’s alley.  Not that he should be dismissed; he’s a great actor, natural comedian, and even did pretty well in his directorial debut in 2013 with Bad Words.  I just don’t see this as the next great family dramody.


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Movie Review – Breathe

Category : Movie Review

Director: Mélanie Laurent

Starring: Josephine Japy, Lou de Laage

Year: 2014

Melanie Laurent has now impressed me in three films: Inglourious Basterds, Enemy, & By the Sea.  This talented & beautiful French actress is the real deal, able to raise heavy emotion from the depths, bringing something special to the surface.  But acting is only a part of who she is as an artist, writing & directing quickly becoming passions as well.  Here in Breathe, Laurent creates a film all her own, her second attempt, the first being the minimally-seen The Adopted.  So far, she’s a better thespian than filmmaker, but there’s still time to hold out hope.  After all, the 33-year-old actress is just getting started, and I think her best is yet to come.  Next up is a drama based on a novel (Eternité) costarring Audrey Tautou (Amélie), so hold on to your hats.

Breathe is the story of teenager Charlie, her small problems, and how one new friendship can become a catastrophe.  Charlie lives with her mom in the suburbs, attends the local school, has a small group of friends, but is generally afraid; to open up, to come out of her shell, to talk to the boy she likes, to stand up to her irresponsible & absent father, to help her mother move on, to live the life that has been given to her.  But that all changes when she meets Sarah.  The new girl in town is brave, careless, rebellious, sexy, confident; everything Charlie is missing from her own spirit.  And when Sarah starts giving her special attention, Charlie has never been so happy.  It’s not until she gets to know some of the darker secrets of her new BFFs existence that Charlie begins to wonder if this change was a good thing after all.

Think Blue Is the Warmest Color but without the lesbians, the grit, or the length.  Basically, a toned down version of the same coming-of-age theme, but done in a softer style.  And also the story becomes a bit more of a thriller, where Blue keeps steady as a realism piece.  Which one was better?  I’d say they were about the same, at least as far as enjoyment goes.  Breathe is interesting, well-made, well-acted, but it lacks that magic X-factor that would set it apart from others.  It’s a little safe, a little typical, and doesn’t show any real genius.  Laurent is just starting out as a writer/director and I think we can feel her getting her feet wet.  The more she works the more she’ll have to say, and I look forward to hearing it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Jason Bourne

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Paul Greengrass

Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones

Release: July 29th, 2016

In theory they could make a million of these movies, up until the day Matt Damon dies quietly in his bed at the age of 100.  Just make up another conspiracy, have Bourne be angry about it, and then let him walk around punching people while suits watch him from imaginary cameras.  I guess that’s my problem with this movie series; it’s too easy.  Sure the action is cool, Damon is a good actor, we want a flawed hero to root for, but there is a very limited amount of effort required to pull this story off, and that’s what bothers me.


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Movie Review – The Jungle Book (2016)

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jon Favreau

Starring: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray

Year: 2016

As a big fan of the 1967 original, this newest version of The Jungle Book had to be amazing to impress me.  And I can’t have been alone in that either; though not the Disney Princess classic that first comes to mind, this film is still one of those stalwarts many of us grew up watching on repeat.  The songs, the characters, the perfect moments that we still quote to this day; there’s a lot to live up to if you’re brave enough to try your hand at a remake.  Jon Favreau wasn’t scared apparently, taking on this project though he’s more an actor than a director, attempting to build his resume on top of Iron Man and Cowboys & Aliens.  Give the guy some credit; he and team Disney built the picture, got both critics & audiences on board, and already have a sequel in the works.  But did it impress this old-school fan, and will it entertain you?

Mowgli the man-cub, raised in the jungle, part of the pack, but never too far from the roots of his species and their inherently destructive tendencies.  The story of Mowgli’s childhood is well-known; found by Bagheera the panther, raised by Akela the wolf, despised by Shere Khan the tiger.  Mowgli is growing up fast, and can no longer be kept safe in the jungle where not everyone is glad to house a human.  So he & Bagheera set off for the man village to find the boy a safe home, despite that very boy’s protestations.  Along the way, Mowgli will meet the infamous Kaa, the lovable Baloo, and the insane King Louie, finding out more about himself than he ever dreamed and more about the jungle than he ever dared to ask.

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Impress?  Not completely.  Entertain?  Definitely yes.  So let’s start with a positive that is actually a veiled negative and say that the animation is impressive beyond a doubt.  The simple fact that these images can be made by humans, flashed before my eyes, and that my brain can hardly discern their reality is proof that something phenomenal is happening.  The animation was stunning, and not in a Pixar way, but in some form much more vivid & awesome.  But the reason I call this a backhanded compliment is that it was perhaps all that impressed me about this film.  The boy who played Mowgli definitely didn’t win me over; I kinda wish he had been animated too.  And the cheesy pack motto chanted under stirring music in the face of all odds; come on.  Combine the kid, the sap, & what I thought was unnecessary revamping of the original music and you’ve got a film that got under my skin far too often.

But, luckily, the animation wasn’t the only positive aspect of the movie, just the only stellar one.  The next biggest plus was the voice-over work.  I wouldn’t have guessed that these actors would be the perfect voice matches for these animals, but they somehow were and it somehow worked splendidly.  Ben Kingsley can be a little annoying & dramatic, but he was just right for Bagheera.  Bill Murray was both goofy & lovable, the epitome of Baloo.  ScarJo as Kaa had a surprisingly small part in the story, but it was creepy & cool.  And lastly, Idris Elba, whose performance as Shere Khan was uncanny, as was the animation of the tiger itself.  I hope I’ve been clear that, while not singing its praises, The Jungle Book succeeded in many areas; the visuals, the voices, even the nod to old Disney.  But it was far from perfect; the kid, the cheese, the unnecessary songs.  Taken as a whole, a bit of a mixed bag, but an enjoyable one nonetheless.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Blood Father

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jean-François Richet

Starring: Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna

Release: August 26th, 2016

I was hoping that this would be a bit more than your typical action movie, especially since Mel’s kinda been away for a while, not doing anything quality since The Singing Detective in 2003.  But no, it looks pretty typical.  Daughter in trouble, bad ass dad, shoot ’em all up; seen it, seen it, seen it.  I like Mel too, I think he’s a great actor, putting aside all his weird personality stuff; I just wish he’s pick better movies.


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Sports – 2016 NFL Draft

Category : Sports

Football is almost here!  It’s just a matter of time before the season begins.  The first step was Free Agency, the second was the Schedule.  And now the Draft!  This Thursday @ 8:00 pm the 1st Round of the Draft will be on in prime time and I’ll be glued to the television.  This is a very interesting draft class and it’s hard to predict who each team will pick, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun trying.  So, based on the opinions of experts and my own uneducated musings (and barring any draft spot trades) here it is, Olie’s 2016 Mock Draft:

1. Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff, QB California

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2. Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz, QB NDSU

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3. San Diego Chargers – Laremy Tunsil, OT Ole Miss

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4. Dallas Cowboys – Jalen Ramsey, CB FSU

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5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Joey Bosa, DE OSU

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6. Baltimore Ravens – Miles Jack, LB UCLA

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7. San Francisco 49ers – Ronnie Stanley, OT Notre Dame

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8. Cleveland Browns – Ezekiel Elliott, RB OSU

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9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Vernon Hargreaves, CB Florida

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10. New York Giants – Deforest Buckner, DE Oregon

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11. Chicago Bears – Leonard Floyd, LB Georgia

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12. New Orleans – Sheldon Rankins, DT Louisville

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13. Miami Dolphins – Shaq Lawson, DE Clemson

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14. Oakland Raiders – Robert Nkemdiche, DT Ole Miss

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15. Tennessee Titans – Jack Conklin, OT MSU

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16. Detroit Lions – Kevin Dodd, DE Clemson

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17. Atlanta Falcons – Darron Lee, LB OSU

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18. Indianapolis Colts – Taylor Decker, OT OSU

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19. Buffalo Bills – Reggie Ragland, LB Alabama

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20. New York Jets – Paxton Lynch, QB Memphis

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21. Washington Redskins – Jarran Reed, DT Alabama

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22. Houston Texans – Corey Coleman, WR Baylor

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23. Minnesota Vikings – Laquon Treadwell, WR Ole Miss

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24. Cincinnati Bengals – Josh Doctson, WR TCU

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25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Artie Burns, CB Miami

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26. Seattle Seahawks – A’Shawn Robinson, DT Alabama

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27. Green Bay Packers – Hunter Henry, TE Arkansas

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28. Kansas City Chiefs – Will Fuller, WR Notre Dame

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29. Arizona Cardinals – William Jackson III, CB Houston

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30. Carolina Panthers – Andrew Billings, DT Baylor

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31. Denver Broncos – Cody Whitehair, OG KSU

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Best of the Rest: Jaylon Smith LB Notre Dame (injury), Chris Jones DT Miss St, Vernon Butler DT LA Tech, Emmanuel Ogbah DE Oklahoma St, Derrick Henry RB Alabama, Noah Spence DE Eastern Kentucky, Jordan Howard RB Indiana, Jonathan Bullard DT Florida, Le’Raven Clark OT Texas Tech, Eli Apple CB OSU, Mackensie Alexander CB Clemson, Tyler Boyd WR Pittsburgh, Germain Ifedi OG Texas A&M, Connor Cook QB MSU.

Notes: DE Deforest Buckner could easily rocket up to the Top 5.  Teams could trade into the Top 10 in order to select Paxton Lynch.  WRs Coleman, Treadwell, & Doctson could flip between the 22-24 slots.  The New England Patriots lost their 1st Rd selection after ‘Deflategate’.


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Movie Trailer – The Girl on the Train

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Tate Taylor

Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Allison Janney

Luke Evans, Rebecca Ferguson, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Prepon

Release: October 7th, 2016

Tate Taylor directed The Help and Get on Up; that’s really the only thing that worries me about this film.  The Help is a great book, a mediocre movie, while Get on Up was a disaster.  But putting that aside, The Girl on the Train has the potential to be this year’s Gone Girl, with a little Fifty Shades thrown in for good measure.  A recipe for box office success at least, and I’d be willing to bet some critical success as well, if only because of Emily Blunt, who is a true talent.


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DVD Review – Breaking Up

Category : DVD Review

Director: Robert Greenwald

Starring: Russell Crowe, Salma Hayek

Year: 1997

An odd mix of Warm Summer Rain and The Last Five Years, Breaking Up is a two-man-show romance/drama that refuses to give love a chance.  The film was adapted for the screen by Michael Cristofer, who also wrote the original theatrical material.  A play first, the movie has an off-Broadway feel but translates well, showing early signs of Cristofer’s talent for the big screen.  He had already written a few movies (The Witches of Eastwick, The Bonfire of the Vanities) and would go on to write/direct a few more (Gia, Original Sin).  Breaking Up is, in many ways, a precursor to the modern stage-to-screen love story, especially films like The Last Five Years, minus the music.  It carries that monologue feel, that dual character aspect, and can, at the very least, be appreciated as a front-runner.

The Movie

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Steve & Monica are breaking up.  After a relationship of two years, but still living in separate apartments, they’ve decided to call it quits.  One argument too many, one push too far, one fight too furious; whatever the reason, it’s time to move on.  Steve is a photographer, a passionate artist who finds it difficult to submit to the normalcy of everyday living.  Monica is a fiery school teacher, a woman who needs love & attention the way a flower needs sunlight & water.  The two have a partnership based on sex, chemistry, a thirst for life, and the fact that neither can settle for anything less than 100% of their emotional investment.  But it doesn’t matter, of course they’re in love, it’s just time to move on, for the benefit of both parties.

Problem is, neither of them wants to.  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that neither of them can.  First there’s the sex, which can’t be denied.  Steve & Monica were meant for each other, please each other, want each other at all times, and can’t seem to keep their hand off each other.  Even after “breaking up”, they find themselves too frequently back in each others arms.  Then there’s the true love, the passion that goes beyond the physical.  They try to date other people but it never works out, try to be just friends but that never satisfies, try to stay away but they just can’t.  These are two people who clash, fight, and drive the other crazy, and yet breaking up for good seems almost impossible, as easy as removing half of yourself.

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Breaking Up is a film that transports you to the stage, relying heavily on the intimacy of the theatre and the power of soliloquies.  The characters do interact, but often with one being the dominant voice of the scene, taking control of the action for that moment.  It’s easy to imagine this story played out on stage, and I wonder if that wouldn’t be a much better venue for its success.  On screen, the film felt extremely dated.  It came out the same year as Titanic, which is incredible, given the former’s lack of precision and the latter’s breadth of perfection.  Breaking Up feels more like it was filmed in 1977, not 1997, while Titanic is one of the greatest films ever made.  I understand the difference in budget & scope, but still; two films created in the same year have never felt so dissimilar.

Perhaps director Robert Greenwald was stuck in his 80s success.  He had a few moderate hits, but never moved on to anything bigger: Flatbed Annie & Sweetiepie, Xanadu, The Burning Bed, Hear No Evil.  Russell Crowe, on the other hand, was just about to break out.  He had done a dozen movies prior that can go down as his lost years, but 1997 marked the real beginning of his career: L.A. Confidential, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind.  Meanwhile, Salma Hayak had just burst onto American screens with Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn, using this time as a launching point for her career.  So Breaking Up becomes memorable for its cast and for its place among the theatrical pieces that have come before & after, but doesn’t stand on its own as solid cinema.  The acting is fine; obviously its stars would go on to bigger & better things.  But the dated feel holds it back, the Broadway trick gets old quick, and it doesn’t cement itself at all.

The DVD

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (16×9 letterbox), the film feels every one of its roughly twenty years of age.  It looks even older than it is, failing to land the technology available at the time to create lasting visual images.  The video quality is fine, not great.

Audio – There are no sound options available on the disc.  The DVD was done in Dolby Digital, and the audio quality is as mediocre as the video.

Extras – There are no special features available on the disc.

Final Thoughts

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Recommended.  Enjoyable more for its time capsule feel than for its actual cinematic quality, Breaking Up remains a movie only watchable for its stars.  Had lesser-known actors been in it, the film wouldn’t warrant a look back.  As it is, the movie is only just barely good enough to recommend taking a peek.  Crowe & Hayek as young up-and-comers are worth seeing at least once, as (I guess) is the set up, a Broadway-turned-Hollywood touch that is moderately interesting.  Do yourself a favor and check out The Last Five Years instead, an excellent film, and with the added bonus of great music.  The video of this movie is only OK, the audio the same, and there are no extras of the DVD.  Mostly for those interested in the history of film, watch for a bit of education but not for much else.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 


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Movie Trailer – The Magnificent Seven

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke

Peter Sarsgaard, Haley Bennett, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vinnie Jones

Release: September 23rd, 2016

In order to be impressed by Antoine Fuqua’s name, I need to focus on Training Day and Southpaw, not all the other throwaway action films he’s directed over the last 15 years.  I am impressed by this cast though, the combination of Denzel, Pratt, & Hawke enough right there to get me to watch just about anything.  The base was already established for this film to be a success, much like The Lone Ranger, but expect this film to avoid the pitfalls that many think tripped up that one.  Oh, and the shooting & blowing up of all the stuff in this trailer looks really cool.


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Movie Review – Dixieland

Category : Movie Review

Director: Hank Bedford

Starring: Chris Zylka, Riley Keough, Faith Hill

Year: 2015

Hank Bedford has been a part of the crew for some pretty excellent films.  He was an assistant to the director for The Fighter, Out of the Furnace, and Foxcatcher, thought Dixieland marks his own directorial debut.  He also wrote the screenplay and is from the South himself, so at least he’s following that old chestnut; write what you know.  Though, hopefully, he doesn’t know this exact story, because it isn’t pretty.  Dixieland is a peek into a world most of us do not & never want to know, a life of poverty & crime that seems to have no exit.  That much the film gets right, transporting us into the boondocks and showing us the rough that’s driven there every day.  Otherwise, and as a film, most everything fails, establishing a good try but a fairly wide miss.

This is the story of a boy named Kermit, as odd as that sounds, and the state in which he lives & represents; Mississippi.  Kermit is a troubled young man, living in a trailer park, running drugs for his friends, beating up his mother’s suitors, and ultimately landing himself in prison.  When he gets out, he vows to keep away from that old life, that old crowd, swearing to his mom that he’s changed.  And perhaps he has, but a beautiful girl, a literal girl-next-door, needs his help, and Kermit is fixing to give it.  After all, in Pearl, Mississippi, what else is there to do but go to the strip club, go deliver drugs, and go lounge in the woods?  So Kermit makes money the only way he knows how, continuing a cycle that really never ended.

I can see some promise here from Hank Bedford, and perhaps his films down the road a few years will be the complete packages that Dixieland failed to be.  There were some definite positives; real interviews of people from the town lent credibility to the story, honest portrayals of the characters made it seem like we really were in the deep South, a glimmer of fine direction & cinematography made the movie at least enjoyable to view.  And the acting was …OK …never standing out as special, but then what can you expect from a no name guy, the daughter of Lisa Marie Presley, and an aging country singer?  They weren’t a strong cast, but at least helped their setting seem believable.  The main problem came from the film’s failure to mix the reality of the background with the melodrama of the plot, making the story look quite fake by comparison, making event choices abruptly and seemingly without reason.  An average love story set in an interesting place, Dixieland comes across as choppy & a bit amateur; better luck next time.

My rating: ☆ ☆