Monthly Archives: June 2016

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Movie Trailer – David Brent: Life on the Road

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ricky Gervais

Starring: Ricky Gervais

Release: August 19th, 2016

For fans of the UK version of The Office, this is a must-see.  Heck, for fans of the American version of The Office this is a must-see, if only because Ricky Gervais is hilarious.  He’s also a bit of a genius really, comedically anyway, and deserves a movie like this.  I want Steve Carell to make one too, a movie where we get to see what Michael Scott has been up to since leaving Scranton.


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Movie Review – Free State of Jones

Category : Movie Review

Director: Gary Ross

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali

Year: 2016

Since 2012 with a perfect performance in Mud, Matthew McConaughey has been red-hot, an incendiary actor lighting a fire under every film that’s lucky enough to cast him.  And that’s saying a lot, especially considering the project choices early in his career, his eye-candy status, his penchant for rom/coms.  But that’s all changed, a nexus of great films beginning in 2012, with no end in sight.  Mud, Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street, Interstellar; perhaps the man just needed to age a bit, to grow into his talent, to grasp the reins of Hollywood and gallop off in his own direction.  There’s much to look forward to in the future as well, with roles in Gold and The Dark Tower, two films that should continue the trend.  Meanwhile, we take a small step back, not in acting prowess, which McConaughey had on full display here, but in finite selection, Free State of Jones being a movie that he probably should have let slip past.

During the Civil War, the poor of the South were called upon to die for the rights of that region, including the right to own slaves.  Small detail though; most Southerners didn’t own slaves, most were farmers, digging the land themselves, scraping a living out of the dirt.  When Mississippi native Newton Knight became tired of watching his friends & family die for rich white men, he and a group of runaway soldiers & slaves returned to their homes.  The Home Guard & local Tax Collectors were too busy taking more than their fair share from area farms to hunt down a bunch of rag-tag ex-infantry in the swamp, so Knight’s company grew in size & in anger, until there were enough men to declare Jones County a free zone, a nation pledged to no government.  Over the passing years, relations between white & black, free & enslaved, privileged & poor, would wear thin, making that area of Mississippi a microcosm of America, a place changing slowly & violently, but changing nonetheless.

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Matthew McConaughey was not the problem with Free State of Jones.  He was on point from his very first scene and literally carried the movie’s dying body from place to swampy place trying to keep it alive.  The fact that he failed shouldn’t be cause for blame; it was always going to die.  No, McConaughey pulled out all the stops to play Newton Knight, even adopting some disgusting teeth, greasy hair, and patchy beard, the epitome of the poor in that time & place, a raggedy hero for us to believe in when times got tough.  He brought a certain sad nobility to the screen, offering us a proud man who understood he was human, who saw death everywhere he turned but refused to back down.  McConaughey continues his current streak of solid performances, and I won’t even judge him negatively for the upcoming Sea of Trees which, by all early accounts, is just plain awful.

Director Gary Ross, being a consummate professional, should have seen this hiccup coming.  After all, the guy wrote Big, Mr. Baseball, Dave, Lassie, Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, The Tale of Despereaux, the first Hunger Games, directing many of those as well; he knows Hollywood, he knows audiences, he should know what to do.  But the simplest possibly aspect of this film went wrong very early and it’s something that we won’t forgive; bad pace.  Free State was a bore after the first ten minutes, a slow drudgery of a movie that moved along at a snail’s pace, never seeming to realize or care that audiences might be falling asleep.  A little bit of so-called action wasn’t enough to wake the film up, and movie-goers will be shocked to find out that this is barely a Civil War movie at all, but rather a social commentary flick parading itself in its trailer as something completely different.  More a dramatized history lesson than an actual drama, there are echoes of Braveheart in the background and in a few scenes, but not enough in either to save what quickly became a time-jumping morality tale that had little to do with war, much to do with civil rights.  I’d much rather watch Selma, The Retrieval, or The Patriot, not an odd combination thereof, and definitely not a film that was attempting to teach me about the difficulties prevalent in the post-war South; I already know and I wasn’t expecting to sit down for a 140 minute lesson plan.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Trailer – All Eyez on Me

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Benny Boom

Starring: Demetrius Shipp Jr, Dominic L. Santana, Jamal Woolard

Release: November 11th, 2016

After the success of Straight Outta Compton, we had to see these movies coming.  And not to say that there isn’t more to see concerning this time period, these musicians, this struggle.  But I have a bad feeling about this film, basically that it will fall very short of the level so recently established for a new genre.  I just can’t see it living up to SOC, and perhaps it’s unfair to judge it by that movie, but we all will, so it had better be able to match.


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Thought – Hillary Clinton

Category : Thought

After careful deliberation and much thought, I’ve decided to vote Democrat.  And just in case you didn’t know from other thoughts/posts on this website, that’s a joke, I’ve always been a Democrat.  Actually, when I was young I liked to think of myself as an independent, as someone who would vote for the best candidate regardless of party.  But I soon realized that I couldn’t vote in primaries that way, at least not without much rigmarole, and really, who was I kidding, I was never going to vote Republican.  I began to understand that the Democrats were my party, at least in big elections, that they aligned with my ideals, that they were the people I wanted in charge.  So, yes, as much as my parents never wanted me to be and as much as I’ve skewed from my hometown demographic, I’m a big, tree-hugging liberal, and was always going to be voting for the Democratic candidate for President in the upcoming election.

But this post isn’t about that, not really, it’s about who specifically I will be voting for and why.  My endorsement, if you will, though my opinion holds no sway over …anything …and with the knowledge that my individual vote counts for absolutely nothing this November.  Not only do I represent a miniscule number but then there’s the whole electoral college process, which basically nullifies my importance, unless, and in theory, I could get a large number to change their minds and/or get off their asses & vote my way.  I don’t have that sort of clout, nor am I going out door-to-door, so let’s just say that this endorsement is rather meaningless and I know that, but I’m writing it anyway.  For fun, for posterity, to make it official, who knows, but here it goes.

I’m with her.  And just in case you don’t know what that means, though I assume you do, I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States.  Just to be fair, she isn’t my first choice.  I actually have more in common with the Green Party than with any other group, though as of right now they’re too small to matter.  I’d vote for Jill Stein were that a viable possibility, if just to get that Party some traction and to get some of those ideas into motion.  But, alas, our country isn’t ready for that right now, so I’ll be a closet Green and just vote Democrat.  Now Bernie, he & his “revolution” had a chance to become something more than just a sideshow.  The word socialism scares some people, but those people forget that we’re already half-socialist anyway, with social programs the backbone of our daily lives.  We’re also a democracy, which Bernie wouldn’t have been doing away with, he’d just have been attempting to put the emphasis back on caring rather than on capitalism, but this democracy seems to have spoken & it looks like we’re not ready to feel the Bern quite yet either.

No, as a liberal I’m left with only one option and that’s Hillary.  I’ll steer clear of talking about Donald Trump too much since he’s been discussed ad nauseam, but let’s just say I wouldn’t vote for him were he the last man on Earth.  Obviously I’d vote for myself, and in that hypothetical case he wouldn’t be the last man since I’d be around too, but I digress.  I might have picked him over Ted Cruz were I forced to choose, but there’s basically no other way I’d vote for a guy who’s decided so firmly never to be politically correct that he’s apparently avoiding being generally correct as well, just to be safe.  He says what he wants, whether it’s true or not, whether it’s insulting or not, with the frightening addendum that a large of number of people find that something they want in a President.  Count me out of that group, I want my figurehead to be as steady as possible, not one racial remark away from successfully stereotyping every group in the country.

Which brings me back to Hillary, in a roundabout & hesitant way, I must admit, but back to her nonetheless.  I’m never going to become excited about my decision to vote for someone who, frankly, rubs me the wrong way.  I’ve attempted to understand whether that’s because I was raised by Republicans and she represents the absolute antithesis of what I was supposed to respect.  Or because she’s a strong woman and I’m secretly a sexist whose own power feels threatened.  Or perhaps because I’m sick of American politics and was actually hopeful that Obama’s election would guide us down a pleasantly divergent path, something that never quite happened the way I imagined that it could.  Whatever the reason, I can’t quite shake the fact that I don’t like, at the most basic level, the person I’m hoping will represent me to the world.

I could care less about Benghazi, about e-mails, about her philandering husband; politicians are crooked, I’ve accepted that, hell I was fully behind John Edwards despite everything he was up to.  These are the leaders we’ve chosen, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, so it’s no surprise that professional, life-long politicians get burned; they play with fire every day.  What I want is an intelligent leader who has embraced the monster, tries to steer it in the best direction possible, and actually cares a little about avoiding running over the masses along the way.  That’s Hillary in a nutshell, which is why I’m not ashamed to say that I’ll be voting for her, despite my lack of enthusiasm in the endeavor.

She’s strong & outspoken; something we adore in men but can’t stand in women.  She’s been fire-tested and survived to tell the tale; what else could possibly be thrown at her that she couldn’t bat away?  She legitimately cares about who gets a piece of the pie we all want a bite out of; minorities, women, the poor, the disadvantaged, those we can’t always help themselves whether because of their history or the system.  She’s smart & experienced in the ways of government, and from different angles, putting to shame anyone who wants to compare their track record with hers.  She’s a good face & voice for our nation, showing the world that we treat the idea of equality as a reality, that we speak our minds clearly & respectfully, but never nervously or insultingly.  She stands for what I believe in; social justice for all, shared opportunities regardless of wealth, a government independent of religious control.  For these reason & many others, and even not being able to put all caveats aside, I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton for President.  I am, officially, with her.


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Movie Trailer – Denial

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Mick Jackson

Starring: Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson

Release: September 30th, 2016

I think we have an Oscar-contender on our hands, or at the very least, an Oscar-hopeful.  Weisz & Spall alone seem destined for nominations for this film, and the movie itself looks no less captivating or fascinating.  I am a little concerned about the director though, who hasn’t done a major motion picture since Volcano in 1997.  Jackson’s been doing TV, which is fine, but can he come out of nowhere to produce the year’s heaviest drama?  I guess we’ll see.


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DVD Review – Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Category : DVD Review

Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Starring: Tina Fey, Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie

Year: 2016

Tina Fey is best known for Saturday Night Live, where she was a mainstay with Weekend Update from 2000 to 2006, returned in 2008 as the now-infamous Sarah Palin, and was also the show’s head writer for seven years.  She became known as a force of biting intelligence in the world of comedy, as much behind the camera as on the screen, sculpting humor in a satirical & witty way that could not be denied.  She would go on to launch both 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, also writing for & hosting the Golden Globes multiple times with her friend Amy Poehler.  Fey has dabbled in most everything concerning the entertainment industry, and that includes acting.  Mean Girls, Man of the Year, Baby Mama, The Invention of Lying, Date Night, Admission, Muppets Most Wanted, This Is Where I Leave You, Sisters; comedies all, and not always great, but finally with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot she’s hit the nail squarely on the head.

The Movie

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Kim Baker leads a life of boring & predictable existence.  She writes pointless articles that nobody reads, she dates a man who she has absolutely no passion for, she follows the same exercise regimen every single day, and she feels as if she’s both literally & figuratively going nowhere.  But a chance to change all that arises and Kim, shockingly, might just take it.  Her news agency is looking for reporters to travel to & cover Afghanistan, where a now-forgotten war is slowly being fought among the mountains.  All public & military eyes have swung to Iraq, but Afghanistan still holds stories, still has secrets to share, and still needs the news.  So off Kim goes on the adventure of a lifetime, a choice even she doesn’t understand why she’s making.

In Kabul, or the city playfully called the Kabubble in reference to its extreme isolation from the rest of the world, Kim learns more about herself in three months than she has in the last thirty years.  She’s thrown directly into the fire, not understanding protocol, not understanding security threats, not understanding that she’s now a 4-10-4, a woman who was only average in the States but who’s now a goddess in the desert.  Kim learns to be the reporter she’s always dreamed of (imbedded with the troops on dangerous missions), she allows herself the freedom of sex & love (in a place where there’s no one to judge her), and she becomes increasingly happy in a world in which she never imagined she’d find joy.  As the years tick by, Kim finds life in Afghanistan to be much more than she ever expected, desirable in the strangest ways, and perhaps too captivating, as violent events there begin to seem more normal with each passing day.

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This is a true story, based on the memoirs of Kim Barker, called The Taliban Shuffle, detailing the journalist’s days in the field in both Pakistan & Afghanistan.  That real life element adds an immeasurable amount of credibility to the film, reminding us that, while it’s a Hollywood version complete with Hollywood side stories, many of the events depicted here did happen, or at least do happen, painting a very vivid picture of a place that most of us can’t even imagine clearly.  We’ve seen Middle East war films, we’ve seen journalism dramas, but we don’t often see stories like this presented in this way, with a hefty dose of comedy & with a female lead.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot gives us a new perspective on a time period that’s already fading from our memories and on the people who were there on the ground in a uniquely awkward fashion.

Give credit to Tina Fey for making the movie, with a role that’s definitely her greatest to date.  Not only did she capture the character and make us laugh in so doing, but she brought a sense of serious voyeurism to the film, transporting us (very realistically) behind the scenes of the war, into the lives of the people who fed off of it and used it to enhance their careers.  Climbing the ladder was mixed with helping to deliver justice in a strange mix of American capitalism and Eastern orthodoxy, creating an overall story that was both fascinating & true.  Fey was the perfect lead, with Martin Freeman by her side as the equally-perfect & ultra-lovable romantic interest.  Margot Robbie was fine in a role that could have been cast with anyone remotely attractive, though she blows everyone else out of the water in that department.  As a unit, the cast was solid, and all supported the plot toward its satisfying conclusion, the film following the leader right along, producing a movie that was at once entertaining, informative, heartfelt, and fun.

The Blu-ray

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1080p HD), the video of the Blu-ray disc is excellent, though perhaps not quiet as amazing as you might expect from the media and given the “action” background of the film.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is in essence a comedy, though based on a true story, so any visual expectations should be tempered.  Still, the picture quality is solid and makes for a great viewing experience.

Audio – There are a ton of audio options on the Blu-ray disc.  The film was done in English DTS:X, with many other choices: French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English DTS Headphones:X, and English Audio Description.  Also, subtitles can be selected in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, or Portuguese.  The sound quality of the film was strong, with a good mix of popular music in juxtaposition with the surroundings.

Extras – There are many special features available on the Blu-ray disc.  All In: The Making of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – 14 minutes – a behind the scenes segment.  War Reporter: The Real Kim – 5 minutes – we meet Kim Barker.  Embedded in Reality – 6 minutes – filming & using imbeds.  Wedding Party – 5 minutes – capturing the culture of the area.  Laughing Matters – 4 minutes – a look at the inherent comedy.  Deleted Scenes: Kim and Iain, Daymare, Prison, Kabul Zoo.  Extended Scene: The Wedding.

Final Thoughts

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Highly Recommended.  Tina Fey shines in what is basically her first attempt at drama, though layered in comedy as to make a smooth transition.  She captures the real life character very well, transporting us along with her into a world that’s difficult to imagine, hard to accept while there, and then almost impossible to forget.  It’s a fascinating true story, one that translates well to the screen, and one that Fey manages to carry on her shoulders.  Martin Freeman is the ultimate sidekick here, adds a depth to the story that could have gone missing, and allows us to love Kim Baker all the more.  The video of the Blu-ray is great, as is the audio, and there are a ton of extras on the disc if you’re looking for more.  An accessible comedy but also a relevant drama, this film will be many things to many people, making it that much easier to recommend.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Anthropoid

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Sean Ellis

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Charlotte Le Bon

Release: August 12th, 2016

I remember Sean Ellis from years back for his short (and then later turned feature) Cashback, a provocative look at love.  Anthropoid looks anything but provocative, but it does look well-made, and I feel assured that it will be.  This story looks as intense as the time period, as passionate as the men & women who resisted, and as frightening as the Nazi powerhouse.  Basically, I’m in.


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Movie Review – Adult World

Category : Movie Review

Director: Scott Coffey

Starring: Emma Roberts, John Cusack, Evan Peters

Year: 2013

Emma Roberts might be the new Drew Barrymore, or at least someone who’s also approachable and speaks with the same, odd, pseudo-lisp.  She lacks the childhood fame and the sexy Poison Ivy teenage years, so maybe she’s more like Drew Barrymore at age 30, but the resemblance is there, and so is the general talent level.  They were actually both in a Scream movie as well, Drew in #1, Emma in #4, though Roberts is known more for Nancy Drew & Hotel for Dogs than her more edgy material, such as We’re the Millers, which was actually pretty good and in which she did a fairly good job.  Anyway, she comes across as a Barrymore wannabe with a lot less of a dark side, something that’s too apparent in a challenging film like Adult World where she’s called upon to go deeper and basically can’t.

Amy is a poet and she does knowit, majoring in the subject at Syracuse after an impressive & controlled high school career that saw her at the top of her class, full of ideas, on a course for the stars.  But poetry isn’t exactly a well-paying industry, and after graduation Amy finds herself without a job, without being published, without support, and without a clue what to do next.  She takes work where she can get it, oddly enough at an adult film & novelty shop, and tries not to give up on her dream of becoming America’s next great poet.  Meanwhile, she bumps into one of her literary icons, Rat Billings, and attempts to become his protege, when in actuality all she really is is an annoying hanger-on.  Amy tries to stay afloat in the adult world of sex, drugs, and William Butler Yates, sinking further & further into the abyss of her own mind with every passing day.

Plain & simple, Emma Roberts just wasn’t up to the task of this role.  The character is supposed to think she’s cooler & better & saner than she actually is, so that helps, but Roberts still can’t navigate the intricacies of Amy, can’t convince us that she’s an artist trapped inside a suburbanite’s body.  John Cusack saves the film from complete disaster with his callous portrayal of Rat Billings, using Amy as he sees fit, refusing to call her a talent when she’s really anything but.  Evan Peters as a love interest and Armando Riesco as a friend are both far too stereotypical, which shouldn’t be at all surprising given the amateur status of this film’s crew.  Scott Coffey is an actor not a director, and not a great one at that, while writer Andy Cochran has basically only done episodes of Teen Wolf.  Without Cusack, Adult World would have been a complete bomb; with him it’s barely palatable.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Internet Famous

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Michael J. Gallagher

Starring: Roger Bart, Amanda Cerny, John Michael Higgins

Release: June 21st, 2016

This film is like the warped love child of American Dreamz and the most recent season of The Amazing Race.  As a thirty-something, I have no idea what is going up on YouTube, how famous internet stars actually are, where kids are getting their media from these days.  I can only assume what this movie is poking fun at is actually real, which is odd, but pretty hilarious at the same time.


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Movie Review – Mojave

Category : Movie Review

Director: William Monahan

Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Oscar Isaac, Louise Bourgoin

Year: 2015

There are so many things to talk about concerning this film, so little time.  Well, I guess I’m choosing the length & duration of this review, I could make it as long as I want, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll rein myself in.  First there’s director William Monahan, who hasn’t been in charge of much, but who has written a ton: Kingdom of Heaven, The Departed, Body of Lies, Edge of Darkness, The GamblerGuy knows his stuff, especially his dark, twisted stuff, Mojave fitting into that category like a glove.  Next there’s Hedlund (Troy, Tron, On the Road, Unbroken, Pan) & Isaac (Drive, In Secret, The Two Faces of January, A Most Violent Year, Ex Machina, The Force Awakens, X-Men: Apocalypse), the pair hooking up again after a brief encounter in Llewyn Davis.  And then there’s the story itself, a simple plot laden with metaphor, a shockingly deep narrative that’s ready for you to discover.  What do all these aspects combine to create?  An underrated drama that puts other, shallower thrill rides to shame.

Tom, a troubled filmmaker, runs away into the California desert, leaving behind his albatross fame, the weight of responsibility, decisions surrounding actresses, wives, and futures.  After crashing his Jeep, he’s alone in the wilderness, an empty vessel ready to be filled.  But the spirit that happens by is more a demon than an angel, a lonely drifter who sees every man as his brother but every brother as a potential assassin.  Jack is mostly crazy, probably a genius, and gives Tom a bad feeling from the very start.  Defending himself with the instincts of a cornered animal, Tom makes a series of decisions that set him on the course of secrecy, escaping from the desert but not from Jack & the knowledge of his deeds.  Back in Hollywood, Tom tries to put the past behind him, but is pursued by Jack, a dark dog who won’t be shaken off, an evil that has to be faced sooner or later.

I loved the simplicity of the plot here, Mojave baring its soul just like the wasteland of its name, hiding nothing other than the shallow grave of its deeper meaning.  There’s a lot to process after your first watch; God/Satan, Jesus in the desert, man attempting to find himself through isolation, inner demons that threaten to swallow your life.  Or, if you want, you could enjoy this movie on more of a surface basis, an entertaining thriller that sets two men against one another, light vs dark, a battle to the death.  Hedlund becomes somewhat of a straight man, his talent superseding his reputation.  Isaac is frighteningly powerful, full of black thoughts & blacker humor.  And then the director chooses to leave details aside, backgrounds in the background, focusing attention on the wrestling match of wills between the film’s main characters; smart choice, IMHO.  Oh, and I can’t forget to mention Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight) & Mark Wahlberg (everything), two perfect cameos that topped the whole sundae off with exceptional cherries.  Of the limited few who saw this film, neither critics or audiences were raving about Mojave, and I can’t say it’s going at the very top of my list, but it’s definitely a hidden gem if what you’re looking for is intense acting of a deceptively simple story.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆