Monthly Archives: March 2018

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Movie Trailer – Life of the Party

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ben Falcone

Starring: Melissa McCarthy

Release: May 11th, 2018

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.


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Movie Trailer – Kodachrome

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Mark Raso

Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Ed Harris, Elizabeth Olsen

Release: April 20th, 2018

I think maybe Jason Sudeikis had his fifteen minutes.  He was that funny guy from that one thing, and then he was in a couple movies in a row that showed a shocking amount of talent, but since then he’s gone downhill; perhaps he’s already peaked.  Harris is past his prime as well, Olsen isn’t great, and Netflix hasn’t been hitting them out of the park lately; Kodachrome probably won’t work.


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Movie Review – Ready Player One

Category : Movie Review

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn

Year: 2018

A lot of people have seen most of Steven Spielberg’s movies, but how about most of Tye Sheridan’s movies?  I might have you there; I’ve been watching this kid grow into an actor since he was a teen, including some of the more random films he’s appeared in.  The Tree of Life, Mud, Joe, Entertainment, Last Days in the Desert, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Detour, X-Men: Apocalypse; that’s quite the filmography for a twenty-one year old who has only been acting over the past seven years.  He’s actually on a bit of a down turn, becoming a bit awkward as he’s grown up and not delivering his best performances in his most recent films.  Ready Player One is his chance to shine in a movie that was guaranteed to be a big success, based on its director, best-selling book, and pop culture references.  And yet Sheridan ends up as one of the weakest parts of a blockbuster that leaves its origins behind and suffers because of it, wows us with wide-eyed entertainment but forgets to stay grounded when tempted to be silly.

In the near future, the world will run out of energy, our population will explode beyond containment, governments will collapse, food will become scarce, but life will still grind on, even if happiness no longer seems an attainable goal. The only bright spot of this grimy picture is James Halliday and his wondrous creation, OASIS. It’s a virtual world in which anything is possible, where kids can go to school, where the crafty can make a real buck, where you can live out your wildest fantasy while your actual body stays in the common city slums. Everyone uses OASIS, and when Halliday dies without an heir, he announces through video that one user will become the owner of the entire company, an overnight billionaire. But first you have to win the game that he created, a test of sorts with multiple levels and puzzles galore. It’s based on Halliday’s favorite things, his life, his references, and you’ll have to know pop culture history front and back if you’re to have a chance at winning the greatest prize in the universe, and the chance to completely change your life.  For Wade Watts, this game is everything, his entire life, how he spends every waking moment, and losing is not an option.

Yes I read the book, no I don’t think that ruins my chance to enjoy the movie.  I am able to separate the two, while still judging the way they both handle the base idea.  Ready Player One as a novel is shockingly bad.  It’s amateur, Cline has no talent for dialogue, he writes like a kid who won a literary contest at his school, and I don’t know how anyone with any taste can take it seriously.  What I do understand is how the 80s nostalgia he presents absolutely saves the day; it’s that jam packed with awesome references, you’d ingest anything, no matter how terrible, if it made you feel so wonderfully nostalgic.  The movie version does the same, laying badass fictional characters and cars and games and music at your feet until you’re ready to worship whoever it was that brought it all to you.  My only problem with the pop culture was that it expanded outside the 80s, which was Cline’s whole deal, Halliday’s whole obsession.  I think the book did the same a little, but not to this extent, Spielberg seemed OK with adding things like The Iron Giant and Halo when that wasn’t what the story originally focused on.  He also dumped a lot of the movie nods, which was odd, maybe he couldn’t get the rights.  Blade Runner, Ladyhawke, WarGames, The Holy Grail; these were big players in the book, but were completely absent from the film.  I understand that there will be differences (keep an ear out for a bit of Excalibur in this one), but that’s pretty major.

Even judging Ready Player One as a stand-alone feature, there are still problems, mainly from an acting standpoint.  The characters spent a lot of time in the “real world” and were exposed there for being fairly hollow, for not being supported by high quality actors.  Sheridan is slipping; I don’t think he’s matured into the pro we thought he would be by this point.  Cooke was fine, but once again, much better as an avatar than as a human.  The only one to hit the nail on the head was Mendelsohn; duh, he’s basically a genius.  His scenes were great, but everyone else was better in the OASIS.  The first half of the movie, which often took place in virtual space, was pretty awesome, the animation going above and beyond.  It was exciting, hilarious, cooler than the other side of the pillow, everything you could ask for.  The second half relied on the actors too much, got a little cheesy, and faltered, but by that point I assume most of the audience had completely bought in.  Even the silliness could be explained away; 80s stories and villains aren’t usually very complicated, so why should this one be?  Ready Player One might be more fun than fantastic, more entertaining that excellent, but that’s not a real knock, that’s likely what you were in the theatre to experience.  I’m most curious to see how fans of the book find the movie, whether they are put off by the changes, or whether they can roll with Spielberg’s version.  I only wish he had spent more time in the dungeons of the contest and in the virtual world all together; that’s where the plot ran the smoothest, where the highlights happened, and what would draw my back in for a second watch.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – The House with a Clock in its Walls

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Eli Roth

Starring: Owen Vaccaro, Jack Black, Cate Blanchett

Release: September 21st, 2018

I’m gonna have my daughter give this a read to see if the story is any good; it looks right up her alley.  The movie version looks pretty cool at first glance, but I worry that it might be a little too Miss Peregrine’s, which really sucked.  If Black & Blanchett can lead the way, which they are obviously capable of, then I think this film could actually work.


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Movie Trailer – The Spy Who Dumped Me

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Susanna Fogel

Starring: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon

Release: August 3rd, 2018

I feel like Mila Kunis is talented enough to make different career choices.  Is she just so insanely hot that people don’t take her seriously and don’t cast her in appropriate roles?  Black Swan, Blood Ties kinda; she’s not someone who needs to be relegated to comedies, she’s got real chops.  Kate McKinnon on the other hand, as much as I absolutely love her, is right where she needs to be cinematically, and I’d watch her in basically anything like this because I know she’ll be the absolute highlight.  I hope the pair can make it work, I just don’t think I necessarily need to see this.


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Movie Trailer – Terminal

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Vaughn Stein

Starring: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Mike Myers

Release: May 11th, 2018

In the words on OMC; “How bizarre, how bizarre.”  I’ve always liked that band (I couldn’t name a single other song) because those are my initials, but I digress.  This movie looks wacky, and I’m not sure what its redeeming qualities will be.  The best movies lately have been bonkers, so maybe this film slides right into place, but I’m concerned that it’ll just be weird.  I love Robbie, Pegg is great, British people are just better than other people, so there’s that; I guess we’ll see.


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Movie Review – Tomb Raider

Category : Movie Review

Director: Roar Uthaug

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins

Year: 2018

The reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise depends on three key elements to succeed: the classic video game, Uthaug’s unique approach, and Vikander’s natural charisma.  It’s been 15 years since Jolie’s last version, so sufficient time has passed for us to accept a new take, one that goes back to the roots of the game and of the character.  Uthaug is coming off of Norwegian success with The Wave, a solid, genre-pleasing disaster flick, so he was primed to create something great for American audiences.  And Vikander can do (almost) no wrong, even her performance in Tulip Fever isn’t a let down, although the film itself is.  The trio of necessary pieces was here to create something great, but apparently a fourth was overlooked, the script, something perhaps we took for granted and didn’t even know we needed so desperately.

Years after her father’s disappearance, Lara Croft had yet to move past his assumed death, won’t claim the family fortune as her own, and can’t see a life ahead through her constant veil of grief.  When she stumbles upon a secret room buried beneath her family’s mansion, Lara realizes that her father didn’t leave her for some petty research, but to go on an adventure that he was convinced would save mankind.  Now, she has no choice but to follow in his footsteps, to see if there is any truth to his ravings about an ancient evil hidden on an island off the coast of Japan, to put his memory to rest once and for all.  But the reality of the quest is much stranger than Lara could imagine, and she will find out firsthand just how dangerous these expeditions can be.

Alicia Vikander is a rare talent, it’s as simple as that.  She has the talent, the bearing, the look, the spark, the x-factor; whatever you want to call it, she has it to spare.  Watching her early movies, you can see the power coming, and she’s only getting better as she’s becoming more experienced.  Now she’s an action heroine, and she’s proven there’s nothing she can’t do.  Vikander is the strongest part of Tomb Raider, the engine that moves every piece along the conveyor belt toward its intended goal.  She’s a human Lara, one you can injure, one who gets scared, one who screams because god damn it there’s something coming at you from behind that pillar!  She’s real and realistic, which adds an element to the movie that we didn’t exactly see coming.

But she can only do so much, although she’s in almost every single frame of every single scene.  She still has to work within the confines of the script, and that’s where the film faltered.  They would have been better served to not say a single word the entire way through, to pull a Valhalla Rising and make it about the brutality of the moment.  Every conversation was idiotic, every piece of dialogue forced; I would be embarrassed had I written this and basically ruined this film’s chances to be something excellent.  Because of their lines, West was cheesy, Goggins was dumb, and Daniel Wu seemed fabricated, Vikander being the only one who could sometimes rise above, but even she was much better when she was running around the jungle or almost being killed.  The action, as a whole, was fairly well done, especially the boat crash scene, which felt very much like the coolest part of a video game.  Tomb Raider has its moments, it’s pure entertainment, it works on that level, but then the actors open their mouths and you cringe knowing what’s about to come out.  No joke; you could watch this movie on mute, understand most of what was going on, and enjoy it that much more.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – Feisty Foxes 2018

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 – Evan Gattis – Houston Astros

1B – Jose Abreu – Chicago White Sox

2B – Jonathan Schoop – Baltimore Orioles

3B – Mike Moustakas – Kansas City Royals

SS – Zack Cozart – Los Angeles Angels

LF – Marcell Ozuna – St. Louis Cardinals

CF – Adam Jones – Baltimore Orioles

RF – Giancarlo Stanton – New York Yankees

Bench – Corey Dickerson – Pittsburgh Pirates

 Bench – Aaron Hicks – New York Yankees

Bench – Jedd Gyorko – St. Louis Cardinals

SP – Gerrit Cole– Houston Astros

SP – Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians

SP – Carlos Martinez – St. Louis Cardinals

SP – Sonny Gray – New York Yankees

SP – Gio Gonzalez – Washington Nationals

SP – Cole Hamels – Texas Rangers

SP – Dylan Bundy – Baltimore Orioles

SP – Michael Fulmer – Detroit Tigers

RP – Corey Knebel – Milwaukee Brewers

RP – Alex Colome – Tamps Bay Rays


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DVD Review – The Teacher

Category : DVD Review

Director: Jan Hrebejk

Starring: Zuzana Maurery, Csongor Kassai, Martin Havelka

Year: 2016

My brother-in-law is Czech, and grew up in Communist-era Prague during the 70s and 80s.  I texted him while watching this fascinating film to get translations of street signs and propaganda, although the setting here is Bratislava, Slovakia, not the Czech Republic; close enough.  He is always on the lookout for Czech or Slovak films, and this one really piqued his interest, as it focuses on a very specific time frame, one which he experienced first hand.  But at the same time, this story is an example of the Communist ideal (and abuse thereof) worldwide, a snapshot of what it’s like to live under the thumb of a regime that proposes to make every comrade equal, an existence that comes at a very steep price.

The Movie

The year is 1983, and Czechoslovakia is under Communist rule.  The families of suburban Bratislava accept this as the way of life, even if this Russian-backed regime isn’t what they would have chosen for themselves.  They get along as best they can, sliding into the complicated puzzle that is this government while trying not to stand out or make too much of a ripple.  The Kuceras work hard, the Binders rely on past physical prowess, and the Littmanns try to live down the defection of their matriarch, a brilliant scientist who fled to Sweden instead of bowing to the new power.  Far from a worker’s utopia, life for the middle class is a constant balancing act between finding satisfaction in one’s self and integrating into something much larger and more dangerous.

When a new school teacher comes to town, this high wire act will get all the more treacherous.  Mrs. Drazdechova’s first day in the class room see’s her gleaning information from her students; who are your parents and what do they do.  Each time she needs a favor (a car ride, a lamp fixed, a cake baked, groceries picked up, her house cleaned), she uses a student, their mother, or their father, expecting immediate aid and no questions asked.  If they are impertinent enough to balk at the task, the student’s grades mysteriously suffer, to the point where they lose all after school privileges.  Some parents want to stand up to this new tyrant, but others are afraid of the repercussions, knowing that their lives could very easily and very quickly get much worse.

On the surface, this is a very simple story told very swiftly to make a singular point.  The teacher is an Umbridge-ian villain, she uses her power irresponsibly, she is corrupted by her position, and it is up to the students and their parents to stop her.  The sequence of events is scattered throughout the timeline, with two paths converging at different points to make the watching of the story more interesting, but really the plot is very simple; let’s get the crazy lady out of town.  The acting prowess behind the characters is understated but very strong, especially when it comes to Maurery, who you will absolutely hate.  Martin Havelka reminded me of a modern Charles Bronson, whose parents were Lithuanian, but still.  Each actor, and not forgetting the kids, played his/her part wonderfully, which led to an extremely believable atmosphere.

And that’s just the surface, there is much more going on here past the obvious plot.  First, this is a metaphor for Communism in general, or for any social setting in with someone with control abuses it for perhaps no other reason than that they can.  This kind of dystopia existed and exists; not just in one place, not just in Russia, and not only with Communism, but anywhere where there are individuals who preach equality, only to use their own status to make themselves anything but.  It’s a fascinating look at corruption, and the film also peers in on human interaction as well, in a very 12 Angry Men kind of way.  Setting the parents in a room together, we see how each acts in the face of uncertainty; afraid, angry, denying, resigning, bravely standing when no one else will.  It’s an example of the human experience, the human experiment perhaps, and as well-captured a poignant message as we could wish to see.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 Widescreen, the video quality of this DVD is nothing to write home about, a foreign flick that captures the 80s but never tries to impress with visuals.  I did love the apartments, the dedication to detail, the tight spaces inhabited by these characters and their families.  It was fun to watch, to be transported, just don’t expect HD cinema.

Audio – The disc was done in 5.1 Surround Sound and 2.0 Stereo, both in Slovak with English subtitles.  That’s it as far as language or audio options, the sound not a factor that was ever a focus.  There is a catchy soundtrack throughout that sets the tone, but other than that you won’t remember much more from the audio.

Extras – There are only a few special features on the DVD.  Sacrilege is a bonus short film, running 15 minutes and telling the story of Saoud, a once-proud king of the ‘hood.  There are six trailers available to view.  And About Film Movement will tell you more about the distributor.

Final Thoughts

Highly Recommended.  A little more than an hour and a half long, The Teacher makes its point rather easily, without having to hammer anything into our brains.  It’s a frustrating story about a manipulative woman, but it’s also a commentary on the power that she represents, the greed and the evil that is far too often behind these historic movements.  You can enjoy this movie for its surface or for its depth, and that’s not something that can be said about every feature released.  The video is only OK, the audio forgettable as well, and there aren’t many special features, so look elsewhere for technical marvels, but appreciative this story for what it has to say, and this movie for how well it says it.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Review – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jake Kasdan

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan

Year: 2017

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is the pinnacle of director Jake Kasdan’s career, and although the movie is really quite enjoyable, that’s still an insult, and an indication of just how awful he’s been up to this point.  Orange County, Walk Hard, Bad Teacher, Sex Tape; that’s his filmography, as sad as it is to say.  Nabbing this project and this cast was a stroke of good fortune, and I’d say it might have changed things around for Jake, but then his next feature is Bad Teacher 2, so never mind.  Let’s stay focused on the film at hand though, and I am pleased to report that it isn’t terrible.  A step up from Baywatch and a bit less goofy, Jumanji bridges the gap between kid and adult cinema, never taking itself too seriously but never surrendering to the typical and the stupid either.  It’s a nice way to spend some screen time, and that simplicity might be one of its greatest attributes.

Four high schoolers, who find themselves sent to detention on the same afternoon, are about to enter a world where the standard rules don’t exactly apply.  Spencer is a nerd, Fridge is a football player, Bethany is popular, and Martha is an outsider, but they all will have to work together if they want to survive Jumanji.  During detention, they are mysteriously sucked into a video game once they choose their avatars.  In Jumanji, they become these avatars: a muscular leader, a small sidekick, a brainy scientist, and an ass-kicking hottie.  Together, they must figure out their mission, beat the levels, and defeat the boss, all without losing their allotted three lives.  Teamwork makes the dream work, but these kids will have to learn that in a hurry, because in the jungle, death is swift.

For starters, even though is bears the same name, Jumanji has very little to do with our 90s favorite and should probably just be called Welcome to the Jungle.  It’s related by reference only, and by the fact that the characters get to see first hand the land in which Alan Parrish lived for so many years.  There are some plot holes there, and this time it’s a video game not a board game, so don’t try too hard to connect the dots.  Enjoy this movie simply for what it is, and that’s an entertaining 120 minutes that could have been a lot worse.  The Rock is a natural, charismatic, film hero, Hart is hilarious when incredulous, Black can do magic with characters that defy his resume, Gillan did a little better after some disastrous performances in GOTG and The Circle, and we get a couple cool cameos: Nick Jonas if you can believe it, Bobby Cannavale as the villain, and Rhys Darby the sensational Kiwi.  There’s already another one of these films in the pipeline because this one was such a surprise success, and what’s even more shocking is that it’s kind of deserved.  Jumanji isn’t the greatest movie, obviously, but it’s fun and easy and not too dumb; you could do much worse.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆