Month: April 2013

Movie Review – Man on the Moon

Category : Movie Review

Director: Milos Forman

Starring: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Paul Giamatti

Year: 1999

When I was a kid I wasn’t what you would call outgoing.  I liked to stay at home, play sports with my dad, run around outside with my sister, watch movies with my family, bake cookies with my mom.  During the summers when I was off from school nothing really changed except that I got to stay up later.  Our house didn’t have air conditioning and in July the upstairs became stifling.  So I would often sleep on the couch in the living room with a fan blowing directly on me and stay up really later watching TV.  My program of choice was Nick at Nite.  During the 90s the late-night shows on that channel were some of my favorite classic reruns: The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Bob Newhart Show (not to be confused with Newhart), The Munsters, and Taxi.  I loved the varied characters on Taxi and the amazing actors that I was always seeing in other movies and TV shows; Marilu Henner, Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Jeff Conaway, Christopher Lloyd, and of course Andy Kaufman.  That was my only exposure to Andy, as he died the year after I was born, but that was enough.  Latka was one of my favorite TV characters, one I loved but never fully appreciated until I watched Man on the Moon, a movie that gives depth to one of the most confusing entertainers of all time.

This film is the story of Andy Kaufman, a born showman who wasn’t a comedian, who wasn’t a singer, who wasn’t an actor, but somehow was a little of all rolled into one very strange individual.  It is based on Andy’s real life career, persona, and the behind-the-scenes reality that we never saw.  Andy grew up in New York in a middle-class Jewish family.  He was an odd child, often performing for no audiences, making himself laugh, practicing a form of comedy that didn’t involve jokes.  When he attempted to become a professional comedian, this form of humor fell flat on audiences who weren’t used to feeling uncomfortable or sitting in silence while a very unique man did voices and sang songs.  Eventually, Andy would make a splash as more and more people took notice of his off-brand comedy, including his agent George Shapiro.  As his fame began to grow, Andy joined the cast of Taxi, made appearances at professional wrestling events, masqueraded as an abrasive lounge singer, and basically showcased his unique style to the world, making him an unforgettable icon.

Whether or not you enjoyed Andy Kaufman’s sense of humor, you can take something away from this film.  It’s about more than a review of his acts, it’s about the man himself; his quest to be heard, his desire to entertain audiences in ways they had never experienced before, and his totally crazy life that is almost impossible not to laugh at.  Kaufman was an original in every sense of the word, and people like that are hard to find.  Now, as far as the movie goes, luckily that was entertaining too.  Carrey as Kaufman was perfection from the very beginning.  DeVito as Shapiro was almost hard to watch emotionally, because here is a man who knew Andy well in real life and got to see all of his ups and downs.  Usually I don’t enjoy cameos, but this movie was full of the people that were actually a part of Andy’s interesting life story: his cast mates from Taxi, the real George Shapiro, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Lorne Michaels, and so many others.  It made the film honest and real in a way that you don’t see very often.  I came away wanting more, wanting to know all about Andy Kaufman and what made him tick, wanting to be a part of his never-ending practical jokes.  And who knows, maybe we all are right now and we just don’t know it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



Thought – Gays & Sports

Category : Thought

In recent years the hot button equal rights issue was “gays in the military”, the topic coming to a head with the repealing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Then it was marriage equality, which is up in front of the Supreme Court right now.  The equal rights argument of the future is “gays & sports”.  Here are my thoughts on the matter:
Today the very first openly gay athlete to be currently playing on a major American sports team came out of the closet.  Jason Collins will go down in history as a pioneer, although he says he wasn’t looking for that title.  You can read the story here, which was done for Sports Illustrated.  This is a pretty big step for the gay community and for equal rights, as it acts as an example for the idea that being homosexual doesn’t define who you are; you do.
It’s widely believed that football is basically too manly to have any players who are gay.  Recently 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver stated in an interview that, “We ain’t got no gay people on the team.  They gotta get up out here if they do.  Can’t be with that sweet stuff. … Nah, can’t be … in the locker room, man.”  And as well spoken and extremely interesting as that may be, it’s most likely completely false.
You hear different numbers, but a significant portion of Americans are homosexual.  Some studies show that 10% of men are gay, while others show that 4% identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.  So, for argument’s sake, let’s just say that one in every twenty Americans is homosexual.  When opening day comes, there will be 1,696 players on active rosters in the NFL.  Throw in players on practice squads and you have about an even 2,000.  Now, that’s not counting coaches, free agents, office staff, trainers, owners, etc., that’s just players.  If we accept the 5% number, that’s roughly 100 gay players in the NFL each season.
Now, someone might argue that professional football attracts less homosexual men than professions like fashion design or musical theatre, and while that’s purely a stereotype it’s most likely accurate.  So pare that 100 down to 50, or even 25, or even 10, but the fact remains that there are gays in the NFL.  There are gays in the NBA.  There are gays in sports.  Chris Culliver might not believe it, but just ask Jason Collins; it’s true.  American sports is the next battleground for equality; the only reason it isn’t right now is because no one has come out.  But today someone did, and soon more men will open up to their teammates and admit that they are gay.  I have hope that having an open locker room will be a positive thing, and that the transition will be smooth, but it’s hard to tell.  I guess we’ll see what the response is like in the NBA, and whether Collins ever gets a job offer again.

Movie Trailer – Anchorman: The Legend Continues

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell
Release: December 20th, 2013

It’s just a teaser, but I don’t think we really need to see any more.  If you remember the first one you probably know what to expect from this one.  I mean, I liked Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy as much as any other 18-35 year-old male, so maybe I’ll check out what will probably be its exact copy, but I’m not going to get excited about it.

Movie Trailer – The Bling Ring

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang
Release: June 14th, 2013

I would see this.  I’m not a fan of Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette), but this is a true story and I don’t see how she could really mess it up.  After all, this film doesn’t star Kirsten Dunst, although she is in it.  Instead it’s Emma Watson, who is attempting to break out of her Harry Potter mold.  We’ll see if she does it, but if she can pull that off than this movie could be good.

Thought – Red Flags

Category : Thought

This is a part thought/part sports post.  Please forgive me for being NFL obsessed right now; with the Draft last night my thoughts are all football-oriented.  This weekend or shortly thereafter should see a a Movie Review and a DVD Review, so bear with me.
My thought today is on red flags in sports.  Not the literal variety, but the kind that pop up and give teams legitimate concerns over the character of potential players.  Take the Draft for example; these NFL scouts examine college players both physically and mentally, and they come away with a composite score, value, or desire.  Of course your college stats matter, your physical stats matter, your Combine times matter.  But what may matter most to a majority of teams is your character, your interview, and your reputation.
Fair or not, this is obviously true in this year’s Draft.  Look at the players who fell: DT Sharrif Floyd, who should have gone #3 dropped down to number #23 because of concerns about rule-breaking in the past and whether he can be trusted to toe the line.  QB Geno Smith dropped completely out of the 1st Round partly because NFL teams are worried about his demeanor; he is seen as pouty and uninspired.  And LB Manti Te’o, who we all remember from his over-the-phone dating scandal, remains unpicked after he fails to impress in his last college game, at the Combine, or in interviews, and is commonly seen as having a weak character.
Teams want chemistry in their locker rooms, because chemistry leads to momentum, and momentum leads to success.  Look at teams that have failed with a club full of super-athletic divas; last year’s Eagles, this year’s Lakers.  You can’t just rely on talent to win, you need leadership, cohesion, unity, passion, work ethic, and strong character.  The NFL knows this and they are drafting accordingly.  Geno Smith said he wasn’t coming back to NYC for the 2nd Round after being snubbed in the 1st.  Hours later he comes out and says he is after all.  Why?  Because his agent is making him.  His agent knows that teams aren’t just looking at his stats, they’re looking at how he reacts under pressure and through adversity, because during the season, if he’s a starting QB, he’s going to see a lot of both.

Movie Trailer – Thor: The Dark World

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins
Release: November 8th, 2013

I’ll admit I didn’t see the first one, but then again I don’t know many people who did.  And there’s a reason for that; because it looked like crap.  The second one doesn’t seem like it’s going to be any better.  I even love Norse mythology …and movies …and Natalie Portman!  But I think I’ll pass on the sequel just as I did the original.

Movie Trailer – R.I.P.D.

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Mary-Louise Parker
Release: July 19th, 2013

I’m not really sure what it was I just watched.  It was like a cross between Ghost and Men in Black featuring Van Wilder and The Dude.  That sounds about right, but would anyone really make a movie that combines all those things?  No, I must have been dreaming.  After all, Marisa Miller was there.

Sports – NFL Draft Preview

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 2013 Mock Draft 1.0:
  1. Kansas City – Luke Joeckel, OT Texas A&M – 6’6″ left tackle, a guy you build around.
  2. Jacksonville – Dion Jordan, OLB/DE Oregon – 6’7″ and fast, could play 4-3 or 3-4.
  3. Oakland – Sharrif Floyd, DT Florida – strong, athletic, and just right for the Raiders.
  4. Philadelphia –Dee Milliner, CB Alabama – a very solid corner, could start right away.
  5. Detroit – Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan – 6’8″ left tackle, protection for Stafford.
  6. Cleveland – Ziggy Ansah, DE BYU – a fast, light, edge rusher who can produce sacks.
  7. Arizona – Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma – 6’7″, solid, athletic, and quick.
  8. Buffalo – Geno Smith, QB WVU – physically gifted and a no-brainer for the Bills.
  9. NYJ –Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE LSU – perfect candidate for the Jets’ 3-4.
  10. Tennessee – Jonathan Cooper, OG UNC – a solid guard with a strong lower body.
  11. San Diego – Chance Warmack, OG Alabama -a strong guard who’s hard to beat.
  12. Miami – Xavier Rhodes, CB FSU – physical press corner who likes to jam.
  13. NYJ – Tyler Eifert, TE Notre Dame – tall, lean, strong, and physical.
  14. Carolina – Sheldon Richardson, DT Missouri – a quick tackle for his size.
  15. New Orleans – Jarvis Jones, LB Georgia – can play either inside or outside.
  16. St. Louis – Tavon Austin, WR WVU – 5’9″ slot receiver, Rams are in dire need.
  17. Pittsburgh – Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Tenn – just the WR that Pitt needs.
  18. Dallas – Kenny Vaccaro, S Texas – ready to start at safety right away.
  19. NYG – D.J. Fluker, OT Alabama – big, thick right tackle project.
  20. Chicago – Alec Ogletree, LB Georgia – very fast inside linebacker.
  21. Cincinnati – Matt Elam, S Florida – short, quick, big play safety that can cover.
  22. St. Louis – Eric Reid, S LSU – tall, long, and a hard hitter with good closing speed.
  23. Minnesota – Star Lotulelei, DT Utah – 6’4″, 320 lbs, nose tackle or any DL position.
  24. Indianapolis – Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama – a powerful, workhorse back.
  25. Minnesota – Manti Te’o, LB Notre Dame – aggressive tackler and a good leader.
  26. Green Bay – Montee Ball, RB Wisconsin – a reliable back good in zone blocking.
  27. Houston – DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson – size right between slot and Top 2 WR.
  28. Denver – Bjoern Werner, DE FSU – light and athletic, an edge pass rusher.
  29. New England – Desmond Trufant, CB Washington – good size and athleticism.
  30. Atlanta – Zach Ertz, TE Stanford – smart, big, good replacement for Gonzalez.
  31. San Francisco – Jesse Williams, DT Alabama – big, tough, nose tackle.
  32. Baltimore – Kevin Minter, LB LSU – good inside linebacker, could start.
Best of the rest: Arthur Brown, LB KSU, Damontre Moore, OLB/DE Texas A&M, Johnathan Hankins, DT OSU, Keenan Allen, WR Cal, Datone Jones, DL UCLA.
Notes: St. Louis has two 1st Round picks, one from Washington in the RG3 deal last year.  NYJ also has two 1st Rounds picks, one from Tampa Bay in the trade for Darrell Revis.  Minnesota also has two 1st Round picks, one from Seattle in the trade for Percy Harvin.  Consequently, neither Washington, Tampa Bay, or Seattle have a 1st Round pick.

    Movie Trailer – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

    Category : Movie Trailer

    Director: Francis Lawrence
    Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
    Release: November 22nd, 2013

    After reading the books (which I enjoyed) and watching The Hunger Games (which was good but not great), I think I’ll give the second installment a chance.  It looks a little darker than the first, which is saying something, and perhaps the acting might take a slight step up.  I like the addition of Phillip Seymour Hoffman too, one of my all-time favorites.  So, yeah, I’ll check it out on Netflix.

    Movie Review – The Hunger Games

    Category : Movie Review

    Director: Gary Ross
    Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
    Year: 2012

    I was a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence before this movie came out.  I loved her in Winter’s Bone and she did a good job in The Burning Plain as well.  The same goes for Josh Hutcherson; he was solid in both Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Kids Are All Right.  And I feel slightly sheepish in saying this, but I read and enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy.  No, they weren’t amazing, but they were entertaining, and I often reminded myself that they weren’t written with me in mind, because I’m not a tween.  Perhaps the plot was far superior to the writing, and perhaps I’m a sucker for a cool dystopian future, but I did read them all quite quickly and found them to be fun to read.  Now, the movie version of a popular kids’ book series is hard to pull off.  They might have done it well with Harry Potter, but that franchise is one in a million.  I was skeptical that anyone could pull this project off without making it laughable, but I’ve got to say I didn’t laugh much, and, as with the books, I found myself enjoying something that wasn’t even aimed at me.

    First, a little background on our world in the near future.  The United States at some point became highly centralized and military, exhorting its power over its people quite harshly.  A rebellion began across the entire nation, with full-scale war waged between the Capitol and the populace.  The government won.  Now, in the new nation of Panem, the Capitol reigns supreme.  The land has been divided into twelve districts, each with a specific job (mining, fishing, industry) and each district is entirely isolated from the next.  Great fences circle each area, military presence is constant, and food is short.  In order to keep the people from ever rebelling again the government has created an annual event meant to remind the people of their failure and their punishment; the Hunger Games.  Each year a boy and a girl from each district are chosen at random and sent into an arena to fight to the death.  Only one survivor comes out, to be revered and pampered for the rest of their lives.

    On the eve of the beginning of the 74th annual Hunger Games, a young girl from District 12 named Katniss Everdeen is faced with her worst nightmare; her younger sister is chosen for the Games.  Katniss does the unthinkable and volunteers, taking her sister’s place.  Along with a boy named Peeta Mellark, she travels to the Capitol to train, interview, and prepare for what will most likely be her death.  Should she survive, she will be famous and wealthy, her family never having to starve again.  But in order to live she must first win the hearts of the masses, for it is they who decide which contestants are favored in the games and which are maligned.  Katniss and Peeta begin to work together, all the while knowing that there can be only one winner, only one survivor of the Hunger Games.

    Pretty cool stuff, as far as the set up goes anyway.  The plot is driven by this insane system and it’s murderous tradition, and I became quickly immersed in the land of Panem.  From the very beginning of the movie you can feel the seething anger and sad resignation of the people in the Districts, as they have about as much chance of living a happy live as a Hunger Games contestant has of survival.  The Games become a representation of their violent lives and pointless struggle, as well as a reminder of the horrible power of the Capitol.  Suzanne Collins only wrote three books in her series, but I would have read more, because the world she created is so very captivating and intriguing.  The film settles right into this place, and buries itself deep within the feeling that she created in her novels.

    Now, as far as the movie goes, it wasn’t perfect.  While the books lack great writing the movie lacks great acting, and that’s pretty hard to overcome.  The beginning was good, I was in, but then the actors started talking more and more and it went downhill.  Lawrence was strong as the emotionally scarred Katniss.  And Hutcherson was passable as the compassionate Peeta.  But the side actors were all fairly silly.  A drunken Woody Harrelson, an over-the-top Elizabeth Banks, a distracting Wes Bentley (the weird boy from American Beauty), an unnecessary Lenny Kravitz, and a blah Donald Sutherland; none of them really made a good impression.  The only side character that I enjoyed was Stanley Tucci as the MC; he was hilarious and spot on.  But I kept getting lost in the mediocre acting and couldn’t find my way out.

    I can see why the movie was a hit, what with the big following that the books have, and with a storyline that’s too cool to mess up.  The acting got in the way from time to time, but overall I enjoyed it for what it was and tried not to judge it too harshly.  After all, The Hunger Games weren’t meant for a grown man, they were meant for a tween girl.  Regardless, I enjoyed the film version almost the exact same amount I enjoyed the books, and I never felt like I was wasting my time.  Don’t expect too much and you’ll have an enjoyable evening.

    My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰