Month: January 2014

Movie Trailer – The Wait

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: M. Blash
Starring: Jena Malone, Chloe Sevigny
Release: January 31st, 2014

What a strange-looking film.

Movie Review – Her

Category : Movie Review

Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams
Year: 2013

This film was one of the last Oscar contenders that I needed to see; I was more excited to see it than many others, it just worked out that I was seeing it late.  So I heard all the good press, the rave reviews, and knew that it was up for Best Picture.  But that didn’t mean too much to me.  Everyone and their brother thinks that Gravity is the best thing since french toast; I barely even liked it.  The Academy thinks that Inside Llewyn Davis isn’t even worthy of a nomination; I think it’s the best film of 2013.  So I was as much in the dark about Her as I would have been had I not heard a thing; would it live up to the great things I’d heard or would I be left alone disliking another nominee that everyone else thought was the second coming of Citizen Kane?  As it turns out, I somehow disagree with everyone, but not in the way I thought I might.  It’s not a great film after all; it’s phenomenal.  And it doesn’t deserve one major nomination; it deserves three.  Her is one of the best films of the past year, pushing Llewyn, in my book, for the very top spot.
The main character of the film and the hub of all action & emotion is Theodore Twombly.  He lives in L.A. in the near future, works for a company that writes hand-written letters of love for paying customers, enjoys video games & internet porn, and is incredibly lonely.  His volatile wife Catherine has filed for divorce and a marriage that Theodore had devoted his entire self to is suddenly dissolved.  He’s depressed, alone, unsure; until he meets Samantha.  She’s the girl of his dreams, the perfect companion, gets all his jokes, talks with him late into the night, turns him on like no one has before.  But she can’t be beside him, can’t curl in bed with him at night, because she’s not human.  Samantha is an operating system, a computer capable of artificial intelligence, learning human emotion and every fact in the world at an unimaginable speed.  Her relationship with Theodore starts out as any other does; hesitantly, thrillingly, all-encompassing.  But soon the pair realize that their love will never be “normal”, that they will never be truly together, and that her destiny might be too great to be held in the hand of one man.

There is so much to discuss about this film, so many aspects that make it amazing and one that I could watch again right away.  The sci-fi element of the story was brilliantly done.  The future wasn’t unbelievable, it was meticulously crafted to seem plausible and right-around-the-corner; touch screens, automatic lights, earpieces, voice recognition, mass transit, urban centers.  Everything imagined is partly in existence now and no technology took a leap of faith to accept.  Even the AI of Samantha and the other OSes was acceptable, fascinating, perfectly constructed but never explained in detail.  And so the world in which Theodore lived was fantastic enough to allow us to believe in the possibility of a computer that could feel, but not so out-there that we felt disconnected from the story.  Because, in the end, the story was what mattered.  It was a love story, a tale of star-crossed lovers in a way, a film about immature emotion that can be so exciting and so confusing all at once.  The innocence of Samantha and the desperation of Theodore were both so compelling and so real that I found myself emotionally involved in the plot and sharing their passion for each other.  There were pieces of their love that we can all relate to, mistakes that they made that we’ve all made before.  And the story that evolved became so real, so wonderful, that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it blew me away.
Despite all the praise for the film and its shot at Best Picture, Spike Jonze does not have a chance to claim Best Director.  I think the Academy got that one wrong; he deserves it much more than Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave or even Alexander Payne for Nebraska.  This film was beautifully shot, well thought out, and I felt his presence here in a very positive way.  And an even greater snub would be not nominating Joaquin Phoenix for Best Actor.  He was at his best, delivering a character that was so amazingly deep and also so relatable.  And he was on his own for much of the film, conversing with an earbud and making audiences believe he was truly in love.  Scarlett Johansson, the voice of Samantha, was never seen, was always just a voice.  She and Amy Adams, who was in many ways the straight man, were complimentary actors; the burden of the film was on Phoenix and he has never been better.  My votes were going to be for Oscar Issac and the Coen Brothers until I saw this film; now they would go to Phoenix and Jones.  I still think that Llewyn is the best film of 2013, with Her right behind, regardless of what the Academy thinks.  They were very different films, but both combined heartbreaking stories with honest comedy to produce movies that continued to play in my head as I left the theatre and for days after. 

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Movie Trailer – The Lunchbox

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ritesh Batra
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur
Release: February 28th, 2014

This movie can’t be any worse than so many sappy American love stories, and maybe it’ll be much better.  At least it seems to have heart and honesty, which are surprisingly lacking from so many films that claim to be completely about emotion.

Sports – 2013 NFL Postseason, Super Bowl

Category : Sports

Here is my NFL Super Bowl Pick
(169-86-1 for the season, 9-1 for the playoffs)
Sea @ Den – And it all comes down to this.  It’s been a wild season and a very enjoyable one as a Broncos fan.  I got to see Peyton Manning at his best, a record-setting offense, and a team that looked like a Super Bowl contender from the season-opening game.  Regardless of what happens here, it’s been fun to watch.  But in a way it will have all been for naught if Denver comes up one game short of a championship.  Peyton is so close to cementing his legacy as perhaps the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, the only QB to win a Super Bowl with two teams, the greatest football mind to ever play.  And the rest of the team is as hungry as he is: Champ Bailey in his first SB in what may be his last season, Wes Welker here again but with a new team, John Fox the head coach that doesn’t get much love.  It’s all on the line and it should be a great game.  The Seahawks come in as the young team, the exciting and spirited group, the defense that can shut you down.  They’ve had a great year and won’t roll over easy, fighting until the last second.  Their physical defensive backs match up well with Denver’s skilled receivers, and so the game might be decided on the ground.  The Broncos can run the ball and stop the run, so even if the weather gets dicey they are still built to score points.  I think the Seahawks will be forced to throw against the Broncos weak secondary and I think they’ll have some success.  But no team puts up points like Denver and I don’t see Seattle keeping pace.  I’m calling the score at 34-23 with the Broncos taking home the trophy.

Movie Trailer – The Babadook

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jennifer Kent
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall
Release: 2014

My god, what are these people trying to do, ruin my sleep for a week?  Just the trailer is enough to give me nightmares; a boogieman in the shadows, weird kids, repetitive charms.  No thanks.  I’m not saying it looks bad, but no thanks.

Movie Review – Nebraska

Category : Movie Review

Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb
Year: 2013

I might still be a little angry about Inside Llewyn Davis being snubbed for the Oscars that I think it deserves.  And I’m not sure why, it’s not like I made the movie, it shouldn’t matter what the Academy thinks about a film I loved.  But it does, it really does, and so I transfer my anger to the films that were nominated in its place: Gravity which I didn’t really even like, Philomena which I haven’t seen quite yet, and Nebraska which I couldn’t imagine even deserved a spot among the great films of the year.  And it gets four major nominations while Llewyn gets none?  Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, and Best Picture; Nebraska is this year’s Cinderella story.  So I came in with a tiny grudge against this underdog of a film, but I actually left understanding what all the hype was about and why it’s right where it belongs alongside the best of 2013.
Shot in black & white and set among the rollings plains of the Midwest, Nebraska is a film about family.  Woody Grant, an old & often-drunk retiree, has just won a million dollars, or so he thinks.  A letter in the mail says he’s a winner, but his wife & two sons tell him that it’s just a scam.  But Woody is determined to get from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska on foot if he has to, as he can’t drive and no one will take him.  His wife Kate thinks he’s crazy, his son Ross thinks it’s time to put him in a home, but Woody’s youngest David thinks that a road trip might not be an awful thing.  At least it would take David away from his own problems; a breakup, a dead-end job.  And perhaps it will show Woody that he didn’t win, that he needs to come back to reality, that he’s ignoring the real world and the people around him.  So father & son take a trip, bonding perhaps, definitely learning about each other, and connecting to a family that is steadily breaking apart.

The respect that I feel for this film after having seen it isn’t even grudging.  I genuinely enjoyed it and it’s obvious why it’s been so highly respected.  Nebraska is about family, about fathers & sons, about lost dreams, disappointments, second chances, and the regrets of the past.  It’s generally sad, sprinkled with heartbreak & humor, but at all times promoting an honesty that was nice to see.  The family was real, they had real problems, what they felt for each other was true, in both good and bad ways.  And wow was their country hometown accurate.  On the road the family gathers in Hawthorne, Nebraska for a small reunion, and if you’ve ever lived in a tiny rural village you’ll immediately recognize the characters, the mannerisms, the town itself, the gossip, the culture, the despair.  It was eerily similar to parts of my own upbringing and someone got a ton of details correct when creating a picture of an ancient farming community and the people who call it home.
Bruce Dern was great as Woody and deserves a nod for his role.  He was senile but crafty, determined yet sad, and he played the part to perfection.  I doubt he wins Best Actor, but his name belongs next to the others this year.  Will Forte was alright as David and it makes sense that he was not nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  He’ll always be the SNL guy to me and I think too many people feel the same way.  It was June Squibb who stole the show as Kate, the angry wife & mother who is as domineering as she is bitchy.  She was hilarious at times, cold as ice at others, helping to keep in perspective a story that could have gone off the rails.  But it didn’t, it stayed honest and smart, helped by solid directing & editing as much as by strong acting.  Nebraska is a well-made film that should get a lot of credit but that I don’t think will surprise anyone with big wins at the Oscars.  It’s really good, not brilliant, and that should be reflected in March.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Movie Trailer – Better Living Through Chemistry

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Geoff Moore, David Posamentier
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Monaghan, Ray Liota
Release: March 14th, 2014

Uh oh, first time directors, plural.  I like the cast list, but I’m very concerned by the amateur feel of the trailer given that these guys are indeed amateurs.  If I had to put money on it I’d bet that the first 30 minutes are great and that the other 60 suck.

Movie Review – Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Category : Movie Review

Director: Glenn Ficarra
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore
Year: 2011

The romantic comedy is the butt of most cinematic jokes, and deservedly so.  So many are done so poorly that they’ve created a genre of flops, a group of films that are predictably awful and unashamedly cheap.  And the stories are always the same; love comes from an unexpected place, it’s awkward & hilarious, it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out, but then of course it does.  You wouldn’t think Hollywood could make a millions versions of the same plot, but they have and they will because for some reason people keep eating it.  Maybe it’s the pretty people, maybe it’s the fantasy of love against all odds, or maybe it’s just a simple way to waste some time without having to waste much energy.  But every once in a great while a rom/com slips through the sludge and delivers something a bit more than crap.  Not a lot more, but enough to get excited about, since it’s exponentially better than the rest of its genre.  Crazy, Stupid, Love is one of those films, a better-than-average silly love song that may not be amazing, but boy is it better by comparison.
Cal Weaver is a man at a crossroads.  His life is changing before his eyes and he’s not sure what to do next.  His wife Emily announces that she’s had an affair and wants a divorce, forcing Cal to move out and reconsider what he viewed as a solid life with his high school sweetheart.  Meeting Jacob Palmer should help straighten things out, as Jacob is the town’s leading ladies’ man, going home with a different beautiful woman every night.  He teaches Cal his tricks, sprucing up his look and helping him to develop some confidence.  But things just get more complicated, not less.  Cal has a one-night-stand with someone who he will unwittingly see again, his kids’ babysitter is in love with him, his son is in love with the babysitter, his wife might want him back, and his new wing man might have accidentally fallen head over heels for someone who will turn out to be a very awkward choice.  Love is crazy and no one knows how to control it, at least not in this family.
It’s not an incredibly original story; man wants woman, keeps making mistakes, woman wants man, can’t express herself, player falls in love with uptight girl, gives up playing, uptight girl is not who he thought she was.  It’s convoluted, a little overdone, and I wouldn’t stack it up against films that are obviously superior in every way, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work.  It’s just better than most romantic comedies.  It’s actually pretty funny for one thing, and for another it’s actually a little romantic.  Shocker I know, but this rom/com surprisingly is one.  And it’s gotta be the cast.  Julianne Moore and Emma Stone I could do without; neither is a great actress and neither is particularly believable.  But Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling are great bordering on excellent.  They sell the cheap story, hook you when you know you should resist, draw you into characters that, played by different actors, would be absolutely terrible.  Their talent made the movie, eliciting the laughs and the tears, and ultimately delivering not a wonderful film perhaps, but at the very least one that is the cream of its crappy crop.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Movie Trailer – Only Lovers Left Alive

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska
Release: April 11th, 2014

I can’t imagine spending eternity with Tilda Swinton.  Especially when she’s always drinking people’s blood.  As far as the movie goes, there’s nothing here that excites me.  I just can’t imagine this one being any good and I think I’ll steer clear.

Movie Review – Screwballs

Category : Movie Review

Director: Rafal Zielinski
Starring: Peter Keleghan, Kent Deuters, Linda Speciale
Year: 1983

I should have known that I was in trouble when the characters of this film were named things like Purity Busch, Bootsie Goodhead, Miss Boudoir, and Jerkovski.  That made it sound more like a ridiculous 70s porno than a classic high school sex romp comedy.  I was hoping for something along the line of Meatballs or Porky’s, or at least a clever spoof of that genre.  But what I got was 80 minutes of nonsensical story told by the worst actors in history with the occasional shot of a boob.  Any attempt at a clever satire failed miserably, humor was in very short supply, and by the time the movie was over I felt dumber having watched it.
Welcome to Taft & Adams High school, or T&A for short.  The boys there are always horny, the girls are usually willing, and practical jokes abound.  The school is run by the prettiest & smartest girl in school, Purity, who is as virginal as she is uptight.  But she makes enemies with a group of boys, getting them into trouble and into detention.  For revenge, the crew make a vow to deflower Purity, or at least see her breasts.  Their attempts are foiled time after time, despite their best efforts and clever tricks, but they refuse to give up.  Can the boys expose Purity before Homecoming, or will she remain unobtainable forever?
There’s enough there in the summary to keep you away from this movie, right?  I feel as if it’s my duty to stop anyone else from suffering as I have suffered.  To be fair, I knew it was going to be insane, juvenile, silly, gratuitous, a mockery of movies, and a wild ride.  But I just didn’t know it’d be so crappy.  Meatballs had actual heart, Porky’s had some good depth; Screwballs is basically a bunch of adults acting like teens and running around in their underwear.  There’s nothing to grab onto (no pun intended), no feeling, no acting, no anything.  It’s a total waste of time, it’s not clever, it’s not funny, it’s not even a cheap thrill.  It’s just a bad, bad movie that no one should be subjected to, so do yourself a favor and never watch it.

My rating: