Month: July 2014

Movie Trailer – Laggies

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Lynn Shelton
Starring: Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell
Release: October 24th, 2014

Sam Rockwell is an amazing actor and I’d see him in almost anything.  But Keira Knightley looks weird in this one.  I don’t like that she’s grungy & American, it feels odd.  And who decided that Ellie Kemper is a good actress?  She was kinda funny on The Office, but that’s it, stop casting her.  Also, I don’t trust Lynn Shelton; Touchy Feely was dull and uninspired and I’m afraid Laggies will be too.

Sports – 2014 NFL HOF Game

Category : Sports

The NFL Preseason kicks off this weekend; Sunday, August 3rd at 8pm on NBC.  The game is between the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills, and will be played at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio, right next to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  If you’ve never been to the Hall, I highly recommend it.  I haven’t been in years but it’s an experience every football fan needs to have.  Apparently they’ve redone it recently and it’s even cooler, so I plan on checking it out ASAP.  The stadium itself is a great place to see a football game.  I went a few years back when it was Colts vs Redskins.  The stadium is so small that you feel like you’re watching a high school game and the players are literally right there.  Anyway, here’s a look at what to watch for during the game.

New York Giants – Last season was a total bust for the G-Men.  They ended up 7-9, couldn’t score enough points, win on the road, or win enough in their division.  They actually scored the 2nd least points in the NFC, behind only the Bucs.  So say goodbye to your offensive coordinator and say hello to Ben McAdoo, who will hope to get Eli back on track.  Manning started all 16 games, threw only 18 TDs and 27 INTs.  Not good.  He’ll have to improve on those numbers, the worst in his career, if the Giants are to have any postseason hopes.  They lost a ton of key veterans: LB Kieth Rivers, WR Hakeem Nicks, DE Justin Tuck, S Ryan Mundy, DT Linval Joseph, TE Brandon Myers, CB Terrell Thomas, DT Shaun Rogers, and basically their entire offensive line.  But they added some really good talent: OG John Jerry, DE Robert Ayers, CB D. Rodgers-Cromartie, S Quintin Demps, RB Rashad Jennings, WR Mario Manningham, TE Kellen Davis, CB Walter Thurmond, and rookie WR Odell Beckham.  The entire offense is undergoing a big transition with its new OC and new line.  If Eli can have a bounce-back year and if he can get his offense moving, the Giants have a bit of a chance.  But their defense needs to improve as well, especially considering the QBs in the NFC East: Romo, RG3, Foles.  This division is always competitive and every team has a chance, but I don’t see another miraculous Super Bowl run in New York’s future.

Buffalo Bills – 2013 was a lost season for the Bills.  They went 6-10, scored about as much as they allowed, won a few divisional games, but really made little real impact on the NFL.  E.J. Manuel, their rookie QB, couldn’t stay healthy, only starting 10 games and scoring 13 total TDs.  He needs to avoid a sophomore slump if Buffalo is to have any competitive chance.  The offensive remains the same, which should help Manuel, as should a couple new weapons.  The defense will be run by new DC Jim Schwartz, the unlikable ex-coach of the Lions.  Look for the defense to play dirty, be heavily penalized, and try to force takeaways.  They didn’t lose a lot of key players during Free Agency: S Jarius Byrd and S Jim Leonhard.  The players they added will help right away: LB Brandon Spikes, CB Corey Graham, LB Keith Rivers, WR Mike Williams, OG Chris Williams, and rookie WR Sammy Watkins.  The team has great weapons at WR and RB, so if E.J. can step up his game this could be a sleeper team to watch put up some points.  The defense needs to get physical without getting stupid.  I don’t see Buffalo challenging New England for the division, but they won’t be a pushover team either.

Movie Trailer – St. Vincent

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts
Release: October 24th, 2014

Incredible.  This is Melfi’s feature length debut and that’s the only thing that has me slightly worried.  The rest, aces.  Bill Murray is a genius, that kid is hilarious, and I even think Melissa McCarthy is gonna do alright.  Naomi Watts playing a Russian stripper is weird, but whatever, I’m in.

Movie Review – The Book Thief

Category : Movie Review

Director: Brian Percival
Starring: Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson
Year: 2013

When the trailer for this film first came out last summer, it definitely caught my attention.  After all, Germany during WWII was a place full of fascinating stories, any number of which could successfully be made into hit films.  But judging the movie solely by its trailer, it didn’t seem to me like it would be excellent.  Then it started getting Oscar buzz, started conversation, got a lot of interest, and I wondered if perhaps I was wrong.  I guess I should have stuck with my gut, because The Book Thief failed to be the poignant drama it promised.  It ended up not winning any big awards, not being highly rated by critics, and not delivering its advertised product.  Many of its pieces are strong, but taken as a whole it’s an overrated war story and a minor disappointment.
In the years before Hitler’s attempt at European conquest, Germany was changing.  The Socialist party was taking over, the Communists were driven out, and the line was being drawn between Nationalist and Intellectualism.  Liesel was a girl caught in the middle.  Her poor, Communist mother sent her & her brother away to live with adoptive parents, giving them a better chance to survive the coming war.  Liesel’s brother died along the way, leaving her to adjust alone to her new life as daughter to Hans & Rosa Hubermann.  Liesel and Hans quickly became best friends, sharing their love of books despite their struggle with literacy.  Rosa was a harder nut to crack, but she began to love Liesel in her own way.  But when a Jewish fugitive named Max came to live with them, Liesel was faced with the difficult truths about the German leadership she was blindly following, including the burning of the books she was growing to rely on.  And when war finally came, everything would change, leaving a young girl floundering in an adult world, fighting to survive.
The base story is as interesting and important as most others in this genre.  The war, Germany, Hitler, the rounding up of the Jews, the book-burning rallies, the blind patriotism, boys pressed into service, food shortages, the SS; everything we love & hate about this time period is put on display here and done very well.  The plot is paired with great acting that supports it throughout and always captures the heart of the audience.  Nelisse is beautiful and melancholy, an excellent heroine for the story.  Rush & Watson are perfect as her adoptive parents, showing strength and heart in turn.  But what keeps the film from becoming something excellent is the ever-present feel that it was made for teenagers.  The style is juvenile far too often, with a narrator that I just hated pointing out the morals of the plot and ruining the finest moments.  The action could speak for itself marvelously, but instead everything is spelled out and nothing is left for us to conjure for ourselves.  Were this film shown in a classroom of 14-year-olds to introduce them to WWII it could do great things.  But I needed something more, or something less, more specifically.  Less instruction, less explanation, and less narration.  I wanted an adult film and what I got was something younger, leaving me disappointed in a movie that had great music, that had great characters, that I enjoyed, but couldn’t love.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Movie Trailer – This Is Where I Leave You

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda
Release: September 19th, 2014

I don’t know, maybe it’ll be good.  I like the actors, all except for Rose Bryne.  But the whole life-is-hard-but-family-is-strong thing has been done so many times before.  I’d leave it up to the director, let him manage to make it fresh somehow, but this is the guy who brought us Big Fat Liar, Just Married, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Pink Panther (2006), Date Night, Real Steel, and The Internship.  Hmm.

DVD Review – The Pretty One

Category : DVD Review

Director: Jenee LaMarque
Starring: Zoe Kazan, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston
Year: 2013

Welcome to Indie heaven.  The Pretty One has everything you’re looking for if what you want is low budget quirk.  An unknown director; Jenee LaMarque writes & directs her feature length debut.  A bearded non-hunk; Jake Johnson isn’t what Hollywood usually casts as its leading man.  An under-the-radar debut; the film made a thousand dollars on its opening weekend.  And of course, a hipster sweetheart: Zoe Kazan is the new face of off-beat romance.  She & Daniel Radcliffe will soon star in What If, a romantic comedy that hopes to break the mold, and I for one think it can.  So the pieces are all present and Indie perfection should ensue.

The Movie

Laurel & Audrey are identical twin sisters.  Growing up they were inseparable, best friends, roommates, two halves to a whole.  But when their mother died things changed.  Audrey went off to find a life of her own; big city, big job, independence, you name it.  Laurel stayed home to take care of her father and basically become her mother; wearing her clothes, doing the dishes, never going out or glamming up.  Audrey was always the pretty one, with enviable fashion, boyfriends, life experience, awards, drive, strength.  While Laurel was the plain one, never cutting her hair, never dating, never leaving home, always in the background.  But that’s all about to change.
Audrey & Laurel decide to move in together in order to get Laurel out of her shell.  On a whim, she cuts her hair to look more like Audrey, and the two sisters drive away toward a new life together.  But then tragedy strikes in the form of an oncoming car, and everything turns upside down.  Audrey dies, Laurel is in shock, and people confuse the two.  They think Laurel was the one who was killed, convincing her that’s she’s Audrey and that she’s dead.  Make sense?  It doesn’t to Laurel, not at first, but by the time she understands that there’s been a mistake she’s already headed toward the life of her twin, a life that’s so much better than her own.  A fancy boyfriend, an apartment, a classy job; Audrey had it all and now it’s totally Laurel’s.  But when she meets Basel, her sister’s tenant, she knows she’ll eventually have to tell the truth, letting everyone know that they better have a second funeral.

It’s a ridiculous story that’s surprisingly easy to accept.  It might feel a little silly at first, but it soon becomes just the way things are and you learn to live with it.  The path Laurel takes on her way to becoming Audrey is a simple matter of baby steps in the wrong direction, and by the time the plot is progressing you’ve already accepted the fact that this girl is pretending to be her dead twin sister.  And not only does it start to feel normal, but it becomes pretty hilarious.  Depressing at times, yes, but mostly funny, as Laurel the homebody attempts to be this confident woman that she’s always envied.  So it’s a comedy first, if a dark one, and the drama of the situation comes second.  The love story, the difficulty of growing up, of finding one’s self; those themes are present and add depth to the story, but The Pretty One is a comedy foremost.
You’d better have some talented actors able to pull off such a weird plot if you’re going to try selling audiences a movie like this, and thankfully everyone did their job.  Zoe Kazan was excellent as Laurel, and as Audrey too for that matter, playing her with a quiet likability that couldn’t be denied.  She really is an Indie It Girl right now and can seem to do no wrong.  She was cute, sad, realistic, and captivating, giving us a main character we could root for.  Jake Johnson as the love interest was also quite wonderful.  He’s an incredibly underrated actor; do yourself a favor and check him out in Drinking Buddies, a five-star film that went below many radars.  The pair had a nice chemistry together, they kept the plot moving in a film that was a short ninety minutes, and ultimately they delivered a story that was entertaining, quirky, and made me laugh.


Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 Widescreen, the video was everything you could ask for from such a low-budget film.  There were never any contrast issues, the color was always very interesting, and the clarity of the picture was perfectly fine.  The quality was actually higher than I expected, with some wonderfully whimsical shots and a very smart use of space & color.
Audio – The DVD was done is Dolby Digital, with an option for English subtitles.  No other audio choices are available.  The sound quality was fine, with no problems and no stand-outs.  The soundtrack wasn’t what I thought it would be, given that many Indie films rely heavily on song choice, but there was one strong track at the end and some nice background sound throughout.
Extras – There are a few extras on the disc.  The Pretty One; Visual Effects is a two-minute look at the shots that included both the sisters, or in other words, the scenes that Zoe Kazan was in twice.  It’s not an explanation exactly; there are no words spoken.  It’s just a brief behind-the-scenes look at how the images came together.  Also, there are five trailers: In a World…, Inside Llewyn Davis, Moms’ Night Out, Austenland, and Gambit.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  If you’re looking for a well-made Indie comedy, you’ve found it.  The Pretty One is clever, quick, meaningful, and humorous, a great way to spend an evening.  The comedy is sometimes silly, sometimes subtle, but the story is one that supports such an strange plot.  The actors do their work marvelously, Kazan & Johnson convincing us of their love & of their oddities.  The video quality is quite nice, the sound just fine, and the extras interesting.  A pleasant movie for those who enjoy the genre and a nice use of ninety minutes.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

Movie Trailer – Addicted

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Bille Woodruff
Starring: Sharon Leal, William Levy, Boris Kodjoe
Release: October 10th, 2014

If this movie is about sex addiction I think I’d rather watch Thanks for Sharing.  If it’s about adultery I think I’d rather watch Unfaithful.  Both of those movies look to be much better than this one, which seems like a mix of too many plots, with Tyson Beckford thrown in for good measure.

DVD Review – No Vacancy

Category : DVD Review

Director: Chris Stokes
Starring: Dustin Harnish, Kristen Quintrall, Braxton Davis
Year: 2012

Sometimes when you make a horror movie by all the standard horror movie rules, fans thank you for it.  It’s nice to be familiar with the set up, to know what’s coming next, to feel comfortable with a plot line that you love.  A bunch of young people on a road trip, some hot girls, a nerd, the token black guy; we don’t mind recurring themes as long as we A) buy into the genre & 2) are given at least a couple original ideas.  But sometimes you come across a horror movie that robs from the successes of the past, delivers the standard story, but fails to add anything new to the mix, becoming a vulture rather than an innovator.  No Vacancy is definitely the latter, a film that starts with a common setup but then never becomes its own project, leaving audiences less than amused.

The Movie

It’s time to head to Vegas, baby!  And man is this gonna be one wild road trip.  Seven friends head out in an SUV across the desert on their way to a fun-filled weekend of gambling & drinking.  You’ve got Todd & Claire, the attractive couple, Jordan & Brandy, the hilarious ones, Ryan & Anna, the friends with an edge, and don’t forget Phil, the loner with the handheld camera.  The friends are ready for a party and raring to go, when all of a sudden they blow a tire.  No, make that two tires, with only one spare on board.  So the girls stay cool in the car while the boys go looking for help.  And wouldn’t you know, down the road a ways is a tire store/mechanic/bar/hotel.  How convenient!  All the employees at the plaza are super friendly, willing to lend a helping hand, and at no cost whatsoever; what a lucky find.
And so the group spend the night.  But not before going wild on free drinks, pairing off & hooking up, and basically getting crazy.  That flat tire was a bummer, but things are looking up and Vegas is just around the corner.  Morning finds the friends groggy from their revelries, not really able to recall much of what happened, and a little weirded out by the fact that no one else seems to be around.  So this is when the fun begins.  Turns out, the happy plaza people aren’t so friendly after all, and have some wicked games in mind to play today.  The games involve capturing and torturing the couples, usually while one of them watches and/or assists in the death of their lover.  Good times!  Can anyone escape alive, or will they all become cut up co-eds?!

It all started well enough.  I’m a big fan, as are so many, of the horror genre as a whole.  I don’t mind the standard set up, the friends going on vacation, the killer on the loose.  That all can be so fun and so funny, an entertaining way to see some gore & nudity that’s usually quick, clever, and tongue-in-cheek.  And No Vacancy began that way, a homage to the horror that had come before, a classic take with a modern twist.  The road trip, the pretty people, the creepy hotel; the first half an hour is quality horror.  Now, not everyone will agree, some would see it as crap from the very beginning.  You’d better be a fan, otherwise you’ll hate what you get here.  But assuming you’ve seen your fair share of slashers, the beginning of this film is for you.  It’s the rest that sucks.
After a strong start, the movie tanks.  What begins as a classic plot quickly turns into no plot at all.  People get ripped apart, murdered violently, drugged, shocked, often out of hand and always uninterestingly.  It’s like, after the first thirty minutes, everyone gave up and decided to just wing it.  The plot fell apart, the killings became stupid, and the action began to make no sense.  They tried to tie it all together with a lame back story, but it was so juvenile it couldn’t be taken seriously and failed to do anything more than add to the idiocy of the film.  And wow was the acting bad.  Again, right at first I thought we were gonna be OK, everything was going well.  But then people started attempting to act and all hell broke loose.  Sobbing violently, running around screaming, holding people at gunpoint; the cast lost control of themselves or the director left the set or perhaps they all agreed to just give up.  Whatever happened, it was bad, and the film became hard to even watch.


Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (16×9 Widescreen), you might expect high quality video, but that’s not what you get.  Some of the shots are nice & crisp, done very well.  But so much of the film was shot using a hand-held camera, a camera that was loosely worked into plot.  That quality was, of course, bad and didn’t really need to be there.  Then there was the security camera footage, again very low quality and pretty unnecessary.  So don’t watch this movie for great visuals.
Audio – The DVD was done in Dolby Digital, with an option to turn on either English or Spanish subtitles.  There are no other audio options.  The sound quality was fine, whatever.  There were no problems, but how clearly do I need to hear “Oh my god, why are you doing this?!”  There wasn’t much of a soundtrack to speak of either, so the audio was pretty unimpressive.
Extras – The only extras are a few trailers: No Vacancy, Killer Holiday, The Cabin in the Woods, and You’re Next.

Final Thoughts

Skip It.  What started as a promising horror flick quickly became just another throwaway slasher movie.  It began with a standard backdrop, but lost its way and just started hacking away at both the characters and the story.  Fans of the genre will recognize a lack of originality here, while those who don’t like horror should run for the hills.  The video quality was marred by useless additions, the audio quality was so-so, and the extras were few.  Not a film I would recommend to anyone really, as it failed to entertain or captivate me, and isn’t worth much of your time.

☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ – Extras
– Replay

Movie Trailer – Unbroken

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Angelina Jolie
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson
Release: December 25th, 2014

All they had to say was “written by the Coen Brothers” and I’d have been on board.  It looks pretty epic and powerful; not sure if Jolie can sculpt that into something that isn’t cheesy, but I’m willing to give it a shot.  POW movies are instant hooks, so are biographies for that matter; I smell an Oscar nomination.

Movie Review – Perfect Sense

Category : Movie Review

Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Eva Green, Ewan McGregor
Year: 2011

I think I might have a mancrush on Ewan McGregor, and I think it’s his smile.  Either that or his awesome accent.  Or the fact that he’s a brilliant actor.  He does tend to churn out a few too many movies, not being overly selective with his role choices.  But it’s hard to fault him for that; if they’re offering you millions of dollars you should probably take the money and run, especially while you’re still young, in, and handsome.  Anyway, I like McGregor.  I like Eva Green too, but begrudgingly.  She’s a little off-putting and twisted, a perfect demeanor for most of her roles, but in Perfect Sense she was called upon to be the leading lady of a love story, albeit a weird one.  Well the couple both pulled off their characters, creating a film that’s part romance, part sci-fi, and wholly intriguing.
Susan is a research doctor and Michale is a chef; why not meet and fall in love.  They both have rocky histories, which doesn’t mean they can’t be perfect for each other, and their affair begins with enviable passion.  But the world around them is going through a change that no human has ever coped with before.  For an unknown reason, an epidemic is sweeping the world that eliminates human senses.  First goes smell, paired with a short period of intense grief.  Then goes taste, with a burst of incredible paranoia.  As each sense leaves the body, mankind panics and then regroups, going on with life having lost something that will never be regained.  Susan & Michael are no different, riding the waves of loss with only each other to cling to, falling in love despite the chaos that surrounds them.
It’s a fascinating plot, created by Danish screenwriter Kim Fupz Aaakeson.  It has the sci-fi elements that I love coupled with a romance that’s extremely believable.  The way they describe and show the disease is really horrifying, especially well done considering it doesn’t really hurt anyone.  It’s just a loss of a sense, but watching the film you can understand the panic that the characters must feel as they are slowly abandoned by the body they have always trusted.  So the movie is very sensational, very pleasing to the sense it’s about to take away, but it’s also very emotionally real.  At its heart it’s just a love story like any other, a tale of two people whose lives have become about each other, blocking out the rest of the world as they wrap themselves together.  Green & McGregor are both excellent, bring a sense of reality to their roles, and hold on to that even when the story begins to go wild.  I didn’t love some of the narrating over the action; narration has never been a good idea in my book.  And a few of the moments were definitely heavy-handed when the actors could have silently spoken for themselves.  But as a whole, I found the film to be captivating, with a very unusual backdrop framing a very common theme.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆