Hello everyone, and welcome to 111 Archer Avenue. What started as a film review blog has become my online judgment forum. I will review the occasional movie or DVD, post an interesting trailer, critique a newly-read book, talk about sports, and share my thoughts and opinions on random issues. You can also follow me on Twitter (@OlieCoen) or check out my work on DVDTalk.com. Thank you and enjoy!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thought - DVD Talk

Well, my quest to become a professional film critic has taken a step forward; I have my first reviewing job!  I will soon be writing DVD reviews (like my Once review) for DVDTalk.com.  I will continue to post here on my blog daily, as usual, but about once a week I will also be posting a DVD review on DVDTalk.  I will link the two sites somehow, so please continue to visit 111 Archer Avenue and also DVDTalk.com.  Thanks, everyone, for your support.  And this weekend look for two movie reviews, one a classic musical and one the winner of You Vote, I Review.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sports - NCAA Tournament

It's almost tournament time, and I couldn't be more confused.  There is no legitimate #1 team and no dominant force in college basketball.  I guess you're free to choose your home team when you fill out your brackets, cause they have as much of a chance as anyone else.  Speaking of brackets, if you're interested in joining my Yahoo Pick 'Em league, just let me know and I'll send across the link and password.

So, last night #1 Indiana falls to Minnesota.  Who's the new #1 then?  Gonzaga?  They're not Final Four caliber.  Duke?  They lose too easily in tough road games.  Florida, Miami (Fl), Michigan?  No.  No one is a clear cut #1.  So, again, pick anyone you want in the Tournament.  Pick OSU if you want to, you Buck Nuts, cause who knows.

We'll have to wait for the conference tournaments to decide who the best team is.  Look for someone to get hot, win their championship, and carry that momentum into the tourney.  UConn did it that way a couple years ago with Kemba Walker.  Duke did it the same way the year before.  Momentum is a tricky thing, and it'll win this year.

In the playoffs of any sport, momentum is the most important force.  Throw the stats out the window, find the hot team, and you've found the winner.  The Baltimore Ravens this year; not the best team, the most emotionally charged team.  The San Francisco Giants last year: they were on fire, not extremely talented.  Momentum is the key.  Listen to Dr. Olie, and pick the hot hand.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Movie Trailer - Admission

Director: Paul Weitz
Starring: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd
Release: March 22nd, 2013

I usually like to get a jump on trailers and put something one here that's not being advertised on TV or that isn't coming out any time soon.  I'll make an exception for this one, because I feel it is my duty to warn as many people as possible; this is going to be one of the ten worst movies of all time.  It doesn't even have the saving grace of knowing that it's bad and owning it.  Tina Fey might actually believe this movie is funny and that she's a good actor.  Neither is true, and if you watch this movie you have nobody to blame but yourself.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thought - Oscar Recap

What an enjoyable evening.  The Academy Awards at a wonderful Oscar party with a good friend; can't beat that.  Next year, I've promised to take my wife.  Maybe we'll dress up as a famous movie couple.  Harry & Sally?  We'll have to see.  Here's a recap of the party and the awards.

My friend and I went to the Drexel Theater for their Red Carpet Bash.  It was a lot of fun.  First, we got our picture taken on the red carpet by the "paparazzi".  After finding our seats in the beautiful theater we had appetizers, Graeter's ice cream, brownies, and whiskey & cokes.  A lot of people were dressed up, from Mary Todd Lincoln to Pat from Silver Linings Playbook.  The most flamboyantly dressed of all was Ms. Sable Coate, a very friendly drag queen who would act as the co-host for the evening.  Trivia was asked during commercials with prizes given away.  The bartender made strong drinks, everyone was relaxed, and it was fun to watch the Oscars with a live audience clapping, laughing, and having a good time.  It almost seemed like we were there.  Almost.  Now, to the Oscars.

First, I thought Seth McFarlane did a great job.  No, he's no Billy Crystal or Bob Hope.  However, he was funny, relaxed, and made me feel like the Oscars were relaxing a bit.  I thought his opening with Williams Shatner was hilarious, especially the We Saw Your Boobs song.  Oh, Kate Winslett.  And, compared to all the other presenters, who all seemed like the walking dead, Seth was vibrant and the life of the party.  The show itself was good, but not great.  If it hadn't been for the musical numbers, the show would have fallen flat.  Adele stole the show with her Bond song and the cast of Les Mis was nice.

Now, the awards.  I thought Alan Arkin deserved Best Supporting.  But I think his role was too small compared to that of Christoph Waltz.  Everyone knew Anne Hathaway was going to win Best Supporting, even Seth McFarlane.  And ditto for DDL, he was a shoe in for Best Actor.  Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress surprised me, because I saw Silver Linings Playbook, and she wasn't that great.  When Ang Lee won Best Director, which was not a huge surprise, I think that should have tipped us off to the fact that Lincoln wouldn't win Best Picture.  And that left the door wide open for Argo, which had been gaining momentum.  I have to say, I saw it and it was good.  Oscar worthy?  Sure.  A winner?  Not so much.  Life of Pi was the big winner in a lot of categories, and Django Unchained was the big loser, getting pretty much snubbed.  All in all, a good Oscars and a fun night.

Now, as far as best/worst dressed is concerned: Anne Hathaway looked awful in her nipple dress.  Reese Witherspoon's dress was overshadowed by her chin, as always.  Kristin Stewart looked like her mom made her wear that.  Sandra Bullock looked nice.  Jennifer Lawrence looked hot.  Charlize Theron is just too damn tall.  Jennifer Garner is just too damn dumb.  Adele looked like she was going to eat Kristin Chenoweth.  Amy Adams was gorgeous as always.  George Clooney and Stacy Keibler are the most attractive couple in the world.  Helena Bonham Carter scares me.  Melissa McCarthy's hair was atrocious.  Ben Affleck looked nice; I like the beard.  Channing Tatum is a big dull doof.  Renee Zellweger always looks confused.  DDL is my hero.  JGL & Harry Potter looked pretty awkward.  Chris Pine does it for me.  Jeremy Renner does not.  Dustin Hoffman looks extremely old.  And who is Brandi Glanville and why does she look so much like a hooker?

Wow, what a great time.  See you all next year!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Movie Review - Jackie Brown

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro
Year: 1997

The winner of You Vote, I Review! by mostly immoral means, Jackie Brown was the chosen film for this weekend.  My wife finally gets to watch a movie she's been trying to get me to see for a while now, and I get to watch a Tarantino film that I've never seen, albeit one of his more mild.  I was interested to see how it would stack up against Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill, great films that are high on my list.  Thankfully, Jackie did not disappoint.

With a plot that's almost impossible to summarize, it's easier to explain Jackie Brown through its origins and its characters.  The film is based on the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard.  Known for his twisty crime novels, Leonard is the king of page-turners.  The story is one of relationships; Jackie (Grier) is a flight attendant who runs money from Cabo to LA for Ordell (Jackson), a gun dealer.  Ordell works with a variety of shady characters, including Louis (De Niro), Melanie (Bridgette Fonda), and Beaumont (Chris Tucker).  When Jackie gets nabbed by the cops, she and her bail bondsman work to scheme both sides and to steal a fortune from right under their noses.

Jackie Brown is a wild ride.  First, it's an ode to the blaxploitation flicks of the 1970s.  Grier was a key figure in this genre with her roles in Coffy and Foxy Brown.  It is a perfect homage to those films, creating an extremely believable 70s vibe set in the 90s.  It is also a crime novel film, establishing a hard-to-follow plot with back stabs and double crossings galore.  But ultimately, it's a Tarantino film, with his patented quotable lines, gun violence, cool characters, and general greatness.

But although it stays true to Tarantino, it is definitely a milder version of films like Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction.  Perhaps working off of an established novel helped to reign him in, because it never got messy, ultra-violent, or disturbing.  And this restraint allowed for the actors to shine; Grier was hip, Jackson was cruel, De Niro was wonderfully dumb, and Robert Forster as Max Cherry the bail bondsman might have stolen the show with his perfect portrayal of a man who's life has been turned upside down by puppy love.  All in all, an incredible film with a great story, a cool vibe, and nice acting.  A very entertaining and worthwhile two and a half hours.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book Review - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Author: Roald Dahl
Year: 1964

Like most of the English-speaking world, I have seen Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.  And, like everyone else, I loved it.  I have also read my fair share of Roald Dahl books: James and the Giant Peach, Matilda.  But somehow I never read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the book that the movie is loosely based on.  If you want to see a movie that's worse but more closely related to the book, check out Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp; it's not great, but it's entertaining.  But I digress; the book was great.  Let's talk about that.

Charlie Bucket is a very poor little boy.  His family is so poor, in fact, that he, his parents, and his four grandparents all live in a tiny two-roomed shack.  They never get enough to eat and they never get warm.  But Charlie's fortunes are about to change.  Willy Wonka, the famous chocolatier, has announced that hidden inside five of his candy bars are five Golden Tickets, and that the children who find these tickets will get to tour his factory and take home a lifetime supply of Chocolate.  Charlie soon discovers that there is much more than meets to eye to both Mr. Wonka and his marvellous world.

With a beloved classic like this, I pretty much knew what to expect, and I was not disappointed.  It was a very entertaining and magical read, filled with interesting characters and vivid imaginings.  But what surprised me about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was just how clever it was.  Underneath the childish story was some very witty humor and subtle messaging.  The songs of the Oompa Loompas were specifically sharp and cutting, slightly gruesome but poignant.  Overall, a pleasant read for a child or an adult, and a book you could visit again and again.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, February 22, 2013

Movie Trailer - It's a Disaster

Director: Todd Berger
Starring: David Cross, Julia Stiles, America Ferrera
Release: April 12th, 2013

What's up with the rash of apocalyptic comedies?  First This Is the End and now It's a Disaster.  Too be fair, they both look good, though in different styles.  I think I'll laugh more at the former but care more about the latter.  We'll see.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

DVD Review - Once

Director: John Carney
Starring: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova
Year: 2006

Once in a while a film has an effect on you.  It happens.  No one is immune.  Something about a particular film gets to you in a particular way.  Maybe you can't explain it, maybe you don't understand it, but you feel it, and that's enough.  Once in a great while one film has that effect on millions of people all at the same time.  That's when you know something special has happened; when so many people, critics, audiences, everyone, feel changed by a film.  Once is that movie.  It is that feeling.  And it's undefinable.  But isn't that what makes it wonderful?

The Movie

A simple love story, simply told.  Glen Hansard plays an unnamed Irishman trying to make a living in Dublin.  A self proclaimed "broken-hearted Hoover-fixer sucker guy", he works in a vacuum repair shop with his father part-time while playing guitar on the streets for money.  At night he plays his own music, songs he thinks no one wants to hear.  But he's wrong; at least one person in Dublin is interested in his talent.  Marketa Irglova plays an unnamed Czech woman, equally poor, equally lonely, and equally in love with music.

The two start a strained relationship, made difficult by his desires (a woman who hurt him but fuels his passion) and her responsibilities (a fatherless child and a meager existence).  Music ties them together and brings them closer each day, as they begin to collaborate and combine their talents into something special.  When the opportunity arises to work on an album together, a mismatched band is formed and the pair begin a new phase in their professional and possibly romantic relationships.

There are so many different parts to this film that are excellent, it's difficult to know where to begin.  For amateurs, the acting is great.  It helps that Glen and Marketa are basically playing themselves; struggling musicians attempting, as we all are, to survive.  No other characters really jump out, but that's actually a good thing in a movie such as this, where the two mains carry the entire story.  The dialogue is spot on as well; no forced lines, easy conversation, and a natural chemistry.

All of that is well and good, but the music makes the movie.  Not only are the songs phenomenal, but their passion drives the plot and creates that magical feeling that captured so many viewers.  Written by the actors, songs like 'Lies', 'If You Want Me', 'When Your Mind's Made Up', and the main track 'Falling Slowly' will haunt you and get stuck in your head until you have got to buy the CD.

The production of the film was surprising good.  Scenes were flawlessly tied together with music, they fit together nicely, they never dragged or felt forced.  The movie is only 85 minutes long, short for a modern movie, but it had a nice pace and didn't need to be any longer.  I can't think of much that would improve Once, and it seems as if critics and audiences both agree.  It is an excellent film, one that is worth a watch by movie buffs, music lovers, Irishman, it doesn't matter.  Good movies speak for themselves, and this one speaks loud and clear.


Video - At an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the entire film was shot on a single Sony HVR-Z1.  To put that into perspective, Inception was filmed using 8 different cameras and 13 different lens series'.  Video quality was poor, but intentionally so.  It added to the raw feeling of the movie, and brought you closer to the action.

Audio - Using Dolby SR, viewers can hear the film using either English Dolby Surround or Spanish Dolby Surround.  Subtitles can be chosen in English, Spanish, or French.  Sound quality is excellent, as it, not the camera work, quickly becomes the focal point of the film.
Extras - There are two types of commentary to compliment the story: a typical commentary with Carney, Hansard, and Irglova, or a musical commentary, in which they discuss each song as it makes its first appearance in the film.  "Making a Modern Day Musical" takes viewers through the making of the film.  "More Guy, More Girl" explains a little of the motivation behind the scenes and the story.  You can watch a hand drawn comedic bit in "Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy", and you can download the song 'Falling Slowly' if your computer has a DVD-rom drive.  There are also four trailers available: "Amazing Grace Trailer", "The Commitments", "Blind Dating", and "2 Days in Paris".

Final Thoughts

Highly recommended.  The movie is excellent.  It has a vibe, a sound, a feeling, that most films can't even begin to grasp.  The story, the music, and even the acting are exactly what you should find when you go searching for a high-impact film.  The DVD is good.  It has unpolished camera work, but it is to add to the film, not detract from it.  Sound quality is great, and the DVD extras are interesting, if not exemplary.  All in all, a movie I have seen and would see over and over again.

✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ - Content
✰ ✰ ✰ - Video
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ - Audio
✰ ✰ ✰ - Extras
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ - Replay

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sports - 2013 MLB Predictions

With free agency pretty much over, spring training starting this weekend, and no one having any real idea how any of the clubs will actually perform, I think it's time to make some picks.  So here they are, my 2013 MLB Way Too Early Predictions:

AL East 
  1. Yankees - This team is stacked. Added Youk & Hafner. Lost Swisher.
  2. Blue Jays - On the up. Added Dickey, Reyes, Melky & Josh Johnson.
  3. Red Sox - Too talented to fail again. Added Victorino, Napoli & Hanrahan.
  4. Rays - Searching for a new identity. Added Loney. Lost B.J. Upton.
  5. Orioles - Not enough power to sustain. Lost Reynolds.
AL Central
  1. Tigers - Should be great. Adden Tori Hunter. V-Mart back from injury.
  2. Indians - Francona! Added Bourn, Stubby, Swisher & Reynolds. Lost Choo.
  3. White Sox - Hitters are a little too old. Lost Pierzynski.
  4. Royals - Nice pitching staff. Added Shields & Santana.
  5. Twins - Why isn't this team better? Bad rotation and no closer.
AL West
  1. Rangers - Excellent at every position. Added Berkman & Pierzynski. Lost Hamilton.
  2. Angels - Could win a lot of games. Added Madson, Hamilton & Hanson.
  3. Athletics - Won't repeat last year. Added Jaso.
  4. Mariners - Stuck in mediocrity. Added Morse & Morales.
  5. Astros - Should be just plain awful. Added Carlos Pena.
NL East
  1. Nationals - Very solid lineup. Added Span, Soriano & Haren. Lost Morse.
  2. Phillies - Best pitching staff in the league. Added Young. Lost Victorino.
  3. Braves - Talented, but inconsistent. Added the Upton Bros. Lost Chipper.
  4. Mets - Good lineup, but not great. Added Buck.
  5. Marlins - Very, very bad. Added Polanco. Lost Reyes & Josh Johnson.
NL Central
  1. Reds - Great rotation, nice lineup. Added Choo. Lost Stubby.
  2. Cardinals - Pitching is a question. Carpenter out with an injury.
  3. Brewers - Solid, but stagnant. Called up Segura.
  4. Pirates - Just not enough talent. Added Martin. Lost Hanrahan.
  5. Cubs - Cursed, I guess. Added Edwin Jackson, Baker & Feldman.
NL West
  1. Dodgers - Great team, all around. Added Greinke &Crawford. Lost Loney.
  2. Giants - Solid returning team. Lost Melky.
  3. Rockies - This team has potential, and they can only go up.
  4. Diamondbacks - Good, but not special. Added Prado. Lost Justin Upton.
  5. Padres - Weak rotation and poor lineup. Very little support or energy.  
Most improved teams: Blue Jays, Indians, Rockies.
Least successful teams: Astros, Marlins, Padres.

World Series: Rangers vs Dodgers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thought - Drexel Theater

This Sunday a friend & I will be attending Drexel Theater's 16th Annual Red Carpet Bash.  It's an Oscar-watching party at a great Indie movie theatre here in Columbus.  You can walk the red carpet, try local food & drink, win door prizes, and watch the Academy Awards in HD on the big screen.  I'm very excited for it.  If you aren't doing anything this Sunday night, maybe I'll see you there.  It costs $30 for an advanced ticket, and they expect to sell out, so don't wait too long.  Should be a glamorous night.

Speaking of the Oscars, I have made my award predictions.  Check out The Oscars page to see all the nominees, who I think will win, and awards from past years.  Let me know who YOU think will take home the Academy Awards this year, and check here & on my Twitter (@OlieCoen) on Sunday to get updates from Drexel Theater.  Have a great weekend!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Numbers Station

Director: Kasper Barfoed
Starring: John Cusack, Malin Akerman, Liam Cunningham
Release: April 18th, 2013

Oh, John Cusack.  Right after I say how adorable and wonderful you are?  Bad timing.  Sure, you're lovable, and I'm sure Malin will think so by the end of the movie.  But first you'll have to uncover some things, shoot some people, run around, say "Get down!" a dozen times, and generally be in an awful movie.  I'm very disappointed in you.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Movie Review - Eight Men Out

Director: John Sayles
Starring: John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, D.B. Sweeney
Year: 1988

The first time I ever heard of 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson was in Field of Dreams.  A great movie with a great story, it's a must see for any baseball fan, and Kevin Costner's finest hour.  I don't know why, but the history of the White Sox and 'Shoeless' Joe is something that everyone can relate to; a simple man put in a tough spot with no easy answer.  Eight Men Out expands on that story, putting faces to a scandal that changed the game of baseball and is still relevant one hundred years later.

The White Sox scandal of 1919 will be infamous for eternity.  Underpaid, overworked, young, and angry, the players of the best team to ever play the game decided to do the unthinkable; throw the World Series.  In a deal that would give them more money than they could possibly make playing as hard as they could, a group of unbeatable players beat themselves.  Known now as the Black Sox, one team changed a city, a sport, and an idealistic nation.

This is definitely a film for baseball fans more so than movie buffs.  If you love baseball, if you loved Field of Dreams, if you think John Cusack is adorable, than this is for you.  If you're looking for an acting clinic than look elsewhere.  As an avid Cardinals fan and a member of the Cusack Fan Club, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the history.  As a critic, I laid off a little so I could enjoy myself.  That's not to say the film is horribly made, but it is a who's who of B-list actors and their B-list talent.  Watch because you love the game, but give it some slack or you might be underwhelmed.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Movie Review - Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Director: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock
Year: 2011

Any film about a tragic event will be clouded by personal perspectives.  That of the director, the actors, and the audience as well.  When it's a historic event, we can remove ourselves in time and space, allowing us to judge the film as a movie about a tragedy, rather than a tragedy shown to us in movie form.  When it comes to 9/11, it is too fresh for Americans to divorce themselves from.  We were alive, we saw it, we heard it, and we felt it.  So it's difficult for us to ignore whatever emotions we experienced when talking about or watching a film about this subject.  As I review this movie, I can't help being both an American and a critic, but I'll attempt to let both speak equally.

In the wake of the devastating events of September 11th, 2001, a boy names Oskar deals with his own personal tragedy; the death of his father.  Oskar sees the world in a different light than most children, having been tested for Asperger's Syndrome but with no definitive conclusion.  The only person who understands his intelligence and his methods is his father, a German-American jeweler who likes to send his son on "reconnaissance" missions in order to force him to talk to other people and experience the world outside his own neurosis.  After finding a clue hidden inside his parents' closet, Oskar attempts his most daring mission yet, as he searches for the answer to a mystery and also for a way to recapture the memory of what he has lost.

As you might guess, this is a not a film for the weak.  It is beautiful, heart-breaking, moving, upsetting; it reopens any wounds or fears that you might have had after 9/11 and pulls them wide open.  In a time when politics and media claimed this tragedy as their own, this film is a very personal story, a microcosm of pain and suffering that anyone who has lost a loved one can relate to.  Slightly obvious and heavy handed, it is still a very real portrayal of what happened that day and how it effected the lives of so many.

Now, putting that aside, let's talk about the movie; it wasn't great.  Yes, the emotion was there, and yes it captured a feeling that is hard to put your finger on, but that has been done before and with much more skill.  The acting didn't help much, as Horn, Bullock, and even Hanks were all less than stellar, evidenced by their lack of Oscar Nominations, despite the hype surrounding this film.  The only actor deserving of a nod, Max von Sydow, got one, and most likely saved this movie from being bad.  There was beauty in this film and real pain, but there were also flaws, and sadly the flaws were big enough that, based on surprisingly low critic and audience ratings, they stopped us from loving a lovable film.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, February 15, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Internship

Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson
Release: June 7th, 2013

I commented on my trailer of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone that the sun had set on Ferrell/Carell/Vaughn type comedies and that we could all agree on that.  Apparently somebody didn't get the memo.  This movie looks awful.  Just plain awful.  Sure we all liked Wedding Crashers, but that ship has sailed.  Levy needs to understand this and stop directing horrible movies: Big Fat Liar, Just Married, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Pink Panther, Date Night, Real Steel.  Wow.  What a list.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Movie Review - Bound

Director: Andy Wachowski
Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano
Year: 1996

I love when I'm surprised my a movie.  It doesn't matter if it's in a good way or in a bad, I love when I rate a movie at the end and that rating is not at all what I had expected.  Now, with that said, I don't like being tricked by a movie.  I don't like getting one thing when I expected another.  But Bound, in both areas, gave me what I wanted; a film that was what I knew it would be, but better than I had ever imagined.

The story is a classic one; a Mob deal gone wrong, everyone suspecting everyone else of stealing the dough, plots within plots, and a few gunfights tossed in.  But the real drama revolves, not around the Mob, but around the budding romance of Corky and Violet, two women who share a connection in this twisted underground world.  As Vi's money-laundering boyfriend Caesar weaves his own webs, she and Corky attempt to find a way out; out of the Family, out of his control, and into a world of their very own.

I was blown away; I just didn't see it coming.  Part film noir, part love story, part crime/suspense, part dry comedy, this film has it all.  With a David Fincher flare, Wachowski's directing was superb, with beautifully simple scenes and sensory-heavy moments.  The acting was spot on; perfect dead pan humor and crime drama homage.  The details were good, but the love story drove the plot.  Tilly and Gershon were a perfect pair.  This film has a reputation for explicit lesbianism, but it just shows how desensitised we must be to heterosexual sex in modern movies; the love scenes, while quite adult, were far less graphic and vulgar than your typical Hollywood sex scenes.  With a great love story, a cool vibe, some terrific acting (especially by Pantoliano), and a wickedly sick sense of humor, Bound may not be for everyone, but it's a must-see movie for any movie buff.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sports - The Cleveland Browns

Let me preface my post with this; I like the Browns.  They have a great fan base, they play good defense, they have a long history, they're not a cocky team.  And I like the direction that they're headed; Mike Lombardi comes over to help develop the team, new coach Chud will help the offense right away, his OC Norv is good at his job, although I hate him, and Ray Horton seems to be the real deal at DC.  With a new staff and solid players like RB Richardson, OLs Mack & Thomas, NT Taylor, LBs Gocong & Jackson, CB Haden, there is hope that this team can become legitimate.

But there is one thing I would change that seems to be ignored but that could really jump-start this organization; a uniform change.  I know it sounds silly, a new color scheme can't win football games, but Cleveland has talent, they just need confidence, support, and a mental boost.  A uniform change can do these things.  It worked for the 1997 Broncos & Buccaneers.  It worked for the 2000 Rams.  It can work for the 2013 Browns.

Look at the picture up top.  Yes, those are the current uniforms.  They call themselves the Browns and have chosen the color orange as their logo.  Ridiculous.  This isn't Halloween, you're not a piece of candy corn, think outside the box!  I'm not suggesting throwing away history, but a revamp is necessary and could help change the culture of what has become a losing team.  Check out these pics below.

Any of these concepts is an improvement over the current uniforms.  And they show that you can still
 honor your past while keeping up with the modern era.  The orange helmets have GOT to go, obviously.  And some sort of symbol is needed, even if it's just the letter 'B'.  I really like the first picture and I think Browns fans could get on board with it as well.  While playing Madden I created a Browns look featuring a bulldog with colors and symbols much like the third picture, but I think this is perhaps too deviant from the current standard.

Whichever way you want to do it, I think it's past time to make some waves.  Change your uniforms, change your colors, change your attitude, but change something so that the improvements you've made in the off-season don't go to waste.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Movie Trailer - Monsters University

Director: Dan Scanlon
Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi
Release: June 21st, 2013

At the risk of speaking blasphemy, I don't think this looks very good.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Disney/Pixar, and I'm a huge fan of Monsters Inc.  But, was any of that trailer supposed to be funny?  Because none of it was, and that concerns me.  Perhaps they're saving some humor for the movie and they don't want to spoil the surprise.  Perhaps.  But hey, you gotta get us in the theatre, and right now I'm not going.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Movie Trailer - Into the White

Director: Petter Naess
Starring: Florian Lukas, David Kross, Rupert Grint
Release: April 12th, 2013

I'm a sucker for this type of movie; World War, pilots, extreme conditions, brutality.  It's like a combination of Alive and The Bridge on the River Kwai.  Add a little Ron Weasley and I'm in.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Movie Review - Bel Ami

Director: Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman
Year: 2012

The winner of You Vote, I Review this week was Bel Ami, a film that I didn't know a lot about past its trailer.  The directors are unknowns, Pattinson (Harry Potter, Twilight) is just coming into his own, and Ricci & Thurman have been relatively quiet since their respective hay days.  So, I wasn't sure what to expect from a period piece made from all these pieces.  Turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

The story centers around Georges, a young ex-cavalry officer in 1890s France who is trying to make a name for himself.  His dabbles in writing for a revolutionary newspaper are laughable and his luck seems to have run out; that is until he meets not influential men but their wives.  Georges' charm, looks, and luck land him in the laps of some of Paris' most beautiful and cunning women.  As he ascends the ladder of prestige, events begin to outpace him, and he struggles to find his place in this web of sex, treachery, and more power than he ever imagined.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this film.  First, the acting was terrific:  Pattinson was tortured, Ricci was sexy, and Thurman was intriguing.  Second, the pace of the film was perfect; not to fast, not too slow, with excellent music in the background driving the plot.  But perhaps the best part of the film was its relevance. This story could have been placed in any time period and come across just as well.  It could have been modern; it could have been a story of people striving for power by any means necessary right now.  And that is a the sign of a great film; a story that supersedes time & place, and has the acting prowess to support it, which is exactly what Bel Ami delivers.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Movie Review - Ted

Director: Seth McFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale
Year: 2012

I might me a little obsessed with the Academy Awards right now, but let's take a break from that and talk about a movie that never aspired to be anything close to Oscar-worthy; Ted.  I had no real plans to watch this movie, not being a huge fan of raunchy comedies, but I was hanging out with a friend and this was available, so we thought why not, a guy's night is a perfect time to watch a guy's movie.  Turns out, it may have been the best time to watch it, but apparently timing doesn't magically turn crap into something good.

The title character, Ted, is a talking bear.  Yes he's stuffed, but he's alive; he feels, he laughs, he smokes pot, and he's a pal to the end.  His best friend John is all grown up, but still lives and often sleeps with his teddy bear buddy.  This cause trouble with his live-in girlfriend Lori, as he can never fully turn into an adult and start taking life seriously as long as he's skipping work to get stoned.  As John and Lori's relationship hits a breaking point, Ted has to help his friend move on, which might just mean that he has to move out.

It's as bad as it sounds.  It's not awful, but it's bad.  I felt confused through most of the movie, as it skipped back and forth between being a parody of a kid's movie, a raunchy romp, a chick flick, a homage to the 80s, while doing each of these quite poorly.  I don't mind crass humor, but it was pointless and juvenile.  I don't mind a love story, but it was terribly acted and frigid.  I don't even mind the occasional cameo, but don't just throw Nora Jones into your movie for no reason and expect me not to question it.  McFarlane's first attempt at a movie failed, as it was a step down from Family Guy, and that's not what you want.

Positives?  I like Marky Mark, he's cool and can be very funny.  He and Ted actually played off each other well and I laughed quite a bit.  Trouble is, my laughs were mainly "did that just happen?" laughs, as I tried to decide whether or not to be offended by every joke.  Mila Kunis is hot ...and that's about it.  Joel McHale was about as horrible an actor as is humanly possible.  So, no, not very many positives.  I can't think of anyone that I would recommend this to, other than a boy who's young enough to laugh at fart jokes, but then he wouldn't be old enough to watch any of the rest of the movie, so that's out.  Pass on grass, people.  And pass on Ted.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Friday, February 8, 2013

Movie Review - Best in Show

Director: Christopher Guest
Starring: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Parker Posey
Year: 2000

Some movies you have to be a little strange to appreciate.  For that matter, you have to be a little strange to create them.  Christopher Guest movies aren't for everyone, but if you can tap into the incredibly odd humor you will experience a type of comedy that you don't see everyday.  Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind; these "mockumentary" films created a unique genre with their take on documentaries, showing us how ridiculous it is when we take ourselves too seriously.

Best in Show is a story of dogs and the people who love them.  As the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show approaches, various owners and handlers prepare themselves and their precious pets for a chance at the coveted blue ribbon.  Harlan Pepper with his bloodhound Hubert, the Flecks from Florida with their terrier Winky; each group's quirks both help and hinder their chances.  The competition is fierce and each dog brings his or her own personality to the contest, but only one can be best in show.

Again, not for everyone, but if you can find the weird comedic strain and hold on, you'll be in for a great ride.  Much of the acting is done through improv, so the movie relies heavily on comedic timing and great natural actors.  Luckily, they all produce, as this group has worked together on other films and knows what it's doing.  Veteran comedians with extremely quotable lines, the movie flies by and leaves you wanting more.  Best in Show is one of the best comedies you'll ever see, assuming that you laugh fifty times in the first five minutes.  If you don't, don't bother.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Oregon Trail

I promise a movie review tomorrow, and the You Vote, I Review winner will be up on Sunday.

But for now, do you remember The Oregon Trail?  I used to play it at school in 6th grade.  A great game, and semi-educational.  You can actually buy an Oregon Trail app for your smart phone.  It's a little less fun then you might remember, but worth a dollar for some memories.  Anyway, check out this trailer for a good laugh and a blast from the past.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sports - State of the Season

The NFL: Well, this season is over.  Congrats to the Ravens on their Super Bowl victory.  I have no hard feelings towards them for beating the Broncos, but I am still a little bitter.  Well, there is always next year.  And Free Agency starts March 12th, with the Draft scheduled to begin April 25th, so although the year is over another is already beginning.  The Broncos and the 49ers have Vegas' best odds for making it to the Super Bowl in 2014, which I think would be quite a good game.  Anyway, football is not the only sport, and there are many other interesting story lines taking place right now.  Let's take a look at a few.

The NHL: I'm attempting to get back into hockey this year.  I used to really enjoy it; the Avalanche in their hay day and the Blue Jackets when they were new and exciting.  I figured, since this season was only half as many games because of the lockout, it was a small investment.  Well, Colorado and Columbus might be two of the leagues worst teams, but hockey is still a great sport.  The West is the strong conference this year, boasting the leagues two best teams, Chicago and San Jose, but we'll see if it produces the champ.  Keep an eye on Blues rookie Vladamir Tarasenko; could become an elite player someday soon.

The MLB: With Spring Training starting at the end of February and the season starting in early April, baseball is right around the corner.  As a Cardinals fan, I'm sad to hear that Chris Carpenter's career might be over.  He has been a great player and leader, and he will be missed.  I would have doubts about StL's hopes this year, minus Carpenter and Lohse, but they always pull out a nice season.  I expect Texas to be excellent once again, with the addition of Berkman at DH and Pierzynski at catcher.  Cleveland should be much improved, with the hiring of Francona, the addition of Swisher & Reynolds, and a stacked lineup.  At the back of the pack, the Astros ought to be just plain awful.

NCAAB: What an exciting college basketball season it has been so far.  It seems that, nearing the end, the best teams have pushed themselves to the front and should produce a champion: Duke, Florida, Michigan, Indiana, or Kansas.  But you never know, and that's the beauty of March Madness.  Arizona is for real, and OSU & Louisville could be serious bracket busters late in the Tournament.  As always, the conference championships will show us a lot, come late February/early March.  Don't underestimate momentum; look for a team that gets in a groove late, wins their tourny, and enters the dance red hot.

I don't know about you, but that got me excited.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Thought - Finally Fast

I had forgotten about this commercial.  It's one one my all time favorites, and it makes me wonder how much money the people in it were paid.  I'm not sure what's worse; the acting or the concept for the company.  Finally!  Finally Fast.com!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Movie Trailer - A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

Director: Roman Coppola
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray
Release: February 8th, 2013

Some people just need each other.  You have strengths, you have weaknesses, someone compliments those, and you work well as a pair.  Roman Coppola and Wes Anderson are a good example.  Put them together and you get The Darjeeling Limited, you get Moonrise Kingdom.  Separate them, and you get The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and, apparently, this movie.  It's almost as though they need each other to be their respective weirdness editors.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Movie Review - The Artist

Director: Michael Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman
Year: 2011

The Artist has been on my radar for a while now.  Basically, ever since it swept the top Oscars for 2011: Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture.  Any film that can do that is worth a watch.  It doesn't matter if it ends up as your favorite or not; if you're a movie buff you had best see it.  So when I set up the new 'You vote, I review!' segment of my blog, one movie had to be the first choice.  And, apparently, a lot of other people want to see it too, because it won hands down.  So, you voted, and now I'm reviewing.  Enjoy.

As you most likely know, The Artist is a silent film.  It is a silent film about silent films.  And it's silent star stars in silent films until they are silenced by talkies.  Dujardin plays George Valentin, and aging actor who can't keep up with the times.  When his career is threatened by a new form of cinema, he must adapt or be forgotten.  Trouble is, his new competition is non other than the beautiful girl whose career he began, and who's face he cannot forget.

I was completely surprised by this film.  I assumed it was good, and I knew it was silent, but I didn't know how good silence could be.  Without unneeded dialogue, the actors were able to show true emotion through simple facial changes, to portray a depth that the greatest script would have a difficult time conveying.  Part homage to silent films, part critique of modern films, and part pure engaging story, this is a movie that deserves the praise it gets.  My only criticism would be that it's a little too similar to Singing in the Rain, which was itself a story about the end of the silent film era.  The Artist may borrow from that amazing film, and I might recommend watching it first, but that fact doesn't detract from just how enjoyable, captivating, and wonderfully refreshing I found this film to be.  You voted, I reviewed, and I thank you for choosing such an excellent movie.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Book Review - Robopocalypse

Author: Daniel Wilson
Year: 2011

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know that I'm into science fiction.  If you know me personally, you know that I'm also into fantasy.  But while I love the genres, I tend to be marginally old manish about them; I like the classics and I'm skeptical about the new stuff.  As far as sci-fi goes, I like Asimov (I, Robot), I like Wells (The Time Machine), and Carl Sagan is about as modern as I get.  So when a friend recommended that I read Robopocalypse, I was intrigued but wary.  But I decided, hey, I'd give it a shot.  After tearing through it in record Coen time, I have to say that I'm  very glad I did.

The story is told almost entirely in flashback and documentation.  The main character, Cormac, perceives it as his duty to tell us about the history of the New War; a battle between man and his machines.  What started as a science project in AI during a time in which humans relied heavily on robots for domestic and military duties swiftly became a fight for survival, in which a newly liberated robotic army sought to control and pacify their former masters.  As the catalytic events of the War are uncovered, heroes emerge and their story is told in unblinking fashion.

At the start of my reading of the book, I was fairly critical.  I couldn't help but see Asimov in the details and wonder why I was reading a rip-off of his stories instead of simply reading the originals.  When I settled down I realized that all sci-fi will be a retelling of the great authors' works, just as all fantasy will be taken straight from Tolkien.  It's unavoidable, and therefor acceptable.  

Putting that aside, the story, the drama, the intensity of the book was phenomenal.  I was constantly interested and thoroughly entertained.  The style of writing led to very short chapters and a very quick read, allowing me to speed through to the end, and perhaps allowing me to forgive a few failings.  The writing itself wasn't great.  Ok, it was kind of bad; it was a little cheesy and a little Hollywood.  But then again, Dreamworks owned the movie rights to this novel even before it was published, so it was literally made for the big screen, and Wilson is a robotics professor, not Stephen King.  Don't look for the next Great Expectations from Robopocalypse, but do look for it in your library and in your theatre in 2014; you will not be disappointed.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, February 1, 2013

Movie Review - The Sword in the Stone

Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Starring: Rickie Sorensen, Karl Swenson, Sebastian Cabot
Year: 1963

I refuse to apologize for loving Disney movies, but I am guilty of using them to both entertain my daughter and to craft a quick review.  I've seen them all a hundred times, but somehow, even as I grow old, they never do.  I'm sure I'll watch Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast a hundred more times in my life, but I know I'll sing along to every song every time.  The Sword in the Stone is no different.  Though sometimes overlooked for being a little older, not having power ballads, and missing the patented Disney princess, it is without a doubt one of the very best.

The story is no more than the classic Arthurian legend; an orphan boy who does not know of his royal lineage, a wise magician who must lead him to his destiny, a great tournament in London to choose the new King of England, and an enchanted sword that will decide the fate of a boy, a kingdom, and his countrymen.  Pair this story with whimsical music, vibrant characters, and one grumpy old owl, and you have a film that will delight children and adults alike.

Some movies go beyond simply watching and critiquing them.  Some movies stick with you from childhood through adulthood and you love them unalterably.  For me, The Sword in the Stone is one of those movies.  It has a magical quality that goes beyond Merlin and his powers, a certain feeling that I have never been able to shake.  Whether it is the ancient tale, the excellent music, the well-crafted characters, or the humor which is sometimes silly, sometimes subtle, there is just something about this story that I will love forever.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰