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!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Movie Trailer - Stretch

Director: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Jessica Alba, Ed Helms
Release: December 5th, 2014

First off, Patrick Wilson isn't a strong enough actor for lead roles.  Sorry Pat, but you just don't have it.  Maybe a movie like this, one with a quick pace & quirky characters, is perfect for him, allowing him not to reveal that he has a talent deficiency.  Second off, this genre of movie is never good.  It's fun in parts, has some cool crime, a couple laughs, but ends up being a bit of a bore.  I'd expect nothing lees from Stretch.

DVD Review - Throwdown

Director: Timothy Woodward Jr.
Starring: Timothy Woodward Jr., Vinnie Jones, Mischa Barton
Luke Goss, Danny Trejo, Erin Marie Hogan, Jerry G. Angelo
Year: 2014

Someone should sue this film for false advertisement.  Or at least force it to be packaged with a warning that lets consumers know that the title and cast are both terribly misleading, that even the genre is a stretch.  Because Throwdown is not so much an action thriller as it is a boring bump on the endless road to nowhere.  At first glance is seems like the movie might have some promise; the mob, criminals, human trafficking, hot women, guns, swords, that guy from Snatch.  But any purported strong points quickly turn to mush the instant they're seen on film.  So you can guess that the advertised pieces might come together to form a, at the very least, watchable picture.  But you'd be very, very & sadly, sadly wrong.

The Movie

Jaxon Stone (what a name, huh?) is a defense attorney at the top of his game.  Young, clever, unbeatable; he can get admitted murderers off the hook as easy as you please.  Sure, this might create some demons along the way, some baggage he'll have to deal with later, but who cares, he's rich & he wins, not a bad way to spend your 30s.  And so when the beautiful Amanda Torres asks for Stone's help in getting her brother out of jail, he takes the case, partly because he knows he can win and partly because, hey this girl's hot.  But Juan, the brother, doesn't want to be found innocent, claims he killed a man, won't cooperate, and basically makes defending him hell.  Why is he being so stubborn, what's the story behind the man he murdered, and why can't everything just be easy?!

Well Stone, things are about to get even more hairy.  Vincent Delacruz, a local crime boss, contacts Stone and hires his as his attorney, cash up front.  It seems that Delacruz' son was killed but Juan Torres and that the father wants to take care of justice himself.  So Amanda wants her brother freed so she can hug him, Delacruz wants him off so he can off him, and all Stone wants is to drop the case since Juan won't even talk to him!  Seems like the crafty lawyer might have found himself in over his head, especially when sex rings & international smuggling begin rearing their ugly heads.  He'll have to outsmart the mob, find loopholes through the criminal justice system, and do the broad, all before someone gets whacked.  All in a day's work for the best lawyer in the city.

It's as bad as it sounds.  And I blame it almost entirely on Timothy Woodward Jr.  First off, that's a weird name and seems fake, so strike one.  Secondly, he's the director so this movie is in his incapable hands.  It's really, really bad, like bad bad, bad in a way that hurts, not in a way that makes you giggle.  It's a complete and utter mess from the very beginning, with story lines going every which way, with odd characters that have no reason to be there, with choppy action that can barely be given the name.  And oh yeah, lastly he stars in the film.  Timmy might be the worst actor I've ever seen and that's saying something; I've seen Julianne Moore in a lot of movies.  He stunk up the stage, coming off more as a porn star trying to be serious for a second, minus the sex of course, which leaves it solely as a terrible lack of talent.  A lack of believability too, for that matter, a complete void of anything engaging or positive.  Very bad job, Junior.

And those advertised pieces I referred to earlier, what happened to them?  Well, they were there, but basically for no reason other than name recognition.  Vinnie Jones' face is front & center on the DVD cover, there to attract an audience, but he's a completely one-note villain, a thug with an accent.  Luke Goss, who I actually liked in Dead Drop, was only here to fill a little time, to hold down a character that had absolutely no point whatsoever.  Mischa Barton; what's she even famous for?  She played a DA with about as much vigor as a dead cactus.  And lastly Danny Trejo, a man cast only for his upsetting appearance and penchant for creepiness.  Throwdown was an action movie with action stars that had little to no action, a snooze fest of overly confusing plot points that centered around the director of the film, a man who couldn't act his way out of theatre camp.  Don't buy what this movie is selling you; it's not what you think and you won't like what you get.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (16x9 Widescreen), the video might be the best part of the film.  Come to think of it, it might be the only good thing about the movie, as basically everything else sucked.  The film was shot using a Canon EOS C100 camera and exhibits a strong visual.  Scenes were shot with clarity, the picture quality was crisp, with a nice use of color to offset some darker moments.

Audio - The DVD was done in Dolby Digital, with an option for English or Spanish subtitles.  There are no other choices or features.  The audio quality of the film was completely unremarkable, with neither good nor bad qualities to point to.  The sound was fine, well balanced, and my only complaint ended up being that I could hear the actors.

Extras - There are a few extras on the disc.  In case you wanted more from this film, there is a Behind the Scenes section, a twenty-minute look at the making of the movie, with short interviews with the director and producer.  Also, there are five trailers: Throwdown, The Prince, Reclaim, A Good Man, Armed Response.

Final Thoughts

Skip ItThrowdown doesn't make make sense as either a title or a film.  It's a pathetic attempt at action with a confusing story that only the writer could love.  It's not so much a throw down as a throw up, a badly acted & badly produced mess of a movie.  The video was strong, the audio weak, and the extras few.  You want Steven Seagal action?  Look somewhere else, because although the cast of this film might lead you to believe that something exciting will at some point happen, it doesn't.

- Content
☆ ☆ ☆ - Video
☆ ☆ - Audio
☆ ☆ - Extras
- Replay

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Movie Trailer - Reach Me

Director: John Herzfeld
Starring: Tom Berenger, Kevin Connolly, Sylvester Stallone
Kyra Sedgwick, Thomas Jane, Lauren Cohan, Terry Crews
Release: November 21st, 2014

I can't think of an ensemble cast I'd less like to have working on my film.  This is a horrible group of quasi-actors who have absolutely no chance of producing a believable film.  And believable films are not what John Herzfeld is good at anyway.  He directed 15 Minutes and 2 Days in the Valley, solid movies about crime, not self help.

Movie Review - Peter Pan

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Starring: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried
Year: 1953

You can't get much more classic than Peter Pan.  When it comes to Disney movies, not many can claim to be more iconic, more pivotal, and more defining.  The films of the 30s & 40s will always be a part of history: Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Cinderella.  But Peter Pan would go on to become the face of Disney, the example of never growing up.  And Tinker Bell spawned a franchise all on her own, as my daughter could attest to.  Pixie Hollow is a huge hit, and Tink flies at the beginning of every single Disney film.  So when judging animated movies, I know of none better to put at the top of the list than this film, a movie that all other fairy tales aspire to me, a story that will live on forever in the hearts of those who refuse to age completely.

Based on the book & play by J.M. Barrie, this is as well known a story as can be found in America, a borrowed masterpiece that has swiftly become part of our culture.  The plot of the film varies a little from the plot of the novel, but the basic premise is the same.  The Darling children (Wendy, John, & Michael) love to play Peter Pan.  Wendy tells his tales, the boys become the characters, and the entire imaginary world of Neverland lays open to every dream.  But the children are about to discover that Peter is no fictional hero.  He's real, he visits their home, and he has recently lost his shadow.  Entering the nursery to retrieve it, the boy who never grows up meets the trio of English youngsters, inviting them to come with him to Neverland.  There, adventures abound, as the Indians are always on the warpath, the mermaids laze the day away in their lagoon, animals prowl the jungles, and the pirates constantly plot to defeat Peter and his Lost Boys once and for all.  The Darlings enter into this world with the innocence of a babe, but with vicious Captain Hook on the loose they had better be on the lookout.  Excitement waits around every corner and Peter Pan is king of it all.

What a wonderful story, one that's as whimsical as it is marvelous.  The plot, the setting, the island, the narrow escapes, the buccaneers, the Lost Boys, the jealous fairy, the hideouts; all the pieces come together to entertain all ages any number of times over.  Here is a film that doesn't get old and never changes, capturing the spirit of Neverland in a way that even the filmmakers couldn't have imagined.  It pays homage to the amazing original story and yet somehow becomes a project all its own, a stand-alone film that can be loved just as much as the original text.  Perhaps it's the music that allows this to happen, as the soundtrack is as strong as there is in any Disney movie.  The Second Star to the Right, You Can Fly, A Pirate's Life, What Made the Red Man Red, Your Mother and Mine; incredible songs that come one after the other in a procession of unforgettable music.  I don't think it'd be possible to watch Peter Pan without having a positive response, without feeling good and happy that you sat down for a bit.  It's a film that is beloved by children, that can be appreciated by adults, and that never gets old; a classic through & through.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Movie Trailer - Focus

Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie
Release: February 27th, 2015

This looks like a silly movie, one that's been done a million times.  But there's something about heist movies, about cons & marks that gets us all excited, that makes us think we're cool when we're definitely not.  And there's also something about Will Smith; the guy just has the "it" factor, has always had talent beyond measure.  Oh yeah, and Margot Robbie is maybe the hottest actress on the planet.

Sports - NFL Picks 2014, Week 9

Here are my NFL Week 9 Picks
(11-4 last week, 78-42-1 for the season)
Bye teams: Atl, Buf, Chi, Det, GB, Ten

NO @ Car - It's well-recorded just how bad the Saints are on the road (0-4) vs how well they play at home (3-0).  But there is no doubt they are the better team in this matchup.  They're coming off a big win, are playing in primetime, and get to play a cold Panthers club.  Don't count NO out.

Jax @ Cin - The Bungles are a frustrating team.  They played perfect ball before their bye week, sucked since, but finally win a big game at home vs the Ravens.  They swept Baltimore actually, and have yet to lose in Cincinnati.  The Jaguars come to town & probably come to lose.

TB @ Cle - Here's the 3rd game of Cleveland's "easy" stretch.  They lost the first to the Jags, beat the Raiders, and now face the Bucs.  But this is not your father's Brownies, this is a real football team.  They may lose the majority of their games going forward, but this one is very winable.

Ari @ Dal - When you're a great team and lose a big game, people jump off your bandwagon real quick.  All of a sudden there's a "blueprint" and you've been "exposed".  I'm not doing that here, but Tony Romo isn't playing and the Cowboys' only losses have come at home in Big D.

Phi @ Hou - The Eagles have scored over 200 points on the season, are undefeated at home, and only have 2 total losses.  And yet they don't feel like major contenders or like they're firing on all cylinders.  The Texans are the hotter team right now, are playing at home, and can get after the QB.

NYJ @ KC - I would hate to be a Jet this week.  Their entire team in playing some horrible football, losing seven straight games and turning the ball over like it's their job.  As much as I don't think the Chiefs are a great team, this is a great chance for them to get an easy win at home vs a weak opponent.

SD @ Mia - As a Broncos fan, I'm very glad that the Chargers are on a losing streak and that we played a part in that.  But I think things change this week.  I know they're on the road, but SD is not a bad away team, and the Dolphins are actually 1-2 in Miami.  Could be close.

Was @ Min - I just can't believe that RG3 will be 100% for this game.  He'll be rusty and he'll probably continue to make bad decisions, even vs a defense that's not very special.  Not that the Vikings are great, but they know what's coming, are at home, and have proven that they can win.

STL @ SF - All signs point to a Niners victory and really to SF winning 7 out of their last 9 games.  That would put them at 11-5 and into the playoffs.  It starts here vs a Rams team that they beat in St. Louis 31-17 a few weeks ago.  No reason they can't do that again coming off a bye.

Den @ NE - I've been calling the Broncos the best team in football; it's time for them to prove it.  Peyton showed last season that he can beat Brady, though it's going to be hard to do in Foxboro where the Pats are 4-0.  But Denver has had extra time to prepare coming off a TNF win and can do it.

Oak @ Sea - The Champs have been inconsistent lately and have been very beatable.  Russell Wilson has taken the team on his shoulders in a big way and is forcing his team to straighten up.  This should be a nice week to practice that, as the Raiders are winless & hopeless.  Seahawks win big.

Bal @ Pit - This is not the AFC North of old.  This division is actually scoring points, record numbers actually, with even the Browns getting in on the action.  The Steelers are coming off a big time performance by Big Ben and should have all the confidence in the world.  Don't look for a 9-6 win.

Ind @ NYG - The G-men are streaky, starting off bad, working out their problems, then losing a couple in a row.  The Colts are more consistent, thanks to Luck's stellar QB play, but even they have laid a few eggs.  I'd go with the home team here, but I have more faith that Indy can find a way.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Movie Trailer - Tomorrowland

Director: Brad Bird
Starring: Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Kathryn Hahn
Release: May 22nd, 2015

Cool.  I like the idea of a Disney sci-fi film with George Clooney and alternate dimensions.  Sounds like something I'd watch, and I doubt they can mess up what looks to be a fun story.  Disney theme parks have a Tomorrowland section that's futuristic and forward-thinking.  We'll see, but I'm excited.

Movie Review - An American Tail

Director: Don Bluth
Starring: Phillip Glasser, Nehemiah Persoff, Dom DeLuise
Year: 1986

I was three when American Tail came out, probably a bit older than that when I saw it for the first time, and who knows what ages when I watched it repeatedly & fanatically the next hundred times.  It was a defining film of my childhood, a movie my whole family quoted and sang, a Frozen of the 80s, a McDonald's Happy Meal collector's toy extravaganza.  And speaking of Frozen, I still stand firm in my critique of that film, calling it a fad instead of a hit, a film with a weak plot and recycled visuals, a movie whose good music all comes within the first 30 minutes, leaving the rest of the plot to fizzle out on its own.  Now, the more I watch it the more I find myself humming the songs and laughing over the stupid prat falls, but that's just me being weak.  That doesn't mean that Frozen is a film that will stand the test of time, and neither has American Tail

Here is an animated version of a story told a million times, an immigrant's tale of sorrow & hope.  Fleeing their homeland ahead of the brutality of the native cats, the Mousekewitz family travel across the Atlantic to America.  They believe that their lives will be better there, that prosperity will welcome them with open arms, and that cats will be a danger of the past.  But the journey itself is dangerous, and the family lose their precious son Fievel along the way, swept overboard in a storm.  Fievel survives and finds himself in New York City too, but finding his family is not going to be easy in such an enormous place.  The kind little mouse does find help along the way: a bird named Henri, an orphan named Tony, and even a cat called Tiger.  To find his family Fievel will have to be brave, persistent, and never say never.

It was, quite simply, not as good as I remembered.  Some classics you can revisit over and over again; apparently some you can't.  The story just didn't translate well, ironic since it's such a real story; an immigrant family facing the harsh reality of the "American Dream".  But it was all too choppy, too rough, and not edited well.  The story was a bit boring due to an overabundance of action & music, leaving no time to take a breath, forcing audiences to shut down.  The music itself was still strong, songs like "Never Say Never", "No Cats in America", "Somewhere Out There", and they brought back a lot of memories.  But I didn't remember the smoking, the drinking, the scary scenes; pieces modern movies wouldn't even think to add in.  It was just a bit of a disappointment for someone who idolized this film, even though the movie as a whole can't be called terrible.  I guess it was just better left to the past.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Monday, October 27, 2014

Movie Trailer - Bad Turn Worse

Director: Simon & Zeke Hawkins
Starring: Jeremy Allen White, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Pellegrino
Release: November 14th, 2014

Gritty Texan thrillers are a dime a dozen, but this film seems to know & embrace that fact.  What's more, this film seems to understand how to do that classic plot correctly and in a way that audiences want to watch.  I'm all in for this one, a movie I hope will deliver.

Movie Review - Maidentrip

Director: Jilian Schlesinger
Starring: Laura Dekker
Year: 2013

It's rare that a documentary draws me in the way that the genre is supposed to.  Documentaries ought to be compelling, interesting, captivating, whistle-blowing, something that catches your attention with a new look at an event or a person that you should know more about.  And a few have captured me in that way; Food Inc, Life in a Day.  But I guess the genre isn't for me because most of the time I just find the material boring.  Maybe that shows a bad attitude, an air of knowing enough already, of not wanting to learn about the world around me.  I'd like to think that that's not true, that perhaps I just need a bit more entertainment from a film than your typical documentary is able to deliver.  Regardless, Maidentrip was not the movie that would convince me to give more like it a chance, not the riveting story that it was advertised to be.

Here is a film that is about as unedited and unproduced as you could possibly make, a true story in its truest form.  Almost all the action was filmed by Laura Dekker herself, the star of this unique documentary.  Laura has a dream to sail around the world, to take her ship Guppy across the entirety of the globe.  The trip will take two years, but by completing the journey she will become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe alone in a sailboat.  Her goal isn't speed, it's to see the world, to stop off at islands & sites along the way, to meet the people of the Earth on an adventure that she will never forget.  And so Laura sets out from Holland, headed west around the world, filming herself through weeks of travel at sea without sight of land or other humans, pushing herself to her limits, and experiencing what almost no one has before.

I just wish something would have actually happened.  It's a cool story, very interesting that a 14-year-old would commit to two years at sea, fascinating to look at our planet from its oceans.  But nothing exciting happens.  Maybe there's a storm, a hard pass through reefs once, some food spills from the stove, but absolutely nothing entertaining occurs.  It's a boring journey, one that must have meant something to Laura Dekker but means absolutely nothing to me.  Sure she sees some nice sunsets and islands, and yeah the freedom that she lives with is a bit enviable.  But in the end I just wanted her journey to be over, probably more than she did.  She seemed content taking video selfies on her ship, making entries in her video journal talking about how peaceful she felt.  But I couldn't help thinking that, were she ugly, no one would want to watch this movie.  Laura is a beautiful girl, someone who captures your attention with her vivacious personality; beyond that I didn't see or feel anything special.  Maybe I just don't like documentaries, or maybe I just don't like being unimpressed.

My rating: ☆ ☆

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Movie Trailer - Life Partners

Director: Susanna Fogel
Starring: Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, Adam Brody
Release: November 6th, 2014

I wouldn't be sure, going in, how much of this movie I could possibly take.  A rom/com but with friends but with lesbians?  Inside jokes between two weird girls who are oddly close?  A directorial debut by some random lady?  I'd be worried.

Movie Review - St. Vincent

Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts
Year: 2014

Bill Murray has a free pass in my book.  He's done so much with his career and given us so many hits to love until we die that he gets the benefit of the doubt in every film going forward.  That might not be fair, but he's earned it.  Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Scrooged, What About Bob?, Groundhog Day; classics all.  And then in his later years Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Lost in Translation, Hyde Park on Hudson;  visceral roles that proved that he's much more than a funnyman.  But there's that old adage "what have you done for me lately?" and I think that applies here, as Murray hasn't had any big successes in the last few years, unless you count The Monuments Men as a success and I most definitely do not.  So I was interested to see what he would do with a major role, one that forces him a little out of his comfort zone, a character that is as old & angry as a recurring nightmare.  And although it doesn't matter since he's already won my respect, Bill Murray pulled off a pretty impressive feat; he shone in an otherwise oppressively dull film.

Oliver & his mom Maggie have just moved into the neighborhood.  After a messy divorce, they needed a place to start fresh, though things won't be easy since Oliver's in a new school and Maggie works long hours at the local hospital.  They need a babysitter, someone to watch the smart little tyke after school, and that's where Vincent comes in.  Vin is more the devil than a saint, despite what the title of the film says.  He's a heavy drinker, a poor man who can barely feed his cat, a gambler who's in deep debt, a sad veteran who keeps all his issues bottled up inside, ready to explode on the next person who pisses him off.  He's also a weekly costumer of a pregnant Russian prostitute named Daka.  Not the greatest role model for a little kid, but beggars can't be choosers.  And ultimately, perhaps the jaded wisdom of a man who has made more mistakes than good choices will teach Oliver a few lessons about life, about what it means to be a good person, and about how little control you have over this wild & sometimes wonderful adventure.

Without Bill Murray St. Vincent would have been hell.  It's a story that comes off as very forced, without a single believable piece in the whole script.  The boy, though well-acted for that age, is more a focal point than a character, a sun for the other characters to orbit around, a story-teller or at least a story-observer.  Naomi Watts as Daka the lady of the night is just silly.  Her Australian turned Russian accent is strange, as is her perpencity to calls sex organs "ugly parts".  It's a throwaway role at best, one that did very little for the plot.  It's Melissa McCarthy who lays the real egg, failing to make Maggie likable, relatable, or even watchable.  She's a bad actress who isn't even allowed to attempt to be funny, something I'm not sure would have been a success anyway.  With all these badly developed characters, the plot & the pace just felt off, a little too bumpy and unsupported.  I was left feeling that Theodore Melfi, who wrote & directed the film, was in way over his head.  But luckily he had someone to save his picture from total disaster.

That person was of course Bill Murray; a legend, a genius, a miracle worker.  He single-handedly saved the movie from drudgery, lifting it above what it set itself up to be.  He was the only actor who was entirely present, who gave everything he had to a role that may not have been written perfectly.  He seized the character and forced it to be better than how it was sculpted, making Vincent a multifaceted man who we could all relate to in some way.  Murray is considered a comedian, but in the latter part of his career he has proven that he can put aside the silly in favor of a deeper approach, a drama and an understanding of drama that's hard to portray in any movie, let alone one that was destined to fail.  St. Vincent was that, a film with a very low ceiling that was never going to wow either audiences or critics.  Murray took it as high as it could possibly go and for that deserves the entirety of the credit.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Friday, October 24, 2014

Movie Trailer - The Humbling

Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Al Pacino, Greta Gerwig, Charles Grodin
Release: January 23rd, 2015

If you were to ask me about Al Pacino I'd say he's all washed up.  So I guess this part is perfect for him.   This film does have that old Hollywood feel; Barry Levinson has been around since Moses.  And I like Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Greenberg).  Plus there's the dad from Beethoven.

Movie Review - John Wick

Director: David Leitch, Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe
Year: 2014

John Wick seems like the last movie that anyone with any self respect would enjoy.  First off, it's an action movie.  And not just some random flick that might shoot off a few rounds, but an action movie, a film designed specifically to showcase a wide variety of guns on kung fu moves.  It's a story that lends itself only to violence, to fast cars, and to death.  An action movie at it's very core, John Wick holds nothing back.  And secondly, Keanu Reeves is the star.  You remember him, he's that guy with the monotone who used to be Johnny Utah, Johnny Mnemonic, and Shane Falco.  He's not a good actor; he's the Kevin Costner of action movies, a dude whose personality sometimes fits his characters.  The last time that really happened was with the Matrix series, a happy accident of technology and timing.  So here we are, with a high-flying, guns-blazing shoot-em-up starring Neo and a bunch of guys who look like they enjoy getting their faces punched.  Shouldn't work, right?  Well, I'm shocked to say that it most definitely did.

John Wick is a retired ...something.  The details are vague, but let's just say he used to be good at killing people.  Really good.  He's out of the game now though, living with the love of his life, and happy.  But sadly, she dies, John is depressed, he gets a dog, and begins the long journey towards emotional recovery.  Sounds alright, good luck buddy, but things have a tendency to take a turn for the worse.  John is randomly robbed, his signature car is stolen, and his dog is killed.  The stupid kid who led the break-in is part of the crime syndicate that runs the city and has no idea who he just pissed off.  His father does though, Viggo used to work with John, and he knows all about the hell that Wick will soon release on young Iosef.  And so a battle begins, a fight for vengeance and closure that will most likely end in a thousand body bags and a million shell casings, a war that John Wick was born to win.

This movie really should not have been good, and I'm the last person who should have enjoyed it, but it was & I did.  What's even more surprising are the obvious reasons that the film worked; you'd think every action movie could do a little bit of the same and not suck.  First, it was over-the-top in an extremely enjoyable way.  The guns were super cool, John Wick drove three different amazing cars, heads were constantly being blown apart, hand-to-hand combat abounded, and the story as a whole reveled in the fact that it was action-packed, bathing in blood with no apologies.  It was like a James Bond video game, a sniper, assassin, first person shooter with a mission and various levels to complete.  Secondly, it was funny.  There were multiple laugh-out-loud moments buried in the chaos, moments of clarity that made the audience appreciate just how out of control this plot was.  And lastly, there was a secret society element that was just plain cool.  This underworld of killers all know each other, hate each other, work together sometimes, viciously plot often, stay in the same secret hotel, and are a part of some brotherhood that we only get to see the surface of.  Leave 'em wanting more right?  I could watch a second movie right now if I'd get to learn more about this imaginary culture that John Wick was such an integral part of.

And speaking of Wick, we come to the other part of this movie that shouldn't have worked; Keanu Reeves.  I mean, the guy kinda blows, and yet he's famous for some unfathomable reason.  But like I said, sometimes he just stumbles right into a role, or else some genius knows that his odd look & voice will fit perfectly with a certain character.  Well, add John Wick to the list of names film buffs will remember when they think back on Reeves' iconic roles.  His part was played perfectly, with a callousness to allow so much violence but with an underlying emotion that make Wick more than just a killer.  Maybe it was the dog, that seems like something that people grabbed onto in the theatre, an extra piece to the puzzle that is the character, something to make him more human.  But Reeves succeeded in getting me behind Wick's mission, in helping me to enjoy the action of the film.  And the side characters were all spot on as well; Nyqvist the crazy Russian crime lord, Dafoe the calm assassin, Adrianne Palicki the sexy black widow, Alfie Allen the dumb rich kid, John Leguizamo the stolen car expert.  Everyone played their somewhat stereotypical roles in a film that could be called the same, but somehow the project as a whole rose above the usual crap.  John Wick is an action movie that stays classic, tosses in a bit of humor & intrigue, and comes away as an impressive bit of entertainment, a film that will surprise.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Movie Trailer - Before I Go to Sleep

Director: Rowan Joffe
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong
Release: October 31st, 2014

I can't think of a good enough reason to go see this movie.  Nicole Kidman just doesn't do it for me, never has.  I've seen the chemistry between she & Colin Firth (The Railway Man) and it's nothing to write home about.  Plus, this idea has been done a million times, the whole amnesia, short term memory, lost child, who's lying to who thing.  No thanks.

Sports - NFL Picks 2014, Week 8

Here are my NFL Week 8 Picks
(9-6 last week, 67-38-1 for the season)
Bye teams: NYG, SF 

SD @ Den - The Broncos are coming off an especially short week, having played on Sunday night.  But that game went perfectly; they scored a ton of points, Peyton broke the record, and the starters actually got to sit on the bench at the end of the game.  In Denver under the lights?  Broncos win.

Sea @ Car - What's going on with the Champs?  The Seahawks have lost the last two games and now have a 3-3 record.  They even lost at home and seem to be struggling to find an identity.  Enter Russell Wilson.  He's stepping up, taking the team on his shoulders, and will find a way.

Bal @ Cin - Since their bye week, the Bengals have gone 0-2-1, suffered a shut out, and allowed 36 per game.  I know they beat the Ravens in Baltimore earlier this season, but that seems like a whole different team now.  Flacco is playing his best football and that D is killer.  Sorry Bungles.

Mia @ Jax - Well, the Jags got their first win of the season vs the Brownies last week, but they can't celebrate for long.  The Dolphins are coming off a nice win of their own and Tannehill is playing above his usual mediocrity.  In the Battle of Florida that no one will attend, I say Miami.

STL @ KC - Did the Rams really just beat the Seahawks?  Did that just happen?  Because they're not really that good and are playing with their 9th-string QB.  But their D can produce sacks and that changes ballgames sometimes.  Alex Smith is a bit too careful for that trap I think.

Chi @ NE - The Pats are hot, the Bears are not.  Tom Brady's team seems to have woken up, while Jay Cutler has gone into hibernation.  There's no excuse for the Chicago offense not to be humming, and they do usually win on the road, going 3-1 away, 0-3 at home.  But I wouldn't put money on that.

Buf @ NYJ - I guess I better stay on the Buffalo bandwagon until the wheels fall off, which I was sure would happen when Kyle Orton took the reins.  So far the team is doing alright, despite losing both their starting RBs to injuries.  The Jets aren't good & might not be a challenge.

Min @ TB - What a gross matchup; even their colors clash.  These are two bad teams that are coming off multiple losses and can't do much right at all.  But the Bucs are coming off a bye, get a home game, and are hoping that Doug Martin can find some holes.  I grudgingly pick Tampa.

Hou @ Ten - I think the Texans are a bit better than they've shown so far, including just last Monday vs the Stillers.  Arian Foster is running the ball well, J.J. Watt is a monster, and Fitzpatrick even looks OK in spurts.  The Titans have already hit their talent ceiling and shouldn't win a ton.

Phi @ Ari - The birds!  The birds!  Although, neither of these teams are very high-flying right now.  The Cards win at home, play good D, and get the job done.  The Eagles are coming off a bye, but they've not produced yet the way they were supposed to.  The desert is a tough place to play.

Oak @ Cle - Wouldn't the Raiders love to be the second winless team to beat the Brownies in a span of two weeks?  Especially after we were all talking about how easy Cleveland's schedule was.  I like picking Oakland as spoilers sometimes, but I think the Browns take care of business this week.

Ind @ Pit - Andrew Luck & the Colts are playing as well as any team in the league right now, winning their last 5 after losing their first 2.  And actually their only road loss came in Denver, something you can't really hold against them.  Indy shut out Cinci last week and shouldn't have trouble with Pitt.

GB @ NO - This is a huge game.  More so for the Saints than the Packers actually, which makes NO a dangerous team.  They're 2-4, having lost all road games & won all home games.  GB is 2-2 on the road, and although Rodgers is playing great, I think Brees needs this game more and takes it.

Det @ Atl - The Falcons are a big fat disappointment.  They were supposed to rebound from an injury-plagued season last year; instead they're 2-5.  The Lions, on the other hand, are a big surprise, especially on the defensive side, where they have allowed the least points in the NFC.  Boom.

Was @ Dal - OMG I feel sorry for whoever has to play Dallas, be it RG3, Kirk "Sucky" Cousins, or Colt McCoy.  That's right, Colt McCoy might have to out-duel Romo, Murray, Bryant & the Boys.  And if I may suspend PC for a moment, Cowboys vs Indians might become a MNF bloodbath.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Movie Trailer - Top Five

Director: Chris Rock
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Cedric the Entertainer
Release: December 12th, 2014

Chris Rock directs, writes, and stars.  Hmm.  I don't know, it seems very honest, a tale of his stardom perhaps, so that's cool.  But Oscar contention?  It'll be a win if this movie finds an audience across multiple races, ages, and comedic styles, breaking out of the stereotype a little.  I think it can do that, but I doubt it can make much of an impact past that.

DVD Review - Cannibal

Director: Manuel Martin Cuenca
Starring: Antonio de la Torre, Olimpia Melinte

Year: 2013

'Macabre' is an oft used adjective, a term that is too easy & available, a buzzword when it comes to any dark media.  It means gruesome, ghastly, grim, pertaining to the ugly side of death.  Now, the less morbid among us might say that the entirety of death is ugly, that it can't possibly have sides, that it is darkness personified.  But death, to me, can wear many hats.  It can be funny, entertaining, compassionate, jealous, and even elusive at times.  Death can be portrayed in a variety of ways, and Cannibal seems to attempt to showcase them all.  At first I saw this film as the definition of 'macabre', a tale demonically twisted, hellishly savage.  But the more I ponder the point the more I see the facets of death exhibited in one complex character, both the macabre and the angelic sides, the good and the evil of the inevitable darkness warring with each other inside one man.

The Movie

Carlos is a cannibal.  We see this at the beginning of the film before the story even begins to unfold.  He is a killer and an eater of the dead, a man who preys upon women for a reason that, at first, may even be unknown to himself.  His crimes reflect his life in a very strange way; he is a tailor, and a respected one at that, a very talented and extremely precise worker who keeps his shop and his home neat to the point of rigidity, a man who enjoys the feel of cutting wool as much as the feel of the slicing of a knife through the flesh of his latest victim.  In a remote cabin in the mountains, Carlos butchers his kills with the care of an artist, taking their meat back with him to the city of Granada, Spain where he makes his home.  His two separate yet intertwined existences define his character and motivate his every action, making his daily life a thing of controlled animalism.

Two very upsetting events are about to tip the balance of his life, both of them coming in the form of a beautiful woman and the enviable position of receiving her desire.  First is Alexandra, the sexy new neighbor who speaks Romanian, knows no one in the city, and styles herself a masseuse.  She awakens in Carlos urges that he attempts to fend off, feelings that he knows will only lead to murder.  And when she disappears, her sister Nina comes searching for her, determined not to leave until her wayward sibling has been found.  Again, Carlos finds himself attracted to this woman, even while he tries to repress his unnatural desires.  But this time it's different, this time he is feeling something more, something that tells him to send Nina as far away as possible so that she will be safe.  And as his two sides battle, the man that is made whole by these warring halves must decide down which path his life will travel.

Cannibal is a film that gets better the more you think about it, but doesn't taste quite right at first.  It's slow, for starters, which won't sit well with a lot of audiences. Not that it's boring exactly; the scenes move fairly quickly and the pace is always high.  But for a movie about a killer who eats his victims, the plot is pretty plain.  It's a love story at its core, the DVD cover is even labelled as such, with an emphasis on the depth of feelings brewing just below the macabre surface.  There's that word again, and taken at face value the film is definitely worthy of the term.  It's a dark & grisly tale of foreign romance set against a backdrop of sinister secrets.  Not wonderfully original and not overly impressive, leading to my primary thoughts that the movie just wasn't spectacular, that it was attempting something that it must have just failed to pull off.

And then I took a break to think the film through, and I began to see some underlying messages that weren't readily apparent at first glance.  Cannibal isn't quite as gruesome as you'd imagine, with the bloodier details happening right off screen.  At first I wondered why, until I began to imagine the story as a symbolic telling instead of a literal horror film.  The character of Carlos begins to have more layers the further you peel away at him, becoming something more than a sociopath, something more meaningful than just a killer.  He is the bringer of death, yes, but he does so somewhat gently, murdering with an ease and a care that shows his great passion for the details and the feel of the moment.  He is a snipper of the strings of life, a Fate with tailor's scissors deciding who leaves this world and when.  Carlos is death, at least he can be seen that way, actually or figuratively, depending upon which angle you care to tilt your mind.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (16x9 Widescreen), the video is of a caliber that compliments the stark imagery of the film.  Shot using an Arri Alexa camera, the video is clear yet dark, crisp yet soft, with a balance of color that is easy to watch.  The visuals were simple, not stunning, with few captivating moments but with a constant energy that supported the plot.

Audio - Done in Dolby Digital, the DVD can be played in either Stereo or 5.1 Surround.  The natural language of the film is Spanish, with English subtitles available.  Also, Closed Captioning for the hearing impaired can be accessed through your television.  The audio of the film was odd, with frequent untranslated radio sound, like a background of life that had little impact on the events of the story.  Voices were clear and well-balanced.

Extras - There are many extras on the disc.  A selection of biographies are available, with text information on the director (Manuel Martin Cuenca) and the two lead actors (Antonio de la Torre and Olimpia Melinte).  There are seven trailers to view: Cannibal, For a Woman, Grigris, The Auction, King of Devil's Island, Noise, and Gigante.  Also, a short film has been added to the menu; Ogre, a thirteen-minute movie about a large man moved by the kindness of a lovely lady.  Lastly, a summary of and link to the Film Movement project, a DVD-of-the-month club that focuses on independent and foreign films.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  What starts off as a boring foreign film quickly becomes much more under a little scrutiny.  Cannibal has a story that is twisted and ghoulish, but with an undertone of romance that at first seems out of place.  If you watch the film with an eye for metaphors, you'll come away with many ideas as to the point of Carlos' character and the moral of the film as a whole.  The video was fine, the audio just OK, but the extras were plentiful.  Be prepared to work for the enjoyment of this one; it's not an independently entertaining story.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ - Content
☆ ☆ ☆ - Video
☆ ☆ ☆ - Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ - Extras
☆ ☆ ☆ - Replay

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Movie Trailer - Rosewater

Director: Jon Stewart
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Haluk Bilginer, Dimitri Leonidas
Release: November 14th, 2014

I love Jon Stewart and, of course, The Daily Show; I'd watch almost anything he was a part of.  This film marks his directorial debut, which is a little worrisome, and there might be some stumbles along the way.  Mainly what I'm worried about is the cheesy quality of the freedom storyline.  But Jon has his heart in the right place and is a very capable person, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Movie Review - In a World...

Director: Lake Bell
Starring: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Ken Marino
Year: 2013

Who the hell is Lake Bell?  Click her name above and take a look at what she's done with her career so far.  She's a 35-year-old actress who has been in literally the worst movies & TV shows and who has only dabbled in directing & writing, pounding out a few shorts.  Until I saw her in Million Dollar Arm, I had never even heard of her before, and that's not a knock on myself.  Where in the world did she come from and where did she get the balls to write, direct, and star in a film that features a ton of comedic talent and challenges the very fiber of Hollywood?  In a World is a movie that you'll never see coming, that will crack you up in a way you never imagined, and will have you questioning the sexist regime that has been controlling cinema for the last 100 years.  Lake Bell is here and demanding that you remember her name.

Truth; the most famous voice actor in history died in 2008.  His name was Don LaFontaine and you've probably heard him a thousand times.  He was a god in the industry, supplying his deep voice to countless movie trailers, often beginning them with "In a world..."  Fiction; his death left a void in the voice-over community, a void that can only be filled by one of three talented people.  First is Gustav, the next big thing, the wonder boy of the industry, the hot prospect whose pipes blow everyone else away.  Second is Sam, the vet, the man who was always second best until Don died, the grandfather of the job.  And last is Carol, Sam's daughter, a voice coach who has always been great with impressions but who wants more than anything to break into the movie trailer world.  When a new film is announced, one that will reprise the "In a world..." bit, these three combatants will fight for the right to become America's next voice, the torchbearer for the next generation.

I'm still a little stunned.  The audacity of Lake Bell to think that she could crack the boys' club of Hollywood, direct a movie that she also wrote & starred in, craft a comedy that would be something other than a cheap chick flick that you go see with your bestie.  How dare she!  And guess what; nailed it.  Not only was the film wonderfully original but it was also funny throughout, never banal or stupid, the things that almost every other comedy ever made are.  Her acting, her editing, her script; it was all near genius, a comedic masterpiece that no one saw coming.  She obviously didn't listen to or care about any criticism, she just made the film that she wanted and hoped for the best.  Well, it worked.  And the cast was brilliant, a whole crew of uniquely funny actors with small egos: Rob Corddry, Nick Offerman, Stephanie Allynne, Demetri Martin.  There were some clever cameos as well: Eva Longoria, Geena Davis, Cameron Diaz.  Everything fell into place to make In a World a gem of a film, a no-holds-barred attack on the status quo, an original comedy that will have you on the lookout for Lake Bell's next project.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆