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!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Movie Review - Man on the Moon

Director: Milos Forman
Starring: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Paul Giamatti
Year: 1999

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

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

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

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Monday, April 29, 2013

Thought - Gays & Sports

In recent years the hot button equal rights issue was "gays in the military", the topic coming to a head with the repealing of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  Then it was marriage equality, which is up in front of the Supreme Court right now.  The equal rights argument of the future is "gays & sports".  Here are my thoughts on the matter:

Today the very first openly gay athlete to be currently playing on a major American sports team came out of the closet.  Jason Collins will go down in history as a pioneer, although he says he wasn't looking for that title.  You can read the story here, which was done for Sports Illustrated.  This is a pretty big step for the gay community and for equal rights, as it acts as an example for the idea that being homosexual doesn't define who you are; you do.

It's widely believed that football is basically too manly to have any players who are gay.  Recently 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver stated in an interview that, "We ain't got no gay people on the team.  They gotta get up out here if they do.  Can't be with that sweet stuff. ... Nah, can't be ... in the locker room, man."  And as well spoken and extremely interesting as that may be, it's most likely completely false.

You hear different numbers, but a significant portion of Americans are homosexual.  Some studies show that 10% of men are gay, while others show that 4% identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.  So, for argument's sake, let's just say that one in every twenty Americans is homosexual.  When opening day comes, there will be 1,696 players on active rosters in the NFL.  Throw in players on practice squads and you have about an even 2,000.  Now, that's not counting coaches, free agents, office staff, trainers, owners, etc., that's just players.  If we accept the 5% number, that's roughly 100 gay players in the NFL each season.

Now, someone might argue that professional football attracts less homosexual men than professions like fashion design or musical theatre, and while that's purely a stereotype it's most likely accurate.  So pare that 100 down to 50, or even 25, or even 10, but the fact remains that there are gays in the NFL.  There are gays in the NBA.  There are gays in sports.  Chris Culliver might not believe it, but just ask Jason Collins; it's true.  American sports is the next battleground for equality; the only reason it isn't right now is because no one has come out.  But today someone did, and soon more men will open up to their teammates and admit that they are gay.  I have hope that having an open locker room will be a positive thing, and that the transition will be smooth, but it's hard to tell.  I guess we'll see what the response is like in the NBA, and whether Collins ever gets a job offer again.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Movie Trailer - Anchorman: The Legend Continues

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

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

Movie Trailer - The Bling Ring

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

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

Friday, April 26, 2013

Thought - Red Flags

This is a part thought/part sports post.  Please forgive me for being NFL obsessed right now; with the Draft last night my thoughts are all football-oriented.  This weekend or shortly thereafter should see a a Movie Review and a DVD Review, so bear with me.

My thought today is on red flags in sports.  Not the literal variety, but the kind that pop up and give teams legitimate concerns over the character of potential players.  Take the Draft for example; these NFL scouts examine college players both physically and mentally, and they come away with a composite score, value, or desire.  Of course your college stats matter, your physical stats matter, your Combine times matter.  But what may matter most to a majority of teams is your character, your interview, and your reputation.

Fair or not, this is obviously true in this year's Draft.  Look at the players who fell: DT Sharrif Floyd, who should have gone #3 dropped down to number #23 because of concerns about rule-breaking in the past and whether he can be trusted to toe the line.  QB Geno Smith dropped completely out of the 1st Round partly because NFL teams are worried about his demeanor; he is seen as pouty and uninspired.  And LB Manti Te'o, who we all remember from his over-the-phone dating scandal, remains unpicked after he fails to impress in his last college game, at the Combine, or in interviews, and is commonly seen as having a weak character.

Teams want chemistry in their locker rooms, because chemistry leads to momentum, and momentum leads to success.  Look at teams that have failed with a club full of super-athletic divas; last year's Eagles, this year's Lakers.  You can't just rely on talent to win, you need leadership, cohesion, unity, passion, work ethic, and strong character.  The NFL knows this and they are drafting accordingly.  Geno Smith said he wasn't coming back to NYC for the 2nd Round after being snubbed in the 1st.  Hours later he comes out and says he is after all.  Why?  Because his agent is making him.  His agent knows that teams aren't just looking at his stats, they're looking at how he reacts under pressure and through adversity, because during the season, if he's a starting QB, he's going to see a lot of both.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Movie Trailer - Thor: The Dark World

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

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

Movie Trailer - R.I.P.D.

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

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sports - NFL Draft Preview

Football is almost here!  It's just a matter of time before the season begins.  The first step was Free Agency, the second was the schedule.  And now the Draft!  This Thursday @ 8:00 pm the 1st Round of the Draft will be on in prime time and I'll be glued to the television.  This is a very interesting draft class and it's hard to predict who each team will pick, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun trying.  So, based on the opinions of experts and my own uneducated musings (and barring any draft spot trades) here it is, Olie's 2013 Mock Draft 1.0:
  1. Kansas City - Luke Joeckel, OT Texas A&M - 6'6" left tackle, a guy you build around.
  2. Jacksonville - Dion Jordan, OLB/DE Oregon - 6'7" and fast, could play 4-3 or 3-4.
  3. Oakland - Sharrif Floyd, DT Florida - strong, athletic, and just right for the Raiders.
  4. Philadelphia -Dee Milliner, CB Alabama - a very solid corner, could start right away.
  5. Detroit - Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan - 6'8" left tackle, protection for Stafford.
  6. Cleveland - Ziggy Ansah, DE BYU - a fast, light, edge rusher who can produce sacks.
  7. Arizona - Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma - 6'7", solid, athletic, and quick.
  8. Buffalo - Geno Smith, QB WVU - physically gifted and a no-brainer for the Bills.
  9. NYJ -Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE LSU - perfect candidate for the Jets' 3-4.
  10. Tennessee - Jonathan Cooper, OG UNC - a solid guard with a strong lower body.
  11. San Diego - Chance Warmack, OG Alabama -a strong guard who's hard to beat.
  12. Miami - Xavier Rhodes, CB FSU - physical press corner who likes to jam.
  13. NYJ - Tyler Eifert, TE Notre Dame - tall, lean, strong, and physical.
  14. Carolina - Sheldon Richardson, DT Missouri - a quick tackle for his size.
  15. New Orleans - Jarvis Jones, LB Georgia - can play either inside or outside.
  16. St. Louis - Tavon Austin, WR WVU - 5'9" slot receiver, Rams are in dire need.
  17. Pittsburgh - Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Tenn - just the WR that Pitt needs.
  18. Dallas - Kenny Vaccaro, S Texas - ready to start at safety right away.
  19. NYG - D.J. Fluker, OT Alabama - big, thick right tackle project.
  20. Chicago - Alec Ogletree, LB Georgia - very fast inside linebacker.
  21. Cincinnati - Matt Elam, S Florida - short, quick, big play safety that can cover.
  22. St. Louis - Eric Reid, S LSU - tall, long, and a hard hitter with good closing speed.
  23. Minnesota - Star Lotulelei, DT Utah - 6'4", 320 lbs, nose tackle or any DL position.
  24. Indianapolis - Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama - a powerful, workhorse back.
  25. Minnesota - Manti Te'o, LB Notre Dame - aggressive tackler and a good leader.
  26. Green Bay - Montee Ball, RB Wisconsin - a reliable back good in zone blocking.
  27. Houston - DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson - size right between slot and Top 2 WR.
  28. Denver - Bjoern Werner, DE FSU - light and athletic, an edge pass rusher.
  29. New England - Desmond Trufant, CB Washington - good size and athleticism.
  30. Atlanta - Zach Ertz, TE Stanford - smart, big, good replacement for Gonzalez.
  31. San Francisco - Jesse Williams, DT Alabama - big, tough, nose tackle.
  32. Baltimore - Kevin Minter, LB LSU - good inside linebacker, could start.
Best of the rest: Arthur Brown, LB KSU, Damontre Moore, OLB/DE Texas A&M, Johnathan Hankins, DT OSU, Keenan Allen, WR Cal, Datone Jones, DL UCLA.

Notes: St. Louis has two 1st Round picks, one from Washington in the RG3 deal last year.  NYJ also has two 1st Rounds picks, one from Tampa Bay in the trade for Darrell Revis.  Minnesota also has two 1st Round picks, one from Seattle in the trade for Percy Harvin.  Consequently, neither Washington, Tampa Bay, or Seattle have a 1st Round pick.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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

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

Movie Review - The Hunger Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Monday, April 22, 2013

DVD Review - The Scarlet Pimpernel

Director: Clive Donner
Starring: Jane Seymour, Anthony Andrews, Ian McKellen
Year: 1982

This was one of those movies that could only exceed expectations, but only because expectations were decidedly low.  CBS produced this version of the classic Baroness Orczy novel in 1982, casting Seymour (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), Andrews (The King's Speech), and McKellan (The Lord of the Rings).  However, The Scarlet Pimpernel was aired long before these actors became known for these projects.  So, what we have is a made-for-TV movie about a swashbuckling fop starring relative unknowns broadcast on network TV in the 80s.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster.  But looks can be deceiving, and that, as the saying goes, is why you play the game.  What should have been a ridiculous waste of time turned out to be a solid piece of cinema that surprised audiences and launched careers.  Bravo, CBS, bravo.

The Movie

The story was written in 1903 for the stage, the novel appeared in 1905 and was an instant success.  The title character went on to appear in countless volumes, adaptations, and references, and, although the history behind the story is factual, the rest is purely fictitious.  The plot is driven by the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution of the 1790s.  The common people had overthrown the French aristocracy and were beheading nobles by the dozens each day by way of the guillotine.  Many in England saw the political murders as unacceptable atrocities, among them Sir Percy Blakeney, secretly know as the Scarlet Pimpernel.  Hiding behind the facade of a vain, foolish, spoiled aristocrat, Percy works tirelessly in Paris to save as many noble families from a cruel death as possible.  A master of disguises, he usea wit and trickery to evade capture, protect the innocent, and bring justice back to France.

Things are going swimmingly for Sir Blakeney, and plans are in place to rescue the young Dauphin from captivity next.  But love has a way of complicating matters, and even the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel can fall victim to its power.  The beautiful French actress Marguerite St. Just has captured the heart of our hero, and his marriage to her might ruin everything.  She was once the beloved of the ruthless Chauvelin, a man who will stop at nothing to kill the cunning Pimpernel.  As he doggedly hounds his quarry and viciously manipulates his lost love, Chauvelin comes closer and closer to discovering the true identity of his adversary.  Even Marguerite does not know her husband's secrets, as he cannot fully trust her, and this mistrust leads to betrayal, coercion, and finally to a stunning climax in which the Scarlet Pimpernel must pull off his more daring escapade yet, all while winning back the heart of his one true love.

It would be safe to say that I was surprised by how much I liked this film.  I wasn't expecting much from a made-for-TV movie starring Dr. Quinn, but The Scarlet Pimpernel really delivered.  First, the story was very interesting.  The time period was well represented and it was like a very quick history lesson on the origins of modern France.  The common hero role was reversed, as he was a rich man saving the lives of aristocrats from the rebellious working class, instead of a Robin Hood-like figure.  The movie stayed very closely to the book with all plot lines touched at some point.  At times this led to a little confusion, especially with the role call of French names, but as long as you stayed attentive the characters names are repeated enough that you can eventually get them all straight.

And the acting may have been the most surprising aspect of all.  Jame Seymour was good, but not amazing.  Again, I wasn't expecting too much, not after seeing a couple Open Hearts Collection commercials, so the bar was set pretty low.  But she was beautiful and vulnerable, and that really made her character.  Anthony Andrews was a perfect Sir Blakeney, combining silly English nobility with heroic bravery.  At first his foppish accent, dress, and demeanor were so ridiculous that they were a little off-putting, but when you see the real Percy after dropping the act, you realize that you just witnessed some A-class acting.  And speaking of, Ian McKellen stole the show.  He was ruthless, cunning, tortured, and I believed every second of it.

The quality of the film was exactly what you would expect from the 80s, so there was nothing to get excited about there.  It was often like watching a homemade movie; scenes shot outside were just fine but indoors everything became dark and grainy.  Side characters were not very well developed or acted.  Costumes were fairly accurate and well-made, but not special.  So, as far as period pieces go, The Scarlet Pimpernel wasn't the best, but it definitely wasn't the worst either.  It was a surprisingly captivating movie that smartly stayed true to a classic novel, and therefore didn't go astray.  The acting was better than average and the pace was fairly fast for it's 136 minutes.  All in all, a strong film that is better than its made-for-TV label.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (4:3), don't get excited about the DVD.  You don't get an HD picture or a widescreen format.  What you do get is a message at the beginning of the movie basically apologizing for the poor video transfer.  If I learned one thing in Speech class it's that you never start with an apology, it makes your audience expect to not like what's coming.

Audio - The only sound option on the DVD is whether to turn the subtitles on or off.  Again, the lack of features isn't exactly surprising.  The audio during the movie was fine; I didn't notice any glaring problems.  But don't expect much from what may be a difficult word to swallow; Mono.

Extras - There are zero extras on the DVD.  No commentary, interviews, special features, bonus scenes, nothing.  Not shocking exactly, but not very interesting either.

Final Thoughts

RecommendedThe Scarlet Pimpernel went above and beyond my expectations of a CBS special presentation.  Based on a classic novel, it had a strong foundation and an interesting history to use as guidelines, and it didn't fail to use them well.  Excellent acting from before-they-were-stars, cool characters, and a quick plot combined to make a good movie.  The video, audio, and extras were poor, but not unexpected.  So, save it for a rainy day, don't expect much out of your HDTV, and enjoy a charming movie that you will remember fondly.

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

Thought - Mommy Guilt

My wife posted a link to an article the other day, and it was very interesting.  You can read it here.  It was a blog post from one of the Mommy Blogs she reads; a blog about kids, pregnancy, motherhood, parenting, etc.  The post was about Mommy Guilt, which I immediately understood.  It's something my wife feels for no reason at all other than because she's a mother.  It's a feeling that she can't shake, a mindset in which she thinks she can't possibly do enough for me or for our kids; guilt over being by herself, guilt over not spending every second with her family, guilt over going to work, guilt over leaving the kids with a grandparent, guilt over getting upset, guilt over not focusing her attention on us every moment of every day.  Basically, Mommy Guilt is feeling guilty for not being superhuman.  And it's not just women themselves who produce the guilt, it's society and other moms as well.  It's a constant pressure to be perfect, to make a perfect choice every time, and to never get distracted, tired, or angry.  Impossible to live up to and impossible to escape.

Now, as a stay-at-home dad, I think I have a unique perspective on this issue.  Not once in my fatherhood have I felt Daddy Guilt.  I know that I work extremely hard for my family and take care of them to the best of my ability.  I love my kids, play with them, teach them, give them what they need, and help to keep them happy, healthy, and secure.  Yes, sometimes I look at my iPhone.  Sometimes I turn on a baseball game in the background.  Sometimes I get mad, make a bad decision, say something I regret, don't know an answer, or just want to be by myself.  This doesn't make me a poor father, it makes me human.

After reading that blog post and thinking about my wife's own guilt, I began to wonder why I don't feel guilty.  Maybe the root of the problem is something sociological, something about men being taught that dominance and confidence are necessary traits, while women are taught subservience.  But a more immediate answer is that no one tells me I should feel guilty, and therefor I don't.  I just can't imagine anyone ever saying that I needed to pay more attention to my kids or that I didn't deserve time alone.  The only things I ever get are, "What a great dad!" or "Your kids are so lucky!".  Wouldn't they be just as lucky if my wife got to stay home instead of me?  Wouldn't she be doing just as good a job?  Wouldn't she need a little break from the kids sometimes?  Why am I a hero for doing what women do every day all over the world?  The answer is that I'm not.  I'm just a normal dad who happens to want to stay home with his kids.  No one should make me feel guilty for not being perfect every day.  But, you see, they don't.  And that's the point.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Movie Review - Django Unchained

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
Year: 2012

You just can't talk about a Tarantino film without talking about other Tarantino films.  Some directors work picture to picture; it seems like he is working on one gigantic, gory magnum opus.  And perhaps this opus can be broken down into two parts: Crime and Punishment.  Crime would be made up of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown; films based on heists, thugs, and good plans gone bad.  Punishment would be made up of Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, and Django Unchained; films based on revenge, murder, and bullets to the brain.  Not everyone is into both parts of the bigger picture; some people don't like the Elmore Leonard crime caper and some people don't like the gun-slinging blood bath.  But whatever our tastes are, we can't deny the genius of Quentin Tarantino and we can't resist the magic of his films, be they cooly criminal or violently vengeful.

Django Unchained is a remake/spoof/homage to the classic cowboy movie series starring Franco Nero.  Tarantino loves this 60s spaghetti western, using it as an inspiration for Kill Bill as well.  Nero even makes a cameo in the film, when the old Django meets the new.  The modern version is played by Jamie Foxx, portraying an ex-slave who's only goal is the rescue of his wife.  Teaming up with the bounty hunter Dr. Schultz, Django begins a killing spree that he hopes will end with a happy reunion.  Along the way the duo fight violent lawmen, slave owners, the KKK, and Calvin Candie, a ruthless southern aristocrat who owns Django's wife Hildy and runs the gruesome Mandingo fighting circle.  The team must infiltrate Candie's plantation, outsmart the villain, rescue Hildy, and make their escape; a task that turns out to be both very difficult and very bloody.

In Kill Bill Tarantino mixed spaghetti westerns with kung fu.  In Django Unchained he mixed them with slavery, and the result was surprisingly awesome.  The film was a mix of extremely cool moments and laugh-out-loud humor.  It was a perfect blend of farce and honesty, and the result was a completely original take on classic cinema.  Of course, there was the patented Tarantino violence in almost every scene; blood sprayed almost constantly, sometimes comically and sometimes disgustingly.  There were explosions, gun fights, tortures, dogs ripping people to pieces, and more bullet wounds than you could count.  But if you can stomach the bloodshed then you're left with a film that is truly wonderful.

And let's touch on the acting as well, since there was so much Oscar buzz surrounding the film.  Jamie Foxx was good, not great.  He was cool and believable, but nothing to write home about, and it's not surprising that he wasn't nominated for Best Actor.  What is surprising though is that Leo wasn't given much credit for his role.  He was vicious, insane, and as spot on as ever.  I'm not saying he would have beat out Waltz for Best Supporting, who was about as perfect as an actor could be and won the award himself, but he deserved a nod.  Even the cameos were fun and well developed; Don Johnson, Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson.  The film, adding up all of these elements, deserved to beat out Argo for best picture.  It was directed, acted, and produced at a higher quality, it just wasn't about the Middle East.  Django Unchained is an immensely entertaining movie, a well-made film, and just another piece of the puzzle in Tarantino's life work.  Next up, Kill Bill Vol. 3.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Movie Trailer - Rush

Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde
Release: September 20th, 2013

Oh, Opie.  You've done some excellent work; Willow, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind.  But you've also done some crap; Edtv, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Dilemma.  So I just don't know what to think.  And I've already seen Days of Thunder and Driven, the latter being one of the worst movies ever;  I'm not sure I want to see the lovechild of the two.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

DVD Review - Out in the Open

Director: Matthew Smith
Starring: Matthew Smith, Solly Hemus, Carson Kressley
Year: 2013

If you want to see a documentary about a relevant and intriguing topic, you would be hard pressed to find one more fitting than Out in the Open.  The issues of gay rights and marriage equality are on the table right now in our country, and in ten years laws, cultures, and mindsets may be completely different than they are today.  It's exciting to be alive in a time of change, whichever side you may be on, and that fervor comes through very clearly in this film.  But putting equal rights aside, there are other issues confronting homosexual culture, and they may be the most important of all; AIDS, suicide, acceptance, bullying.  A documentary that attempts to tackle all of these serious issues in one feature film has taken on a tall task, but one that is extremely meaningful and deserving of attention.

The Movie

In this compact documentary, filmmaker Matthew Smith attempts to reach gay, at risk young people from around the world in an attempt to show them that coming out can be a healthy, happy, and life changing experience.  Revealing to your family and friends who you really are inside doesn't have to be miserable, tortured, or dramatic.  If you are homosexual than you have been so your entire life; announcing it will not change the person you are.  And not only that, but being open with the people around you about your sexuality might inspire others to be honest with themselves as well, cutting down on the number of suicides by extremely depressed gay youths, reducing the violence and bullying in schools by the uneducated and afraid, and creating a world in which people are honest with themselves and the world around them.  Only through open discussion can misconceptions and fears be put aside and real acceptance take place.

But not only does this film speak to the homosexual community, it speaks to the heterosexual as well.  The message is simple; that people are people, regardless of sexual orientation.  Through humor and surprising candor, various celebrities, actors, activists, and allies recount parts of their life stories, revealing that every single person has a history including good and bad days, and that we all desire love, friendship, and acceptance on our journey towards happiness.  Diver Greg Louganis, TV personality Carson Kressley, actor Eric Roberts; they all have a story to tell that allows us to see that, gay or straight, we are not that different.  Even director Matthew Smith allows us into his home and introduces us to the love of his life, Solly.  Their relationship serves as an example of the simple truths that love cannot be denied, quantified, or explained, and that homosexual couples are as "normal" as anyone else.

It's hard to talk about the movie without talking about the issues it deals with.  It purports itself to be a message to gay youth and a support to those wanting to come out of the closet, and it is exactly that.  It's easy to imagine someone being directly spoken to by this film, seeing it as a private entreaty just to them to be themselves, be proud, and be happy.  Sharing their coming out stories and hopeful messages, the creators of this film attempt to shed light on what must be a very frightening and difficult decision to make.  There is a very positive undercurrent to the message, and it is shared without hate for any other group and with appreciation for the differences inherent in each individual.  As a confused, scared, or lonely young person, this film could be extremely helpful.

And it's not only a message directed to homosexual youths, but to their families as well.  I couldn't imagine a better tool to bridge the gap of acceptance than this film.  Watching it, I could picture someone sharing this movie with a family member, opening up a dialogue, and revealing to them the truth that they had been hiding for so long.  And the very clear way that the director shows his own relationship is refreshing, as it could also be an example to insecure family members of just how "normally" a life can be lived, regardless of sexual preference.  All of the people who contributed to this project were endearing, open, supportive, and honest.  This positive outlook on a complex issue was very uplifting, giving me hope that it all might just work out.

Out in the Open is a documentary with a very specific purpose, which it achieved quite easily.  But that also makes it difficult to judge alongside other films.  When comparing it to a film like Religulous, for example, it stands out as far superior.  It's message was clear, well delivered, concise, and real.  That alone gives it a step up on other documentaries.  Matthew Smith, who was the mind behind the film, created something that flowed, kept my attention, seemed genuine, and never fell flat.  The only oddity was a strange voice-over during the beginning of the film that was supposed to be making a point about false fears.  It didn't add anything to the movie and only served to make it seem juvenile.  But as that faded the film improved, and by the end I was sold; I got the message loud and clear and I saw the vast difference that a project like this could impact.


Video - The film was shot in 16:9, so it's a standard HD video, but you never have the opportunity to really notice.  As with other interview-based documentaries, the image quality isn't the focal point.  You might notice the clarity in picture of Matthew's hair, but that's about it.

Audio - There are no audio options with this disk; no language selection or subtitles for the hearing impaired.  The sound is mixed well throughout and the interviews are clear and well balanced.  The only negative I noticed was an extremely loud wind during the Roberts interview, which was distracting, but if you've ever been to California you know that filming outdoors can be a challenge.

Extras - There are a multitude of extras with this DVD.  First, you can watch the original version of the film or a version with commentary, featuring the director, editor, and producers.  There are two featurettes: extra footage with the Lifeworks team and a set of scenes created by OutSet.  There are two blooper reels: one from the film and one from the comical PSA.  Also, there are four extended interviews: with Carson Kressley, Rev. Dave Stambaugh, Eric & Eliza Roberts, and DJ Paul V.  Lastly, there is a photo gallery, a trailer for the film, and trailers for five other Breaking Glass projects.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  This is a film that could make a difference in someone's life.  Even for those who are not struggling with anything concerning this issue, it could be a very educational experience.  Out in the Open is a well-made documentary that comes from a very honest and refreshing place.  The video quality is good, the audio quality is fine, and the extras are there for the watching.  This is a movie that deserves to be shared with others, especially where it might do some good.

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

Movie Trailer - The English Teacher

Director: Craig Zisk
Starring: Julianne Moore, Michael Angarano, Greg Kinnear
Release: May 17th, 2013

Did you not hire a casting company?  Did you not run screen tests?  Julianne Moore is one of the worst actresses of our time (The Forgotten, Hannibal) and cannot possibly support the lead role.  I like Greg Kinnear, but he's spotty at best.  And Michael Angarano will never not be Jack's illegitimate son from Will & Grace.  No thank you.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sports - NFL 2013 Schedule

The NFL schedule was released for the 2013 season, and there are so many marquee matchups that I might not be able to stand it.  The Broncos, who are of course my team, have a very entertaining schedule, as does seemingly every club not named the Bills.  With the Draft coming up this Thursday and preseason just around the corner, I'm starting to get excited for what should be another excellent NFL season.  Check out NFL.com/schedules for a complete run-down, but here are a few of the meetings that I am most anticipating:

Week 1 - Baltimore @ Denver - Opening game of the NFL season and a re-match of an awesome playoff game.  How will Champ and Raheem Moore fair this time around?

Week 2 - Denver @ NYG - Manning Bowl!  Peyton has never lost against his little brother Eli and the Broncos will have extra time to prepare after a their Thursday matchup.

Week 3 - Houston @ Baltimore - Two of the elite AFC teams going head to head early on.  And with Ed Reed now a Texan, I expect a hard fought game.

Week 4 - New England @ Atlanta - This was almost the Super Bowl last year and it very likely could be this year.  Both teams will want to make a statement.

Week 5 - New Orleans @ Chicago - I really like both these teams this season, both should be improved and hungry.  Look for a high scoring game here.

Week 6 - Washington @ Dallas - RG3 should be 100% by this game, and Tony Romo should be fighting for respect as always.  I expect a slump by Griffin, but we'll see.

Week 7 - Denver @ Indianapolis - Peyton returns to Indy to face Luck.  I wouldn't mind going to this game; I think I could wear my Manning Broncos jersey and survive.

Week 8 - NYG @ Philadelphia - It'll be interesting to see what Chip Kelly has done with his team up to this point; we should know whether they can make this a good game or not.

Week 9 - Chicago @ Green Bay - It doesn't get much better than the Bears vs. the Packers on Monday Night Football in November.  I love watching games at Lambeau.

Week 10 - Dallas @ New Orleans - Rob Ryan should be coaching with a chip on his shoulder and I expect Romo to get sacked more than his fair share of times.

Week 11 - Minnesota @ Seattle - Might not look like an amazing game on paper, but I expect a ton of scoring and a wild game between to intriguing teams.

Week 12 - Denver @ New England - I know I've chosen a lot of Broncos games, but come on; Peyton vs. Tom, Welker returning to face the Pats, a possibly AFC Championship preview.

Week 13 - Pittsburgh @ Baltimore - What a great Thanksgiving night matchup.  Should be low scoring, smash-mouth, and down to the wire; what else could you want.

Week 14 - Indianapolis @ Cincinnati - These teams match up well, and it should be a very even contest.  It's not a night game or anything, but should be fun to watch.

Week 15 - Washington @ Atlanta - I just love watching Matty Ice throw the ball, and of course RG3 is one cut away from either scoring a TD or breaking off his leg.

Week 16 - New Orleans @ Carolina - The Panthers could be clawing for a playoff spot this week, and Cam might be up to the challenge of knocking off Brees and the Saints.

Week 17 - Detroit @ Minnesota - In the last week of the season you're just looking for who has something to play for, and this game could have two teams fighting for survival.

Movie Trailer - Man of Steel

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams
Release: June 14th, 2013

Finally, a comic book movie that actually looks watchable.  I don't know exactly how they did it, but perhaps they'll start a trend.  I mean, everyone loves Superman but you can't just give it a half-assed effort and expect us all to line up, you gotta give it some punch and originality.  And I heart Amy Adams for some reason, which doesn't hurt.  Maybe it's because she's the best actress to emerge in the last twenty years.  As long as Russell Crowe, Kevin Cosner, and Diane Lane are kept to a minimum I think I'm sold.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thought - Boston

When a tragedy occurs, my first reaction is cynicism.  I see my lack of compassion as a character flaw that I have to live with, but I don't necessarily think that it makes me a bad person.  There are plenty of helpful and giving people out there who make a difference every day; I just don't happen to be one of them.  Call me callus, but I just don't get very gushy.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most people don't care so much that it hurts and that most people are as selfish as I am.  I don't see selfishness as evil; you are you and your life, by definition, revolves around you.  And this belief is why I get so cynical and grumpy when I see the masses being falsely sincere and emotional.

Let's look at the recent Boston tragedy, and let's try to keep an open mind.  It was an awful thing that happened.  As the husband of a marathon runner, my mind immediately went to the finish line and picturing myself and my two kids standing there waiting for her to cross.  How horrible it must have been for the people there, their families, and the people of Boston who will be living in fear for quite some time now.  But as bad a thing as it was, it only directly affected a handful of people.  Chances are you weren't there, you didn't know anybody there, and your life has not changed in any way since that day.  So why do you feel the urge to post on FaceBook that you're thinking about Boston today, or that you're praying for some strangers, or that America will get whoever did this and make them pay?  The answer; because you're thinking about yourself.  You're attempting to feel what it might have been like to be there because that makes you feel alive.  You're putting yourself into a group that you're not really a part of because it's nice to be a part of something.  We are all of us very selfish people who show it in very unusual ways.  I just happen to write it on a blog.

Maybe I'm being insensitive.  Maybe it's too soon, or you think you really do care, or it really was that bad.  But I just don't think so.  I think people, especially we as Americans, are extremely short-sighted and that this wasn't really as horrible as we're making it out to be for our own selfish reasons.  Take a look at this article.  I am struck by the quote, "In Syria, it's not Boston every day, but many times per day."  We are extremely lucky to live in this country.  It's far from perfect and let's not kid ourselves and claim that it's the best place in the world, but the majority of us are wealthy, safe, and free.  This is not the case in most countries.  Not every one has terrorist violence every single day, but a lot do.  And so when something bad happens here, when three people die, when we feel a little shaken, we band together and cry and seek justice and feel angry and post things on FaceBook and very soon we forget all about it.  Why?  Because we can.  Because that is a luxury we can afford; forgetting that awful thing that once happened because it only happens once every few years.

I guess my point is that we could all be a little more "real".  The attack in Boston was awful, but worst things happen every day all over the world and we don't even care.  We don't care because we're selfish, because we're safe, because we're us and they're them.  So maybe we should stop saying how horrible we feel, how we'll never forget this, and how tight we are as a country now, when in reality we're getting a little high from the excitement and in six months we won't remember it.  Maybe we shouldn't pretend to be moved by pictures of sobbing families when what we really like are pictures of bloody streets. We are all, selfishly, getting something out of this tragedy, and perhaps that's a cynical thing to say, but then again no one ever accused me of being warm and fuzzy.

Movie Trailer - Behind the Candelabra

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe
Release: May 26th, 2013

So, from Damon in Elysium to Damon in Liberace.  Strange.  The film is based on the autobiography of the flamboyant piano player and will be released first on HBO in May.  Should be interesting, if nothing else.  And Rob Lowe is an added bonus, a very underrated actor.  Who knows; I don't get HBO, but maybe I'll look for a way to see this one.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sports - Faces

I usually do sports posts on Wednesdays, and I guess one could argue that my Knuckleball! DVD review was athletic enough.  And I also usually write only one post per day.  But today I have another sports-related thought on my mind that I'd like to share; a double dose!

There are some people that I just can't stand.  Often these people are on television.  I don't yell hateful things at them or call them awful names, but I just don't like them.  And I feel that because they are on TV and have put themselves out there that I have the "right" to judge them.  It seems to be a common theme that there is something I focus my dislike of these people on; their face.  I just can't stand some peoples' faces.  Maybe it's weird, or maybe your face can show a lot of your character, but I often find myself saying, "Ugh, I just don't like his face!" and it having nothing to do with attractiveness.  So here are a few sports-related members of the Don't Like Your Face Club.

Philip Rivers - Perhaps it's because he plays for San Diego, but I just can't stand this guy, and I like to think that it's mostly due to his face.  He's just a terribly unlikable guy and it's painful for me to look at him.  He's whiny, immature, and generally bothersome.

Chase Utley - There's nothing horribly offensive about his face, but there's just something there that tells me that if I ever met him I would instantly dislike him.  Maybe it's the chew and the slicked back hair.  Whatever it is, he looks untrustworthy, and I'd steer clear.

Mark Teixeira - Now, at first glance he looks alright.  He doesn't look evil or anything, but there's just something about him that makes me sure that he's a huge dingus.  I can't put my finger on it, but maybe he's not the brightest crayon in the box.  Yes, a dingus.

As a disclaimer I'd like to say that, obviously, I don't know these guys.  They could be heroes or sweethearts or furry little kittens and I wouldn't know.  But for some reason their faces just really rub me the wrong way.  Oh well, Philip Rivers probably wouldn't like me either.  And here are two more, added by popular demand.

Jay Cutler - Ahh, Cutler.  The moment I saw him on TV at the Draft I turned to my friend and said, "Who's that douche bag?".  About ten minutes later the Broncos drafted him.  No NFL player since Ricky Williams has been more lethargic and uninspiring.  Maybe it's his diabetes.

Tyler Hansbrough - His face is a mix of Drago from Rocky IV and Johnny from The Karate Kid.  He always looks to be about one second away from either punching you or crying and stamping his foot.  He was tough, no doubt about that, but he was somehow also a big baby.

DVD Review - Knuckleball!

Director: Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg
Starring: Tim Wakefield, R.A. Dickey
Year: 2012

First off, what is a knuckleball?  Spellcheck won't let it slide, but it is an actual thing.  It's a baseball pitch, and ironically it has nothing to do with the knuckles anymore.  Most baseballs are thrown by gripping the ball on the seams in various ways with various fingers.  The knuckleball, however, uses the fingertips.  When it was first created, a pitcher would grip the ball with his knuckles, hence the name, but now pitchers only use there fingertips and thumb to hold the ball before throwing.  This manner of pitching the ball creates zero spin, allowing the ball to float through the air at a very low speed.  Sounds easy to hit, but the secret of the knuckleball is its float; the air moves over the seams and takes it wherever it wants to.  Neither the pitcher, the batter, nor the catcher have any idea where the baseball is going to go.  And that's what makes the knuckleball so hard to hit.

The Movie

Knuckleball! is an extremely simple and specialized documentary.  It deals with one topic (baseball) and only one aspect of that topic (the knuckleball).  This highly controversial pitch is the least used in the major league, having only been throw consistently and successfully by a handful of players in MLB history.  It seems so easy to throw; a pitch that doesn't need speed, power, spin, or control.  But the knuckleball is a delicate art form, one that is not easily mastered.  Throw it poorly and its a home run.  Throw it well and it's a whiff.  The beauty of the pitch is its difficulty to handle, see, catch, and predict.  Through the years there have been few star knucklers: Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough, Tom Candiotti.  But more recently there have been two knuckleball-throwing greats: Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey.

Wakefield was originally drafted as a first baseman.  Starting his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988, he soon realized that he didn't have the skill to be a big-league hitter, having what he referred to as an "allergy to wood (bats)".  In order to salvage his career, Wakefield developed his knuckleball and decided to try his luck as a pitcher.  Playing in both the bigs and the minors, he had great success with his new pitch and became a full time pitcher.  Wakefield is best known as a member of the Boston Red Sox, where he was picked up in 1995.  He went on to play seventeen years in Boston, where he was an All Star and a two-time World Series Champion, thanks to the league's strangest pitch.  He retired in 2012 at the age of forty-five.

Compared to Wakefield, Dickey is the ultimate journeyman.  He played college ball at Tennessee and was a member of Team USA before being drafted by the Texas Rangers.  After initially being offered a large contract, the team took it back after a medical report showed that Dickey was missing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.  After rocky years in Texas, he developed a knuckleball in order to save his career.  It did just that, but he had a hard time finding success, bouncing around between the major and minor leagues of Seattle, Minnesota, and finally New York.  With the Mets, Dickey finally found his groove, and in 2012 he won the NL Cy Young Award.  After a trade to the Toronto Blue Jays, Dickey is now a highly-paid starting pitcher, as well as the only knuckler in the big leagues, and all at the age of thirty-eight.

It should be pretty obvious, but you better love baseball if you want to have any chance at enjoying this film.  It's about nothing else, unless you count the side stories of Wakefield's and Dickey's family life and path to the big leagues.  But basically it's all baseball, no surprises.  And you are expected to know a lot of about baseball coming in, you won't get a lot of explanations.  The film is about the successes and failures surrounding the knuckleball and the few pitchers who have attempted to harness it, it's not a way to learn about the game or methods of playing.  Do you love baseball?  Do you already know a bit about Wakefield and Dickey?  Do you want to see a lot of still photos and slow-motion videos of one particular pitch?  Than perhaps Knuckleball! is for you.

Judging the film as a movie would be fairly pointless, because it's not your traditional flick.  Nor is it really your traditional documentary.  It's more like several Wikipedia articles come to life.  Here are Wakefield's stats and some shots of him pitching.  Here are Dickey's stats and some pics of his arm.  It's not very exciting nor is it groundbreaking; there just isn't much that you couldn't learn spending ten minutes surfing the web.  But that said, the film was well-crafted.  It was a concise and fairly interesting telling of the story with a lot of cool visuals.  And adding in some of the great knucklers of the past was fun, if not extremely relevant.  With such a specialized documentary there's almost no way to reach a broad audience or create a huge buzz, but I at least enjoyed myself as a baseball fan, if not really as a film critic.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the widescreen video is high quality.  And the subject matter lends itself to a nice picture; shots of the diamond, slow-motion footage of various pitches, different stadiums all across the country.  Video of classic games is, obviously, less impressive, but the modern footage is very nice.

Audio - There are no audio options with this disk; no language selection or subtitles for the hearing impaired.  The Dolby Digital sound is nice, and the recordings of famous calls from throughout MLB history are a good touch, but all in all the sound is nothing to write home about.

Extras - There are a ton of extra features on the single disk, in addition to the feature film.  These featurettes, interviews, and bonus scenes can be accessed from the main menu: Remembering 2003 ALCS, Physics of the Knuckleball, Jim Bouton at Home, Jim Bouton Interview, Tom Candiotti Interview, Niekro's 300th Win, Knuckler Chat, Hitters on Knuckleball, Charlie Hough Interview, and Future of the Pitch.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  As a baseball fan, I enjoyed this film for what it was; a knuckleball extravaganza.  Was it great?  No.  Was is good?  Sure.  The video was crisp and enjoyable to watch, the audio was fine but had little options, and the extras were surprisingly plentiful.  It was an interesting film overall, but one that I probably wouldn't watch again.

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Movie Trailer - Elysium

Director: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner
Release: August 9th, 2013

I'm just gonna say it; this looks bad ass.  As I've mentioned before, I love dystopian sci-fi.  And who doesn't love Matt Damon?  Yeah, it could become a little Hollywood, a little over the top, a little robot heavy.  But I'm willing to give it a chance, if just to enjoy the visuals in the theatre.  Anyone wanna join me?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Way, Way Back

Director: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Starring: Liam James, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney
Release: July 5th, 2013

This looks like the combination of a lot of movies; Little Miss Sunshine, Almost Famous, Adventureland.  I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stories, and with this group of actors I'm pretty much sold.  It doesn't look extremely original, but if James can pull off the leading role then I think it could work.  And I'll watch most anything with Sam Rockwell in it anyway.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Movie Review - The Cider House Rules

Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine, Charlize Theron
Year: 1999

Watching a movie based on a book that you loved is always a little tricky.  Of course a film can't have every detail in it that a novel can.  And of course some themes will be left out, some content will be diluted.  But in order for a movie version of a great book to be successful it has to take on a life of its own.  It has to stay true to the novel but create a brand new feeling that viewers will always remember independently.  The Cider House Rules is no different; the book (read my review of it here) was so amazing that there is no way the movie could top it, but what it could do was give the characters a whole new definition.  It did so, and that's why it was almost as good as the original.

Both the book and the film tell the story of two places; "Here in St. Cloud's" and "In other parts of the world".  St. Cloud's is an orphanage in Maine run by the god-like Dr. Larch.  He operates the hospital there, giving the women who come to him two choices; to deliver a baby or to be delivered of a baby.  His view on abortion is not one that is held by his assistant Homer.  Being an orphan himself and a life-long resident of St. Cloud's, Homer sees value in every single life.  When Dr. Larch begins to train Homer to be his replacement, the two struggle to see eye to eye on this illegal practice, and Homer begins to wonder what other life might be waiting for him outside the orphanage walls.

His life changes drastically when he meets Candy and Wally.  The young couple have come to St. Cloud's for an abortion, and, when they leave, Homer is so taken with them that he asks to travel with them to Wally's family's apple orchard on the coast.  There he begins his first job, sees his first lobster, and falls in love.  Matters are complicated when Wally leaves for another deployment in the war, leaving Candy alone and lonely.  Homer attempts to stay out of trouble, but his infatuation with Candy and his relationship with the migrant workers who call the Cider House their home push him toward choices that will set the stage for the rest of his life.

Let me just say that the book was one of the best I have ever read.  I could not have been more invested in the characters, the setting, the time, everything.  So I assumed that the movie would be overshadowed, and to some extent it was.  But what the film had in its favor was the ability to bring a brand new light to the story.  It painted Homer and Candy in a different way, while still staying true to the novel.  This was done in part by having the author, John Irving, write the screenplay.  So while much was left out, the core remained and made for a very engaging film.  Caine as Dr. Larch was perfection, Maguire and Theron were good, and even the very funny Paul Rudd as Wally was believable.  All in all, a good movie that did a great job of setting itself far enough apart from the book that it could be taken seriously.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰