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, May 31, 2013

Movie Trailer - Don Jon

Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Tony Danza

Release: October 18th, 2013

Who doesn't love JGL?  Although, this isn't the way we usually see him.  And for that matter, this isn't the way we usually see Scarlett Johansson either.  But hey, maybe that's a good thing.  I usually hate her work, but the best thing she ever did was that skit on SNL where she was selling chandeliers; "How 'bout that one?  Or that one?".  Her character kinda looks like that, so who knows, maybe it works.

Movie Trailer - We're the Millers

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Ed Helms
Release: August 9th, 2013

I think this looks pretty much like your standard throw-away comedy.  Jason Sudeikis is funny as Joe Biden, but not as much else.  And I never find drug plots to be much more than dumb.  However, how old is Jennifer Aniston and how does she still look that hot?  Is that reason enough to go see the movie?  Probably not, but maybe reason enough to see the trailer.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Movie Review - Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever

Director: Ti West
Starring: Noah Segan, Giuseppe Andrews, Alexi Wasser
Year: 2009

If you look very closely you can see that the above is a picture of a bus running a man over and that that man has literally exploded.  The man happens to be Rider Strong of Boy Meets World fame.  And perhaps the second project that you might recognize him from is Cabin Fever.  Now, that movie wasn't exactly great, but it wasn't necessarily awful either.  It was a somewhat believable horror movie that quickly became more of a commentary on how people react in dog-eat-dog situations.  Like I said, not awful, and it's worth a watch.  It's follow-up, however, is not.

In order to "appreciate" Cabin Fever 2 you've got to at least have a synopsis of the first movie.  In the original, a group of collegians spend the weekend at a remote cabin; the typical horror set up.  Check out my review of The Cabin in the Woods if you're interested in an original take on this classic premise.  But anyway, the kids plan on spending the weekend drinking, partying, and having a generally reckless time.  But when a man approaches their camp who appears to be sick, order begins to break down.  As the disease spreads, friends begin to turn on each other, and human morality is up for a bloody test.

Ok, so now you know the back story.  The second movie picks up where the first left off.  The disease is still present and it might be impossible to contain.  With the contagions present in the water supply, anyone and everyone is susceptible to the sickness, and once you've got it you're dead.  At a local high school where preparations for the Senior Prom are under way, the student body becomes contaminated and the horror begins all over again.  Friends John and Alex try their best to survive, while local cop Winston attempts to unravel the mystery, and the deadly virus runs rampant.

If you're like me and you saw Cabin Fever you might also be tempted to see Cabin Fever 2.  Don't be.  Save yourself an upset stomach and watch something else.  This movie was a gore-fest and nothing else.  And the sad part is that it's not even a well-made gore-fest, it's just cheap blood.  People explode, hands get sawed off, body parts ooze strange fluids, and about a million teenagers vomit in a projectile fashion.  Not an enjoyable way to spend ninety minutes, trust me.  And I'm even partial to horror/slashers/gore, but not like this.  Not when it's  juvenile, cheap, and lackadaisical.  You gotta put a little effort in somewhere or, guess what, you're movie will suck.

My rating:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Movie Review - The Hangover Part III

Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, John Goodman
Year: 2013

The average user rating of The Hangover on IMDB is 7.8 out of 10, while critics give it a 7.3.  Not bad, and having seen it myself I'd say that's pretty accurate.  It was cool, hilarious, offensive, and fun to watch.  The characters were original, the cameos were nicely done, and I had a good time.  Then came The Hangover Part II with respective ratings of 6.5 and 4.4.  Ouch.  But again, that's about right.  It was a complete copy of the first movie, just in a new location.  It was more crude, if possible, and much less funny.  It was a whole lot less interesting, less entertaining, and crappier in general.  So next up was The Hangover Part III, and while I felt that I had to watch it, I wasn't expecting much.  And good thing too, because its early ratings were 6.3 and 3.0, a pretty bad sign.  But I went to check it out anyway and got to see for myself that it was indeed just as awful as you might imagine it would be.

First, you've got to get to know the Wolfpack.  These four friends have been on some wild adventures together: Phil (the cool one), Stu (the uptight dentist), Alan (the weirdo), and Doug (the throw away character).  In the first movie, the group loses Doug after an insane bachelor party.  They've got to figure out what happened when they were wasted and find him before his wedding.  In the second, almost the exact same thing happens before Stu's wedding, this time in Thailand.  And in the third, the gang are on a road trip when Doug is again kidnapped, this time by a thug named Marshall.  Phil, Stu, and Alan must find their old friend Mr. Chow if they ever want to see Doug again.  Apparently Chow is a man on the run, with twisted plans on how he will return to glory.  The Wolfpack are in over their heads, as they must deal with gold bars, Mexican cops, escort services, pawn shops, and ultimately the town that started it all; Vegas.

I knew going in that I wasn't seeing a fine piece of film.  I expected it to be bad, but I also expected to laugh.  And I did, about two or three times.  It just wasn't funny.  There weren't enough "oh shit!" moments, enough vulgarity, or enough wit.  Falling flat may be an understatement; falling dead may be more like it.  I wanted the plot to be similar to the first two; a hangover, confusion, hilarity, penis jokes, generally foolery.  But instead it was almost an homage to the other two.  Umm, this isn't the last episode of Cheers, you can't just bring back all the old characters, reference the past, and expect us all to cry while saying farewell.  It's a dumb comedy series that was mediocre at best; two funny films does not a dynasty make.  So I was left wanting much more; basically the first film over again, or at least a movie that stuck to a format that was proven to work.

There were some high points.  Zack Galifianakis was featured much more, which I liked, and Bradley Cooper was featured much less, which I also liked.  However, Ken Jeong was the central point of the plot, and I really don't think he's that funny.  So maybe that was the problem; the humor was centered around a character and an actor that I don't find very humorous.  John Goodman was unnecessary, Heather Graham was as untalented as ever, and even Melissa McCarthy made an appearance, which was actually kinda good.  All in all, I wanted the bachelor party madness that I had once enjoyed.  What I got instead was a reunion show of an average franchise.  And what's even more sad is that at the end of the film, during the credits, there was a patented Hangover scene that made me laugh more than the whole movie combined.  Probably shouldn't have saved that until the end, boys; you already lost me.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Movie Trailer - Inside Llewyn Davis

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman
Release: December 6th, 2013

The Coen Brothers are a fine, fine team of filmmakers.  I know their movies aren't for everyone, but they are for me.  Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and O Brother are right up there at the top of my all-time list.  Should be a great movie to see in the theatre on a cold winter day.

Movie Trailer - Last Vegas

Director: Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline
Release: November 1st, 2013

What is this, the old guys' Hangover?  I enjoyed that movie for what it was and I had a good time watching it.  But I'm not sure I wanna see it this way, I think it would just end up making me feel depressed.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Thought - Memorial Day

I think people might be a little bit confused.  About half of the people who have made some sort of Memorial Day post, tweet, or comment seem to think that we're celebrating veterans.  No, that would be Veteran's Day.  This is Memorial Day, a day that apparently 50% of the people in my fake Internet life don't know anything about.  I'm not claiming to be a historian, but all it takes is a little Wikipedia search to find out what the meaning of the holiday is.  And for those who don't think that Wikipedia is a credible source, you can look the same facts up somewhere else that's more scholarly.

Memorial Day is a day to remember all those who died while a part of the United States Armed Forces.  It started after the Civil War and was first called Decoration Day.  Sounds nice, and honestly I don't have a cynical anger toward this particular holiday.  I wouldn't want to be in the military.  I'd be afraid that I would die, and I don't care about enough people to make that sacrifice.  It amazes me that some people actually want to serve their country more than they want to stay home.  And I respect those people for doing what I don't want to.  It makes it that much more tragic when they die, because they were being fairly selfless.  So, thanks to those who have died to protect the interests of the country that I was lucky enough to be born in, even though you're dead and can't read this.

However (and you knew this was coming), let's not get ahead of ourselves and imagine that the American military is a troupe of do-gooders running around the world holding back the tides of tyranny.  Our armies support our positions, our allies, keep our money safe, and fight off threats to our oil.  We can and should be thankful for that, because we enjoy living in a rich and powerful country, but we can't forget that a life is a life, and that our soldiers kill as well as die.  They made a sacrifice for us, but often than sacrifice came at a cost to someone else as well.  So let's try to remember that while we remember out fallen countrymen.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Movie Review - Surf Nazis Must Die

Director: Peter George
Starring: Barry Brenner, Gail Neely, Tom Shell
Year: 1987

I enjoy cult classics.  I like b-movies.  And I've seen my fair share of awful films that have a certain something that makes them enjoyable.  Sometimes it's that they're so bad they're hilarious.  Or sometimes it's that you can't imagine where someone got such a wacky idea.  But a good b-movie or cult classic has to have an x-factor that rises it above the normal crap and makes it indescribably cool.  I was hoping that would be the case with Surf Nazis Must Die.  I thought it would be comically poor.  But no, it wasn't.  It wasn't witty, original, or fun in any way at all.  The only thing it was was bad, and not awesomely so.

So here's the plot; California has been rocked my a massive earthquake.  Order has gone out the window as police can only respond to the most devastating events.  Crime has risen beyond control and the gangs that once only bothered people on the beach are now claiming the coasts as their own, killing, stealing, and doing whatever they please.  The leader of the Surf Nazi gang, Adolf, along with his Hitler Youth, begin a campaign to unite the gangs and take total control of the beach.  But when an innocent man is murdered and his mother finds out, hell is unleashed on the Nazis in the form of an angry black woman with grenades.

It was bad.  OMG bad.  There was nothing funny or interesting about any part of the film.  It wasn't awesomely bad, it wasn't comically bad, it was just bad.  I was bored and sorry I was watching it about ten minutes in.  The only redeeming quality was Mama Washington, but you can only watch so much of her running around killing "honkies".  I'm just not sure why someone took the time and money to make this movie.  Were they bored?  Did they have a lot of surf boards that they wanted to spray paint swastikas on?  Surf Nazis Must Die may be the worst movie I've ever seen in my life, and not in a good way.

My rating:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Movie Trailer - Only God Forgives

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm
Release: July 19th, 2013

Refn and Gosling teamed up in Drive, which I didn't like.  It started out great, but quickly became way too violent.  Not that I mind violence, but the characters and story were thrown away out of hand.  This movie looks like it never had a story, just skipped right to the killing.  And apparently audiences at Cannes are booing and leaving early.  Not a good sign.

Movie Review - Pulp Fiction

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth
Year: 1994

What more can I say about Quentin Tarantino?  Whether you like him or not, you've got to admit that he's an original.  His movies are cool in a way that other directors can only dream about.  Yes, they're violent and vulgar, but the ideas and the plots and the twists and the characters; you just wonder where inside his brain these ideas came from.  And, of course, some of his films are better than others, but they are all at the very least more interesting than anything else you are going to see on any given day.  Reservoir Dogs, being his first full length film, is unpolished but still excellent.  Jackie Brown is a great combination of Taratino's talent and Elmore Leonard's intrigue.  Django Unchained is, for my money, his very best so far.  And Pulp Fiction falls somewhere in the middle of that pack; an excellent film full of new ideas, quotable lines, and enough blood to get you squeamish but keep to watching.

Multiple plots twist around each other in this crazy story and keep you spinning from beginning to end, and the man at the hub is Marsellus Wallace, gangster extraordinaire.  His two lead thugs are Vincent and Jules, friends who discuss the deeper meanings of life while killing lowlifes.  When Marsellus leaves town, he asks Vincent to take his eccentric wife Mia out for a night on the town.  Of course things don't go as planned, as drugs, sex, and twisting all get in the way.  Meanwhile, boxer Butch and his girlfriend are making a daring attempt to get out of the crime game and away from Marsellus.  This side story revolves around an ancient watch, a pair of bloodthirsty hillbillies, and a chopper.  All these wild plots become connected, out of order, and perversely entertaining as Pulp Fiction draws to a dramatic close.

That was actually more difficult to summarize than I thought it would be.  The way the stories are broken up and rearranged makes it hard to see them straight, but it also makes the movie that much more fun to watch.  And that's what it's all about; this film is enjoyable to watch.  It's also very unique, which is why it's loved by  audiences and critics alike and is often held as one of the best movies ever.  Now, I wouldn't go that far.  I liked Django Unchained much more, and I even liked Jackie Brown slightly better.  But Pulp Fiction had its great moments, chiefly the scenes with Travolta and Jackson.  They were excellent and I would say they made the movie.  I didn't really care for Uma Thurman and her storyline was the only one to really drag, but other than that the story was fast and exciting.  Willis did a great job as well, and so did Roth, Harvey Keitel, and Ving Raymes in smaller roles.  Overall, the movie was great; entertaining, funny, bloody, and a one-of-a-kind piece of work that doesn't come along nearly often enough.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, May 24, 2013

Movie Trailer - As Cool as I Am

Director: Max Mayer
Starring: Sarah Bolger, Claire Danes, James Marsden
Release: June 21st, 2013

I didn't know Claire Danes was still acting.  Where has she been since Romeo + Juliet?  Oh that's right, in horrible movies.  I cannot possibly be expected to watch a film starring her and James Marsden as young parents going through emotional crap.

DVD Review - Madrid, 1987

Director: David Trueba
Starring: Maria Valverde, Jose Sacristan
Year: 2011

I first saw Maria Valverde in Cracks, a film in which she played the new girl at a boarding school, a Spanish beauty who caused irreparable damage with her mere presence.  She is definitely stunning, and she has a quality that is both desirable and enviable.  When I saw that she was in Madrid, 1987 and that it was a Breaking Glass picture, I took the opportunity to see her again.  Not just because she's attractive, which of course she is, but also because she's captivating.  I was interested to see if she was up to the challenge of an artistic film of this kind, or whether she'd fall flat and come off as just another pretty face.  As it turns out, it was actually a little bit of both; she was able to rise to the occasion, but she's almost too beautiful to be believable.  I guess it's not her fault that she's gorgeous, and maybe it helped her get a leg up in the business.  But just one or two imperfections wouldn't go amiss, and perhaps they'd help to make her seem more human.

The Movie

The story is set in Madrid in, wait for it, 1987.  Almost the entirety of the action takes place in a bathroom, almost the entirety of the dialogue is between two people, and for reasons to be explained later those two people are naked.  But first we meet the characters.  One is Angela, a student and a member of an affluent family.  She is young, idealistic, and hopes to someday change the world.  She wants to become a famous writer, and she idolizes the most popular journalist in the city, Miguel.  He is an experienced newspaper man, having written for years, and he has quite a following.  He is knowledgeable, cynical, and believes that dreams are for the young.  Two people could not be more dissimilar, and yet they are drawn together by Angela's interest in his mind and Miguel's interest in her body.

The pair meet in a cafe on a Saturday to discuss a paper that Angela wrote about Miguel.  She had interviewed him previously and wanted his critique of her work.  So while she was looking for some guidance from a proven veteran, he was looking for something else.  With no pretense and with no apology Miguel asks Angela to come to a borrowed flat with him, with the understanding that they will be sleeping together.  And while she agrees, she is much more hesitant and unsure of what exactly she is capable of doing with a near complete stranger.  But things really get interesting when the couple accidentally lock themselves in a decrepit bathroom.  With the mood officially killed and with no hope of getting out any time soon, Angela and Miguel have nothing to do but talk; about their lives, their fears, and each other.

First we ought to touch on the nudity, no pun intended, since that is a major theme of the film.  The story is about sex, pure and simple.  It is the reason these two are together, it is the reason they are naked, and it is the reason that they are naked together in another man's bathroom.  They both want to sleep with the other, perhaps Miguel more so than Angela, but the desire is there despite the age difference.  And that's where the film starts to go deeper.  Yes it's solely about sex, but who ever said that that was a shallow topic?  The film explores the why behind attraction by pairing together such a beautiful young woman and such a grumpy old man.  Their ages come to represent more than just their life spans; he has lost all of his ability to dream and hopes that her body can help him see life through the eyes of youth, while she longs to change the world and for that she needs to understand why so many have tried and failed.

But honestly after a while you stop being distracted by their nakedness.  It fades into the background and isn't such a big deal anymore.  Early in the film it's more exciting, more taboo, but then that's how the couple is feeling; excited, scared, unsure.  And when they become trapped in the bathroom that adventure begins to lose its appeal.  Their nudity becomes a hindrance, a bother, and finally it becomes a moot point.  As they begin to discuss their lives and to exchange philosophies, clothes, or the lack thereof, are forgotten and it becomes more an allusion to stripping one's self bare emotionally than an actual physical thing.  Even the lone towel that they share between them begins to take on a meaning all its own, as they pass it back and forth in a ridiculous act of modesty that seems so pointless; after all, what is there to hide anymore?

For any movie to be remotely good while having only two real characters that pair of actors better be spot on.  And for the most part they were.  Jose Sacristan was very strong as Miguel; I could have listened to him talk for hours.  And I guess I did, as his character was a very eloquent and selfish speaker, sharing so many of his deep views on life that after a while I started to feel like I was the one trapped in a bathroom with him.  But even that was well done; I was never tired of Jose, only Miguel.  Maria Valverde was strong as well, but not quite so riveting.  She played the part of Angela competently, but I was always aware that she was acting and I never fully bought in.  Perhaps that can be attributed to her attractiveness, as she was almost too pretty for the setting, and definitely too beautiful to be with this man.  However, the chemistry between the two was nice, with he the lecherous desirer and she the innocent desired.  And the film as a whole was interesting and original, if not the best piece of cinema you've ever seen.  If you can get past the nudity and the potential "ick" factor, Madrid, 1987 is a well-acted and thought-provoking film.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the video quality in quite good.  However, with almost the entire movie taking place inside a dimly lit, pale green tiled bathroom, you never really get much of a chance to enjoy the fine picture.

Audio - The film was shot in Dolby Digital, but there are no sound options on the disc.  The dialogue is in Spanish with English subtitles, and there are no options to change this; no dubbing or any other language selection.

Extras - There are a few extras with the DVD.  One is a Photo Gallery, but it only has eleven still images from the film and featuring the director.  And there are six trailers: Madrid, 1987, Laurence Anyways, Stuck to Your Pillow, K-11, Dead in France, and Our Paradise.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  For an artsy movie about two people stuck naked in a bathroom together, you could do much worse.  The plot seems farfetched, but if you can get past the set up then what you're left with is a pretty interesting film.  It has a lot to say about youth, love, idealism, sex, and life in general.  The acting is crisp and the story simple.  Video quality is high, audio options are low, and the extras are present if not wonderful.  All in all, a conversation piece movie rather than an award winner, but one that you might find enjoyable.

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

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Movie Trailer - Rapture-Palooza

Director: Paul Middleditch
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry
Release: June 7th, 2013

This is the kind of movie that I'm not sure why people make.  I get making movies solely for profit, and I get making arty films solely for yourself.  But who does this movie appeal to and how much money could it possibly make?  It is a guaranteed flop that will make every member of the cast look like a moron.

Book Review - The Neverending Story

Author: Michael Ende
Year: 1979

I first encountered The NeverEnding Story as a kid, borrowing the movie from the library and enjoying it over and over again.  I loved the story and the characters, and I remember that I used to swing at school while pretending that I was Atreyu riding across Fantasia on his trusty steed Artax.  Later on I would also watch the second film, The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter.  It wasn't nearly as good as the first, but it did have Jonathan Brandis in it, and he was my hero.  So I grew up knowing the movies well, but I had no idea that it was a novel.  I'm not sure how I missed that, but one day I was out shopping and stumbled across one lone copy of the original book.  I, of course, bought it right away, and have now read it aloud to my daughter.  Nothing will ever replace the first movie in my heart because it's a definite part of my childhood, but I was happy to read the book as an adult and get a new perspective on the story.

In the book, the fictional land that the story takes place in is called Fantastica, not Fantasia.  The book was originally written in German, but the translation soon makes you forget that fact.  The main character of the story is Bastian, a boy who doesn't feel like he belongs in his boring world of school and home life.  When he finds himself in a strange bookstore one morning, he discovers a novel that is almost calling for him.  Surprising even himself, he steals the book, hides in his school's attic, and begins to read the book, deciding that he will never go back to his old way of life.  As he reads, Bastian finds himself being drawn deeper and deeper into the unfolding story.  He learns of Fantastica, its Childlike Empress, a horrible Nothing that is eating up the world, and a brave young man named Atreyu who must begin a quest to save the Empress' life.  His mission is to find a human child, for only someone from Earth can heal the land.  Bastian begins to suspect that this is no mere book, and as he begins to read about himself he knows that he is in too deep to escape.

I was surprised that the book actually covers both movies.  The first half of the novel is almost exactly like the first movie, the second half of the novel is only slightly similar to the second movie.  And I understand why they split the films up this way; because The Neverending Story is almost two books in one.  The first half is Bastian reading about Atreyu's adventures, and the second half is Bastian's own adventures.  Unfortunately, the first part is exponentially better that the last.  I was invested, engrossed, and having a great time.  There was a climax, I felt good about it, and then there were still 200 pages left.  I was disappointed that the book got progressively slower, less interesting, and began to ramble on.  That said, the story as a whole was very interesting, and maybe the second half was meant to be read philosophically, rather than as part of an action/adventure plot.  Overall, it was a great book, especially if you loved the movies as a kid, but be prepared for a bit of a drag near the end.  If you've bought into the characters up until then you may forgive it, but if you weren't hooked you could be tempted to put the book down.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Movie Trailer - About Time

Director: Richard Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams
Release: November 8th, 2013

This film is from the creator of Love Actually, one of my favorite movies.  And it does have that same feel to it, even has Bill Nighy.  But the difference that alarms me in Rachel McAdams.  She is just awful, and I'm quite certain she has the ability to ruin this movie.  Maybe she'll just fall into place and not talk too much, but I'm very worried because I want to see this movie and I want it to be good.

Movie Review - Star Trek Into Darkness

Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana
Year: 2013

When Star Trek first came out in 2009 I didn't think I would like it.  As a fan of the original films, I was a little put off by a the young cast of Hollywood newcomers attempting to represent the characters I had come to love.  I mean, come on, Harold as Sulu?  I wasn't buying it and I wasn't planning on watching it.  But I ended up seeing it, and sometimes it's nice when you're completely wrong.  It was much more of an homage than a ripoff, a origin story rather than a remake, and it actually came across as more than an attempt to make money.  I mean, it made money, but you could tell by watching it that these actors and Abrams all liked Star Trek, that they wanted to do the characters and story justice, that to them it wasn't a throw away project that would be a definite blockbuster no matter how little effort they put it.  I came away really enjoying the movie, and so when the second one came out I had no reason to doubt that I would like it as well.  And again I was shown that you can do justice to a beloved film series without damaging it.

Star Trek Into Darkness picks up where the first film left off, with Captain Kirk commanding the Enterprise, Spock as his right-hand man, and the rest of the crew filled out by familiar names: Sulu, Chekov, Bones, Scotty, Uhura.  The team is in deep space, visiting and observing distant planets.  On one occasion, when things don't go as planned and Kirk improvises, his actions endanger the fragile relationship he has with Spock and his burgeoning career.  Back on Earth, Jim is reprimanded, stripped of his command, and demoted.  He blames Spock for these new troubles, and yet knows that he can't change, that he can't begin to follow all the rules like his Vulcan friend, that what makes him a great Captain is his gut, his passion, and his love for his crew.  But Kirk's problems are just starting.  An apparent terrorist act sets him on a new mission, a simple manhunt far into enemy territory that cannot be as easy as it seems.  As the truth begins to unravel, the crew of the Enterprise is drawn into a tangled plot, and Kirk must work alongside a man who will someday become his most hated enemy.

What a ride.  From the very beginning, the film is non-stop action.  Kirk is in mortal danger for almost the entirety of the film; running from angry natives, leaping into oceans, dodging lasers, shooting through outer space, getting into fistfights, falling from heights.  Spock would say there are no such things as miracles, but I don't see how Jim survived.  You've got to have a pretty strong ability to suspend disbelief, but if you can get past the simple fact that the main character ought to be dead, it's an enjoyable experience.  The effects and ideas that were put into the movie are pretty incredible, and I was never bored.  Just the opposite; I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the film.  And that's funny if you really think about it, because I know all the characters survive and go on to have countless adventures; I've seen the original films.  But putting that aside, I did find myself rooting for the crew, worrying that they wouldn't make it in time, and having a generally fun time watching a cool movie.

As far as the acting went, that was pretty good too.  I like Chris Pine as Kirk; he brings the right amount of swagger and compassion.  And Spock is a great counterpart.  His logic and emotionless actions put Kirk's bravery and recklessness into perspective, and Quinto plays the character well.  The nice surprise of the film was Benedict Cumberbatch as Harrison, the murdering renegade.  He played a deep part with a lot of anger and intrigue.  The side characters were just alright, my favorite being Yelchin as Chekov, my least favorite being Alice Eve as Carol; she was completely unnecessary and fairly awful.  But I guess the acting isn't exactly what people are going to the theatre to see.  They want action, adventure, Star Trek homages, and quick quips.  Well, they got all of that and more.  Star Trek Into Darkness turned out to be just as good as the first; an entertaining film that was a step up from most silly action movies.  Give credit to Abrams for not making a cheap ripoff, and give credit to the actors for showing us that they genuinely respect the franchise.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Movie Trailer - Gravity

Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Release: October 4th, 2013

I'm not sure how many minutes of Sandra Bullock floating through space I can take.  But I like space movies, and I like Clooney, and I like Cuaron.  So I'm torn.  Although, it's kinda cool that Clooney and Bullock are the only two actors in the movie.  Reminds me a little on Moon, which I thought was an excellent and underrated film.

Sports - 2013 NFL Uniforms

I think I put links to some of these pics on Twitter when the news first came out, but I didn't put them on here.  Three NFL teams will have "new" uniforms this season: the Dolphins, the Jaguars, and the Vikings.  Here are a few shots of their tweeked logos/helmets/jerseys.

Miami - An updated logo (about time), and it looks like they toned down the orange.

Jacksonville - A black matte helmet that fades to gold, the 1st in the NFL.

Minnesota - Not much different here, the colors are supposedly brighter and cleaner.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Movie Trailer - Captain Phillips

Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Christopher Stadulis
Release: October 11th, 2013

I'll see basically anything that has Tom Hanks in it ...except The Ladykillers. And I should probably see that anyway since it's also the Coen Brothers.  But put Tom Hanks in a true story and he's even more amazing than usual.  An action/true story may be more dicey, but it'll probably be great and I'll probably see it.

Book Review - Little House on the Prairie

Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Year: 1935

In the late 1800s Laura Ingalls and her family lived an adventurous life in the untamed land of the Midwest.  In the 1930s and 40s, she wrote a series of books describing the way of life and culture of the American pioneer through the eyes of the little girl she used to be.  So far I've read the first two books of the series: Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie.  They are both excellent books, but they are very similar.  The settings are different, but the format and description remains the same.  So this book review will be a summary of the two novels and my take of Ingalls' writing.  Many of you may remember the TV show that spawned from these books starring Michael Landon.  I used to watch it as a kid having never read the books, and it was enjoyable on its own.  It was actually based primarily on the book that comes next in the series, On the Banks of Plum Creek.  Ingalls would go on to write about her husband's childhood, her family's various moves, and her later life.  I look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series if they are anywhere near as good as the first two.

Little House in the Big Woods is the story of Laura's early childhood in Wisconsin.  Her family lives deep in the forest, with no neighbors, but having family close enough to travel to in a day.  Through Laura's perspective we see the difficulty and simplicity of every day life at this time.  We see how her family makes almost everything they use, from cheese to shelves.  Her Pa is an extremely hard-working and industrious man, providing everything his family needs.  Her Ma works just as diligently in the house, taking care of the food, the family, which includes Laura, her older sister Mary, her baby sister Carrie, and the family dog Jack.  Life is a struggle against nature; the weather, animals, the growing of food, but the Ingalls family is happy with their existence and with their snug home deep in the woods.

Little House on the Prairie is a tale told in a very similar way.  Laura recounts her family's every day activities, their play, their songs, and the way they live together in a wild land.  When the woods of Wisconsin began to be more populated, Pa decided to move the family out West.  The land there was free, plentiful, and wide open.  Those who got there first would have the claim to the best areas, which no new settlers could take away.   But life on the prairie was hard; a new climate to learn, wolves, a house to build.  And the Ingalls weren't alone; the native people who had always lived there were friendly but wary, as more and more pioneers began to move West and push the Indians out of their territory.  Life was challenging but wonderful on the wide open prairie.

I really enjoyed reading these books.  They were written so simply and so descriptively that I found myself learning about woodcraft, farming, building, hunting, and so many other little things.  Ingalls goes into detail about the crafting of a door or a rocking chair, but somehow it's not boring.  The details make you feel as if you are there on the prairie, and they make you think about how convenient life is today.  So the descriptions are the strongest parts of the books, and you will enjoy them if you enjoy learning about this time period.  There is action and dialogue, but that's not really the point and that's not really the strong suit of the books.  That's not to say that I didn't get into the characters; I came to care very much about them and their survival.  But the history is the best part and the plot comes second.  I read these books to my daughter and perhaps that helped me to enjoy them even more, but I think they would have been strong books all on their own.  I recommend reading Ingalls' series if you loved the TV show, if you like pioneer history, or if you are looking for a refreshingly simple story of family, nature, and the great American frontier.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Butler

Director: Lee Daniels
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack
Release: August 16th, 2013

I don't normally go in for the moving, epic, biopic, but I might give this one a shot.  It looks interesting and has a star-studded cast.  Now, that's not always a good thing, and I'm not a huge fan of Oprah, but for some reason I'm looking forward to seeing four or five different actors play various presidents.

Movie Review - Bellflower

Director: Evan Glodell
Starring: Evan Glodell, Tyler Dawson, Jessie Wiseman
Year: 2011

A) This movie was not about what I thought it would be about, and 2) you probably ought not to watch it.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Bellflower was written by, directed by, and starring Evan Glodell.  No, you've never seen his work before, he's new to the game.  And as far as an amateur filmmaker goes, he didn't do an awful job.  But I, for some reason, thought this film was about the apocalypse.  As it turns out, it's about two buddies who are slowing tricking out a car that will make them look really cool if the world happens to end.  Not the same thing.  But I quickly got over the fact that I had misunderstood the point of the film.  Sadly, I couldn't tell you right now what that point was, and that's only one of the many reasons that I would never recommend this movie to anyone.

The plot is pretty simple.  Two best friends, Woodrow and Aiden, move to California together in order to get away from small town life and to start an adventures like the one's they always see on television.  Turns out, real life isn't always fun.  They spend most of their time going to parties, getting hammered, starting fights, and hitting on girls.  In their spare time they work on their side project; the coolest car anyone has ever seen.  They form a two man gang called Mother Medusa, engineer a car that shoots out fire, and plan for the post-apocalyptic future in which they will be the coolest guys around.  But their innocence and their friendship are both challenged when Woodrow meets Milly, a crazy girl who tells him right up front that she will end up breaking his heart, which is, of course, exactly what happens.

I spent most of the movie trying to decide whether these were the best actors I'd ever seen or the worst.  Every conversation was stilted, awkward, and seemingly made up on the spot.  But then, people do say stupid things, especially when they're drunk or trying to impress a pretty girl.  So who knows, maybe what I was watching was realistic to the point of bothersome.  But the "acting" wasn't the problem.  Again, whether true to life or not, I couldn't really enjoy watching two guys get wasted, punch people, vomit, have sex, shoot a flame-thrower, crash on a couch, and the wake up to do it all again.  It got old fast, even if it was vividly raw in a way that you don't see very often.  The end of the movie actually helped me come to terms with some of the brutality and oddity of the film, but not quite enough.  It was very original, but it was just hard to enjoy and I wouldn't watch it again.  You probably shouldn't watch it a first time.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Thought - Les Miserables

Today, thanks to the babysitting of my in-laws, my wife and I went on a date to downtown Columbus.  We went out to lunch at El Arepazo, a great hole-in-the-wall Latin restaurant that I highly recommend.  Then we visited the Ohio Statehouse and went to the Ohio theatre to see Les Mis.  It was an amazing show.  I haven't seen the movie yet because I was waiting to see the play, but I can't imagine how the film could compare to the stage version.  Excellent music, an amazing atmosphere, and a story that I will remember.  Do yourself a favor and try to find a Broadway Across America performance of Les Mis.

Anyway, I have so much to write about but so little time.  You can expect a few movie reviews soon: Bellflower, Pulp Fiction, Lagaan, and Madrid 1987.  You can also expect a couple of book reviews: Little House of the Prairie, The Neverending Story, and Lonesome Dove.  Also Part 2 of my NFL Draft Review will be posted soon.  Hope you are enjoying the blog and continue to read, as I'm having a great time writing it.  Thanks everyone.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Stranger Inside

Director: Adam Neutzsky
Starring: Estella Warren, William Baldwin, Sarah Butler
Release: July, 2013

Is it just me or does William look exactly like Alec?  Maybe, just maybe, he even turned into as good of an actor, because I think that's the only way this movie could be watchable.  Otherwise it's just the same thriller fluff that we've seen a million times.  And I think it might be coming straight to DVD, if that tells us anything.

Thought - Torture

If I've learned one thing as I've grown up it's that there is very little certainty.  I used to be a very black & white person, someone who believed that there were definite answers.  But I've seen how much gray area exists in most subjects, most arguments.  I would say that most topics are conditional, they depend on circumstances, there are things we can't be sure of, there are uncertainties that can never be defined.  And so when faced with a social or moral problem I have a hard time saying "always" or "never".  I may play the devil's advocate sometimes, but it's only because not many issues have perfectly clear cut answers.

That doesn't mean I have floppy morals standards, I can still make statements on my beliefs, they're just often followed by an exception to the rule or an understanding that my view might not cover all bases.  Abortion for example; I would say I'm strictly against it, but I can't make myself get upset about the morning after pill, not because I want to give up my stance on the issue but because I understand that fuzzy areas exist at the edges of my convictions.  Another example would be guns: I'm for strong laws and bans on guns, but I understand why people want them in their homes and can't fault someone for trying to keep them there.

And now we come to the topic of torture.  I have a black & white stance on this, but I can't help seeing a little gray area.  I would say that no one deserves torture, that every human deserves the equal right to be treated like a person, and that no one in authority should have the right to torture some one's body because they have broken a law.  However, what if my kids were taken?  What if someone took my family and I got a hold of one of the perpetrators, would I torture them to make them tell me where my family was?  I think so.  So I can't stand up and so "no torture ever" because I can see myself using it, albeit in a very unlikely fictional scenario.

With the Boston bombings and the subsequent capture of the bomber, this topic has resurfaced.  Some say he should be tortured, that he shouldn't be given his Miranda rights, that he should be a labeled as an "enemy combatant".  But I would say to those people that we cannot forget that he is a human.  He is a young man who did a horrible thing, but he is still a person who deserves to be treated equally.  Does that mean we set him free?  No, he's still allegedly broken the laws that he agreed to live by and should be punished if found guilty, but that doesn't mean that by breaking them he became less deserving of human dignity.  Now, with that said, I don't have the energy to get upset if we torture him.  I see why some people would want to, especially those affected by the bombings and those who fear that it could happen again.  And I guess that's where the gray area comes in; I don't believe in torture, but I'm not running to protect a supposed terrorist.

We all have our moral standards, our concrete beliefs, but I think we all have our gray areas too.  That doesn't mean we're wishy-washy, it means that we are able to understand that our morals come from a very limited viewpoint; our own short lives.  There are things out there that we do not fully understand, and may never be able to grasp until we live through them ourselves.  And so fuzzy edges exist, and maybe that's not a bad thing.  Maybe that keeps us from totalitarian beliefs and ideals that will ultimately lead us wrong.  Maybe gray areas are our own version of checks and balances; a way to make sure we don't forcefully believe in one thing so strongly that we lose sight of the bigger picture.  Sounds good anyway, whether or not it's actually put into practice.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Movie Trailer - Violet & Daisy

Director: Geoffrey Fletcher
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Alexis Bledel, James Gandolfini
Release: June 7th, 2013

This is Fletcher's directorial debut, his only other work being the screenwriter for Precious.  And I'm going to give him a solid "no".  It's just a trailer, but I think it looks rather awful.  Add in the fact that I really don't like Saoirse Ronan (City of Ember, The Way Back), and I think I'll pass.

Movie Review - Hell

Director: Tim Fehlbaum
Starring: Hannah Herzsprung, Stipe Erceg, Lisa Vicari
Year: 2011

I love stumbling across a great movie that I didn't even know existed until it happened to catch my eye on IMDb.  Hell is definitely one of those films; it was just pure luck that led me to it.  It's a German film, but it was produced by native German Roland Emmerich, who directed Stargate, Independence Day, Godzilla, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 B.C., 2012, and White House Down.  And I know that's a list of fairly horrible movies, but keep in mind that Emmerich didn't direct this one, he just got it up and running.  The only thing Hell has is common with those movies is that it's post-apocalyptic, so the disaster theme is present.  But it's not an American summer blockbuster by any means; it's a brutally simple survival story that somehow flew under the radar.

Set in the near future, the planet is nearly unrecognizable from the one we live on today.  The world has changed; the sun is more active, the atmosphere is hotter, and life on Earth is struggling to survive.  The crops and animals have all died, and only a few humans remain scattered across the globe, scratching out whatever existence the can manage.  A trio travels the countryside attempting to find water; Phillip, Marie, and Leonie.  They believe that life is flourishing high in the mountains above the tree line, but to get there they must cross a barren landscape where the searing sun threatens them every step of the way.  When they meet Tom and combine their meager supplies with his, things seem to be looking up.  But as they travel they realize that they're not the only group fighting for life, and that humanity has become savagely desperate in the attempt.

I really liked this movie; it was just so surprising.  I had never heard of it, didn't expect it, and was so glad I had watched it when I was finished.  That doesn't happen often enough.  It was an extremely simple story; survival at its most basic.  There was no wasted dialogue, no silly action; it was bare bones, raw, and real.  I love post-apocalyptic movies anyway, and the idea wasn't extremely original, but it was just done so cleanly that I didn't mind if I'd seen similar stories.  The Road comes to mind, and that was darkly realistic too, but it was an allusion of so many things, while Hell was more directly a tale of human perseverance.  As far as the acting goes, it's always hard to tell with foreign films because you're reading subtitles, but I bought into the characters and was on the edge of my seat the whole way through.  There was a terrifying awareness that at any moment some or all of the characters could die, like a brooding creepy feeling that I just couldn't shake.  It was a disturbingly realistic movie that was both entertaining and thought-provoking, and you don't see that every day.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Movie Trailer - Midnight's Children

Director: Deepa Mehta
Starring: Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Rajat Kapoor
Release: May, 2013

This film is based on the acclaimed novel by Salman Rushdie.  And he wrote the screenplay and narrates, so it should be a great representation of the book.  I saw him on The Daily Show, and he was really interesting.  However ...I just don't care about India.  I know it's awful, but I just don't care.  That's a history that I've never studied and am not that curious about.  I'm seen Gandhi, I know the basics, and I guess I'm not excited to know more.  Call me ethnocentric, but my focus is usually on European history and not Asian.  So, if you read the book then you should see the movie.  But I doubt I will.

Movie Review - The Great Gatsby

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan
Year: 2013

I was very surprised when The Great Gatsby got such terrible reviews.  It had just been out for a couple days and already it was getting slammed by audiences and critics alike.  I just couldn't believe it; wasn't this the same film who's trailer had me and everyone I knew wanting to rush to the theatre that day?  What could be so awful that it would get such bad critique across the board?  I assumed it wasn't Baz Luhrmann's style, because people would be expecting that.  After all, if you've seen Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!, or Australia you know what to expect from his movies; larger than life characters & costumes, contemporary music, brilliant colors, basically a beautifully over the top interpretation of a simple story.  And it couldn't be Leo; everyone loves him and we generally acknowledge that he's a great actor.  No, there must be something about the film that the trailer doesn't hint at, and that must be the problem.  Well, I had to go see the film for myself, and when I did it was glaringly obvious, to me anyway, what that problem was.

Most of you will already know the classic story of Gatsby, but for those of you who may not have read the novel since high school, here's a quick refresher.  'The Great Gatsby' was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald is 1925, and is based on American life in the roaring 20s.  Set in New York City and Long Island, the story is told by Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and WWI veteran who is trying to make it in the booming stock business.  When he moves next door to the illustrious Jay Gatsby, he enters into the world of the rich and begins to meet the young millionaires who now run society.  Nick's cousin Daisy, her husband Tom, and her golf-pro friend Jordan all join Nick and Gatsby in this crazy new life, setting into motion events that will change all their futures.  A secret is revealed; that Gatsby and Daisy were once star-crossed lovers who are still in love, despite time apart and her new family.  Nick is at the center of this whirlwind romance, he is every one's confidant, and he is powerless to stop the tragedies of life that seem to follow closely behind these beautiful, young, wealthy, passionate people who's every wish is attainable, but at a cost.

First, let's touch on the positives.  Luhrmann's script and directing were excellent.  The story held mostly to the book, the action was exciting, the costumes & sets were brilliant, and overall it was a visually stunning movie.  I know some people don't, but I like his style.  And since I was prepared for it I also liked the pop music and the over the top scenes.  I have recently reread the book, and although it is excellent, it leaves a lot to the imagination.  Fitzgerald talks about the parties, the cars, the women, the times, but he doesn't paint them clearly.  You have to do that yourself, and I think Luhrmann showed them to us very well, albeit through his own vision.  But it was nice to see a vibrant version of the book, because it must have been a vibrant time to live in.  If you've ever seen the 1974 version starring Robert Redford you've seen almost the exact opposite, and I'll take Luhrmann's version any day.

And the acting was terrific.  Leo was spot on as always.  He brought just the right amount of swagger as a young tycoon and just the right amount of uncertainty as a man in love.  He was the highlight of the film, and I believed him every step of the way.  He was surrounded by a pretty good cast as well.  I liked Carey Mulligan as Daisy; she was vulnerable, frightened, and malleable.  She had a hidden strength and intelligence that the book made clear she was keeping locked away on purpose, and that came across clearly.  And the big surprise of the film was Joel Edgerton as Tom, who I really don't know very well, but who did a fantastic job.  He was so insecure and overly abrasive, just like he reads in the novel.  So the cinematography, vision, and acting weren't the problems at all.  The worst part of the movie, by far, was Tobey Maguire.

He's just not a great actor.  He has been fine in many movies (Pleasantville, The Cider House Rules), but in them he was basically just being himself, not the character.  He is a young-looking, naive-seeming man, and when that is called for in a movie he does just fine.  As Nick, he was a fairly good casting, because he is supposed to be along for the ride, a narrator and a witness.  So I didn't have much problem with Maguire being there, but things went down hill when he talked.  And did he ever talk.  For no reason I can fathom his role was extremely prominent.  Not only was he basically the lead, but he also did voice overs and flashbacks.  They had him in a sanatorium telling his story to a doctor as a form of therapy and then writing it all down.  Fine, but you can't have Tobey Maguire as a lead in the movie, the narrator of the movie, and throw in extra scenes that aren't in the book just so you can give him more lines.  It failed horribly.  Leo should have been the lead hands down; after all he is Gatsby.  But Maguire was present way too much, and it ruined the flow, the believability, and the quality of the acting.  It brought the film down from an interested retelling of the book to a cheap Hollywood knockoff.

The Great Gatsby wasn't as bad as some critics are saying it was.  It also wasn't as good as I had imagined it would be.  It was a fine film version of a great book that, of course, won't be as good as the novel.  It could have been so much better than it was if only they had toned down the Maguire.  Not that he's awful, but he can't support that much heavy lifting, and his weakness showed to the point that it hurt the film irreparably.  I just wish they had done away with the unnecessary flashbacks, or the overdone voice overs, or the words of the novel flashing across the screen.  It was too much, and with Luhrmann's style already a lot to handle, we couldn't take so many vibrant pieces all at once.  It hurts me to say that I'm hoping someone will make another version of the novel, one that is more exciting than the old one and more controlled than the new one.  That would be a movie to see.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Movie Trailer - Kiss of the Damned

Director: Xan Cassavetes
Starring: Josephine de La Baume, Milo Ventimiglia
Release: May, 2013

I'm not huge into vampire movies, but this one looks alright.  At least it seems edgy & sexy, not juvenile & silly.  And I actually like that I don't know the director or the actors; that adds a sense of intrigue because I don't know what I'm getting into.  So, it looks cool, we'll see.

DVD Review - Stand Off

Director: Terry George
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Colm Meaney, Martin McCann
Year: 2011

I'm a strong believer that there is a difference between a "film" and a "movie".  A film is artistic, it's a statement, it relies heavily on great acting and great directing.  A film has deeper meaning than what you see on screen, and it's tailor made to be discussed and picked apart.  A movie is entertaining, it's a fun time, it relies on mostly action, either comedic or intense.  A movie can be taken at face value, and the less you critique it the more enjoyable it is.  Now, some actors can switch back and forth between films and movies with little effort; Tom Hanks, for example, can move from funny to dramatic, heavy to lighthearted.  Others seem to be married to the film category; Daniel Day-Lewis comes to mind, as serious of an actor as you will ever see.  But on the other side of the coin there's Brendan Fraser.  He's attempted some serious acting, but his filmography is heavy with "movies": Encino Man, Airheads, George of the Jungle, Bedazzled, Monkeybone, and now Stand Off.  So the question isn't whether this picture is a film or a movie, but whether it's as entertaining as The Mummy or as awful as Dudley Do-Right.

The Movie

Set in Ireland, this crime caper comedy is a fast-paced story of a number of plans gone wrong.  The trouble starts with Jimbo, a luckless and penniless new father who is in way over his head.  He owes a ton of money to a man you really don't want to be indebted to, Mad Dog Flynn.  Mad Dog is a known criminal, and when Jimbo can't pay his debt the stakes are raised; Flynn now wants his son.  With the help of his friend, his friend's grandpa, and his friend's grandpa's car, Jimbo decides that he has no choice but to rob a fish market, pay off his debt, and save his family.  Little does he know that the burglary will not be a simple grab & dash, or that his problems are about to increase.  When he attempts to hide out in a local shop until the heat has passed, his troubles become enmeshed with Joe's, an American who's life is just as complicated as Jim's.

Joe Maguire is on the run from problems of his own.  He has left a crazy situation back in the States; a wife who wants to and nearly did kill him.  Taking refuge in Ireland at his cousin's shop, all he wants is to lay low, enjoy the country, and move on from a life that had been spinning out of control.  At first, things seem to be going swimmingly when he meets a beautiful woman named Sophie and they hit it off so well.  But when Irish Gypsies begin to bother him, when Mad Dog Flynn stops by his shop, and when Jimbo enters into his life, his vacation in Ireland quickly turns into anything but.  Add in a veteran detective, his rookie-cop son, an angry Irish mother, and a bunch of thugs with a bazooka, and you're in for a wild ride.

This movie is almost three for the price of one.  The first half an hour is a fast-paced Irish crime comedy with awesome characters, entertaining accents, and story lines that are too ridiculous to be made up.  If you liked Snatch you'll enjoy the first third of this movie; it's similar enough to be considered a ripoff, down to the Pikeys.  It's fun, silly, surprising, and quite enjoyable.  The second half an hour is one step down, but still pleasant in its own right.  It's more of a drama, where we start to get to the know the story, the driving force behind the plot, and more emotions are brought to the surface.  I actually started to connect with the characters and to care about what would happen to them when the dust settled.  But then the last third of the movie began, and everything went downhill.

The last half an hour of the movie was basically a bad action flick.  The comedy of the first third fizzled out, the pace faltered, and all the fun just disappeared.  The drama of the second part was left behind, the story was hurried through, and any emotions I was beginning to feel were ended.  And the blame for all this I sadly lay at Brendan Fraser's feet.  He dominated the end of the movie, and when he was called upon to step up his acting he was unable to do so.  And when he wasn't showing the world how not to act, the rest of the cast didn't do much to help.  They all fell flat, the momentum that had been build collapsed, and what we were left with was a shell of a movie that was too predictable to be acceptable.

Adding the three parts together we are left with a pretty confusing movie.  What started out as a cool crime caper turned into a mildly touching drama which then turned into a typical action flop.  So while I enjoyed the first hour of the film, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth, and it's Fraser-flavored.  I like the guy, but he's less an actor and more a person who sometimes appears in movies.  And speaking of, Stand Off turned out to be a fairly typical "movie".  It wasn't wonderful, but it was entertaining for the most part and taken at face value it had it's good points.  As long as you don't pick it apart too much it ended up being good but not great.  So I guess it falls somewhere in between The Mummy and Dudley Do-Right, wherever that strange place might be.


Video - Shot in standard HD widescreen, the video quality was what you would expect, and that was good.  However, for an action movie there was actually very little action, so there were very few opportunities to show off a high quality picture.  And late in the movie when the special effects were finally called upon they looked quite cheap.

Audio - Sound quality was high and well balanced.  There are two options on the DVD: English 5.1 Dolby Digital or English 2.0 Dolby Digital.  There are no language selection options and no subtitles available.

Extras - There is only one extra on the disc, and that is a trailer for the film itself.  Dull.

Final Thoughts

Rent itStand Off was a fairly typical Brendan Fraser movie.  It had its moments and there were times when I enjoyed myself, but overall it was just as good as his acting ability, and that's not what you want.  The video was fine, the audio was good, and the extras were nonexistent.  And while I liked the beginning, the end brought me down, and I was left feeling a little disappointed.  So if you're willing to give a "movie" a partial pass, then you could do worse.

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