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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Movie Trailer - Labor Day

Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin
Release: January 31st, 2014

With such great actors as Winslet & Brolin, I just assumed this would be an excellent film.  It's getting Oscar buzz, it's high emotion, but I've got to say, I think it looks bad.  I wasn't expecting sappy romance or Tobey McGuire narration.  It looks more like Bridges of Madison County and less like No Country For Old Men.  I have serious doubts about this one.

Sports - 2013 NFL Picks, Week 9

Here are my NFL Week 9 Picks
(12-1 last week, 82-38 for the season)
Bye teams: Ari, Den, Det, Jax, NYG, SF

Cin @ Mia - Everyone is ready to anoint the Bengals as the Super Bowl champions, which should mean that they lose this game & look completely befuddled.  Cinci needs to buck the trend of losing to bad teams, and I think this is the week they do it vs a pretty bad Dolphins team.

KC @ Buf - The Chiefs showed that they are beatable last week in a close win over the Brownies.  They're not an elite scoring team and so are always one defensive lapse away from a loss.  That said, their D is the best in the league and I don't see them letting the Bills score much.

Atl @ Car - There's not much hope for the Falcons as they are in a free fall & can't win on the road.  The Panthers boast the league's stingiest defense and will be after Matty Ice all day.  I think it's about time for Atlanta to admit defeat & trade Tony Gonzalez.  Why not, right?

Min @ Dal - This one would be a no-brainer if it weren't for Dallas' penchant for finding a way to lose.  But Romo & the Boys score a ton of points (2nd only to Denver), win at home (3-1), get to play an awful Vikings team that seems to be constantly confused, and should win this game.

NO @ NYJ - The Jets are confusing, beating the Pats one week & getting creamed by the Bengals the next.  They definitely prefer to play at home, which is in their favor, but I think the Saints will prove too much for them.  If Andy Dalton can light them up what can Drew Brees do?

Ten @ STL - I like what I saw from the Rams last week, almost beating the Seahawks.  The trouble is, they have Kellen Clemons as their QB & he can only take them so far.  I think they have enough in their favor to win this game, one that could be the most evenly matched of the week.

SD @ Was - The only team that has allowed more points this year than Washington is Jacksonville.  That's not the sort of company you want to be in.  After getting lit up by Peyton & the Broncos last week, I look for the Redskins to lose in similar fashion to Phillip & the Chargers.

Phi @ Oak - The Raiders are playing decent ball under the radar.  Their defense is solid, they do very well at home, but their offense just doesn't score enough points.  Pryor has a ton of ability, but he needs to get into the endzone more if this team has any hope of making a late season playoff run.

TB @ Sea - This could be a sad, sad game.  The Seahawks are unbeaten at home & boast the 3rd highest net points on the season.  The Bucs on the other hand are winless & score less per game than everyone except the Jaguars.  This could be a big blowout with Seattle getting yet another win.

Bal @ Cle - This one's a toss-up, as neither team is playing well & no one seems to have the advantage.  The Brownies gave KC a run for their money last week so maybe that gives them the confidence needed to beat the Super Bowl champs who aren't playing like an elite team right now.

Pit @ NE - People want to say that Tom Brady is washed up & that the Pats are no good, but they're still one of the best teams in the AFC even though they're not playing lights out.  Their D is strong, Brady finds ways to win, and they'll only get better every week until the playoffs.

Ind @ Hou - The Colts are coming off a bye week & a big win over the Broncos.  The Texans are coming off five straight losses.  Even though these division games tend to be tight, I don't see much of a competition in this one as Luck & Indy have the much better team & should win.

Chi @ GB - Earlier in the year I'm sure this looked like a great MNF matchup, but not so much anymore.  The Bears are hurting, with Cutler out & McCown in.  The Pack, meanwhile, are hot & undefeated at home.  It's still a good rivalry, but this game should be all Green Bay all the time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Movie Trailer - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Director: The Russo Brothers
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson
Release: April 4th, 2014

I will never understand comic books.  I read novels so I can picture a story.  I watch movies so I can see a story.  I don't like comics because I don't want to see still images of the story I'm imagining.  All or nothing, I don't want some crappy in-between version.  And so, of course, I don't like comic book movies.  But even if I was more open to them they almost always suck, combining bad actors with bad action and bad dialogue.  Why would I watch this movie?  And more importantly, why would you?

Movie Review - Bad Grandpa

Director: Jeff Tremaine
Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll
Year: 2013

If you were a teenager in the early 2000s and you watched a little MTV you probably remember Jackass.  It was a ridiculous show in which idiots did stupid things, but for some reason it was wonderful.  Maybe it was the cast, a bunch of buddies that enjoyed hurting themselves and making unsuspecting passersby extremely uncomfortable: Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Wee Man, and of course Johnny Knoxville.  The TV show would spawn a few movies and launch Knoxville into semi-stardom, eventually leading to Bad Grandpa, a Jackassesque film that is a fake movie and a reality show all rolled into one.  It may not have the wild stunts that the original program had and it doesn't star the old gang, but the Candid Camera feel is still alive, the gross-out factor is still high, and there's a bit of magic left.

Surprisingly there's a tiny story that flows throughout the movie, even though most of the participants don't know they're on camera.  Knoxville plays Irving, a dirty old man whose wife has just died.  Free at last, he plans to make the most out of what life is left to him, but there's a complication.  His crackhead daughter is on her way to jail, leaving behind a boy who needs shipped to his father.  Irving grudgingly takes his grandson Billy on a wild road trip across the country in order to get him off his hands once & for all.  But he never suspected that this little man might be a perfect partner in crime; helping him to steal food, hit on girls, carry bodies, win money, and ultimately enjoy a grandpa/grandson relationship that neither of them had ever known.  When they reach their destination, they will have a tough decision to make; do they go their separate, boring ways or return to their hell-raising, bond-forming adventure.

If you were a fan of Jackass chances are you'll enjoy Bad Grandpa.  It's not exactly the same, as there's a lot less physical injury and a lot more fake-out.  But the heart of the pranks remain the same; feces-flying, balls-swinging, curses-shouting fun that is intended to shock, entertain, and generally amuse the people making the show even more that audiences.  That's one thing that makes these guys great; they're doing this for themselves and they're having a great time.  There's something contagious in the fun they're having that makes you laugh along, even when you feel embarrassed & uncomfortable.  And there are a lot of those moments, times when you wish you could turn away because you feel so bad for the unsuspecting victims, but you just can't.  No one gets harmed in what is ultimately good natured humor, but I sure wouldn't have wanted to be in the dark when some old man and his brat destroyed my friends' wedding or asked me to put a corpse in a car trunk.

The movie itself was so-so, though they weren't out to win any Oscars.  Knoxville was solid as Irving and Nicoll was pretty convincing as Billy, but neither of them are amazing actors.  They come off as guys doing a good job keeping a straight face in comedic situations, which is exactly what they were.  The film was funny throughout, but there were not many moments when I lost it or thought it was incredibly hilarious.  I laughed a lot, so they got me, but it was more continuous chuckling then a ton of laughing out loud.  They kept the movie short, which was important, because the jokes started to get a little old by the end and there wasn't much left to be done or said.  The horny grandpa & potty-mouthed kid routine worked, but I was ready for them to be done just in time for the end.  And at the end there were some great outtakes, which actually made the movie a little better, making me feel like I was in on the joke and not being tricked by it.  All in all a funny film that's not going to be on my list of top comedies, but one that I enjoyed & would recommend, if with care.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Movie Trailer - A Perfect Man

Director: Kees Van Oostrum
Starring: Liev Schrieber, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Joelle Carter
Release: November 1st, 2013

This movie looks absolutely horrible.  First off, the actors aren't good ones.  Next, the premise is contrived.  And lastly, it's supposed to have the answers to all of life's questions?  Lo dudo.  I think I'll pass & you ought to too.

Movie Review - Martha Marcy May Marlene

Director: Sean Durkin
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson
Year: 2011

I'll try not to make any Full House references in this review, but it's got to be noted that Elizabeth Olsen is the little sister of twins Mary-Kate & Ashley.  Along with two other movies in 2011, she made her film debut in this one and has moved on to some pretty big projects: the Oldboy remake & another Godzilla movie.  So watching this film I tried to give her a little bit of slack knowing that she's an amateur actor and that the part of an escaped cult member can't be an easy one to play.  She ended up delivering a solid performance and showed why she might someday be a big star.  As hard as it is to define, some people have that "it" factor, and I believe that Olsen is one of them.

Martha, of Marcy May as she's called by her new friends, is a girl searching for something that is apparently hard to find.  Young, alone, and impressionable, she joins a commune starting a sustainable farm that seems to have all the happiness in the world.  They are led by Patrick, a charismatic leader who takes all the women in the group under his wing and teaches them how to be leaders themselves.  But there is a price to pay to be a part of the family; hard work, rules, and a giving of yourself that will not be easy.  When Martha finds that her new life is one she can't handle anymore, she turns to her estranged sister and brother-in-law, Lucy & Ted.  They lead a respectable, wealthy existence and Martha's new lifestyle is one that doesn't mesh.  As she attempts a return to normalcy, 'Marcy May' can't escape her old habits or the constant fear that her past will find her.

For a young actress, Olsen delivers a very nice character that is both believable and haunting.  It's an understated performance in an understated movie, and that always makes me a happy audience member.  The horror and the scars of the cult are well portrayed, but not made into a Hollywood farce.  And John Hawkes as the cult leader it spot on; creepy, engaging, and alluringly evil.  Olsen & Hawkes together work well, as do Olsen & Paulson, and the present day scenes are intermixed quite nicely with the past in a way that isn't tricky but is very enjoyable to watch.  There's nothing in the film that will blow you away, but it's a tight movie with real emotion that truly shows the torture of paranoia and the difficulty of fitting in when your life has been anything but normal.  Not as easy watch, but one that is compelling, realistic, and memorable.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Monday, October 28, 2013

Movie Trailer - Charlie Countryman

Director: Fredrik Bond
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelson
Rupert Grint, Melissa Leo, Vincent D'Onofrio, John Hurt
Release: November 15th, 2013

This film might not end up being that great, but at least it caught my attention.  I like seeing Shia in an edgy role, although I'm not sure I'll like seeing ERW do a fake accent.  Who knows, maybe it'll all add up to a good movie, but I'd say that's 50/50.

Movie Review - Meet the Parents

Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo
Year: 2000

Some people really don't like Ben Stiller, and I get that.  He's done some really dumb movies, ones that deserve your ire.  Duplex, Along Came Polly, The Heartbreak Kid; all very bad films.  But Meet the Parents isn't one of them.  If you're not a fan of Stiller because you didn't like There's Something About Mary, then you've got to give this one a chance.  Every once in a while a cast just clicks, the chemistry between a duo just works, and the movie becomes an unexpected success because of it.  That's what happened here.  This isn't your typical stupid Stiller comedy complete with semen jokes.  This is something more, a very honest & hilarious movie that features one phenomenal actor who loosened up and one passable comedian who elevated his game & toned down the dumb.  Films like this don't come along every day and they deserve a leap of faith.

Gaylord "Greg" Focker is a man on a mission and what he wants is simple; for his future in-laws to like him.  He is planning to propose to his live-in girlfriend Pam but has to put it on hold when her sister suddenly announces her own wedding.  So heading to the Byrnes household for the weekend might not be the perfect place to pop the question, but it will give Greg the opportunity to meet the parents & to win them over.  The problem is Jack, Pam's over-protective father.  Before Greg gets his blessing he must prove that he is deserving of joining the Byrnes family "Circle of Trust", whatever that might entail.  And as events outpace the well-meaning Greg, he begins to dig himself deeper & deeper into the shit; spray painting a cat, catching the house of fire, discussing breast pumps, and generally making an ass out of himself when all he wants to do is survive the weekend and win the approval of his future family.

Rarely has a movie been more quotable than Meet the Parents.  Line after perfect line fall into place & get stuck in your head for days.  Yes, some of the humor is physical, but the funniest parts of this movie are deep within the dialogue, especially between Greg & Jack, two men that both mean well but never quite say the right thing.  Am I saying that a Ben Stiller movie is witty?  Yes, yes I am.  You've got to give it a shot in order to see it, but what you'll get is comedy that's unlike his other films, humor that goes above dumb jokes and becomes movie line history.  And the script aside, the actors deliver excellent performances, ones that are obvious stretches but are pulled off beautifully.  Stiller & De Niro are the perfect pair, feeding off each other & literally making audiences uncomfortable with the believability of the situation.  A comedy unlike any others, Meet the Parents is worth your time, worth your laughter, and will be one of the most memorable movies you're likely to see.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Movie Trailer - Hercules: The Legend Begins

Director: Renny Harlin
Starring: Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins
Release: March 2014

I can't remember the last time I saw a worse trailer.  It just looks so awful it's hard to put into words.  Did you want to rip off every movie ever made that included Romans, Greeks, swords, jumping?  It all starts to make a little more sense when you realize who the director is; the brilliant mind behind Deep Blue Sea, Cliffhanger, Driven, and Cutthroat Island.

Movie Review - Oldboy

Director: Chan-wook Park
Starring: Min-sik Choi, Hye-jeong Kang, Ji-tae Yu
Year: 2003

I first heard about Oldboy as a remake.  The film is coming out in a month, starring Josh Brolin & Elizabeth Olsen, and looks pretty awesome.  I marked it as one I would definitely see in the theatre, but I just assumed I'd never check out the original Korean version of the movie made ten years earlier.  But when it randomly appeared on Netflix Instant, I thought I'd give it a try before I saw the American version, even if it gave away the plot.  Well, thank you Netflix.  Not only was it cool to see the story done in its original language & country, but it was actually one of the better movies I've seen in quite some time.  I think in the future I'll be quicker to give foreign films a chance, especially ones that Hollywood knows are good enough to rip off.

The main character of the movie is Oh Dae-su.  He is an unexceptional man, has a wife, a daughter, no big deal.  But for some unfathomable reason, he is kidnapped, kept in a room with only a TV for company, and left to rot for fifteen years.  He is fed the same food every day, patched up when he tries to kill himself, and generally taken care of in a horribly grotesque way.  And then suddenly he is set free.  He doesn't know why, he doesn't know the reason he was imprisoned, and he has only one thing on his mind; revenge.  Dae-su begins to unravel the mystery of his torture with the help of a beautiful stranger, the kind Mi-Do.  The two embark on a very odd journey, one that will lead to truths better left unknown.

I was stunned watching this movie.  I just had no idea it would be this good.  The story was just so interesting, so quick, so tricky, and yet not cheap & overworked.  As an audience member, I was forced to think for myself, which I love, and I appreciate when a director takes the time to not explain all the details and every decision, allowing me to work through the problems with the actors as my guides.  And the acting was excellent.  Most of the dialogue came from the three main actors, with a little narration that was actually nice, not overbearing.  The movie was funny, disgusting, beautiful, shocking, a complete surprise and a film that was well executed from start to finish.  I can't wait to see the remake if it is anywhere near as excellent as the first Oldboy.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, October 25, 2013

Movie Trailer - Belle

Director: Amma Asante
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson
Release: May 2nd, 2014

This looks pretty good, if you're into period pieces.  It doesn't seem like it has much else going for it other than being an interesting part of a genre.  The message seems clear and those enjoying romance will probably like it, so who knows, maybe it'll be alright.

Movie Review - The Playroom

Director: Julia Dyer
Starring: John Hawkes, Molly Parker, Olivia Harris
Year: 2012

For some reason I like movies made or set in the 70s.  They have a certain feel that I enjoy, a quality that represents that time period very well.  This film has been compared to another modern movie set in the 70s, The Ice Storm.  Done in 1997, that film was directed by Ang Lee, who would go on to create excellent films like Brokeback Mountain, Lust Caution, and Life of Pi.  He's a great director and had some great actors in that film.  I ended up liking it, perhaps not loving it, and I had the same reaction to The Playroom.  With such a great backdrop for your movie, with such angst & undertones, I'm left feeling a little disappointed that Julia Dyer didn't knock this one out of the park.  This was only her second film, so maybe she needs a little practice.

Meet the Cantwells; a wealthy suburban family who have more problems than can be explored in 90 minutes.  The father, Martin, is a lawyer and a bit of a pushover.  The mother, Donna, is a drinker and fairly non-present.  The kids, Sam, Janie, Christian, and Maggie are pretty fed up with their parents, though they've learned to adapt and to take care of themselves.  Maggie is the acting mother, getting the kids to bed and helping them with their homework, all while exploring her new found teenage independence and the sexual world of pre-adulthood.  When her parents have yet another couples' party with the Knotts, Maggie's anger and some family secrets come out of hiding, while the children escape from trouble in the playroom, the only place that is their own.

It's a really heavy story, with major family issues, infidelity, resentment, young love.  There's a lot to process in a short amount of time, but it does feel very real.  The movie did end up looking a lot like The Ice Storm but with a few more flaws and a bit less depth.  I liked the story, and the first half of the film was very interesting.  I lost a little interest once Olivia Harris took over the film.  She was really one note and looked bad when acting alongside Hawkes & Parker, who were both excellent.  She dragged the quality down a little, but her role was a lot to ask from an actor who's never done another movie.  So for her first and only film, I guess she did alright.  The ending was amateur, and the blame for that goes to the director.  I don't need a long voice-over at the end, I don't need everything spelled out.  That's what actors are for, relaying the story to me through their characters, not through speeches.  All in all, there were some really nice moments & a few good scenes, but it wasn't an extremely professional film.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Movie Trailer - Endless Love

Director: Shana Feste
Starring: Gabriella Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Bruce Greenwood
Release: February 14th, 2014

This is a remake of the 1981 classic starring Brooke Shields.  I never saw that one, but I like this contemporary-looking version of the film.  It looks pretty typical; rich girl, poor boy, forbidden love.  But I also think it looks kinda good.  It probably won't be, but I kinda want to see it.

Sports - 2013 NFL Picks, Week 8

Here are my NFL Week 8 Picks
(7-8 last week, 70-37 for the season)
Bye teams: Bal, Chi, Hou, Ind, SD, Ten
Car @ TB - The Panthers defense is something else.  They only allow 14 points per game, second best in the league.  And coincidentally, the winless Bucs only score 14 points per game, second worst in the league.  So as long as Carolina can score 15, 16 points they should be good to go.

Dal @ Det - Tony Romo & the 'Boys are on a little win streak and are leading their division.  Matt Stafford & the Lions just lost but are only half a game behind the Pack in the NFC North.  Dallas doesn't play well on the road and Detroit loves being at home, so they have the slight edge.

SF @ Jax - How much longer can we just pick the Jags to lose?  One more at least.  Jacksonville is pathetic; no one has scored fewer or allowed more points this season.  The Niners are on a roll, winning their last four.  I don't think this one will be much of a contest.

Cle @ KC - Another lopsided game.  The Browns are a mess, starting Jason Campbell this week against the best defense in the league.  The Chiefs aren't amazing, but they're the only undefeated team in the league and this won't be their week to lose.

Mia @ NE - The Dolphins aren't as good as people though they were, losing three after winning three.  The Pats are coming off a loss as well, a surprising game against the Jets.  Look for them to play mad, physical, and stay undefeated at home.  Brady is still Brady after all.

Buf @ NO - The Saints lost a big game last week on the road vs the Pats.  But they always win at home and will be playing angry.  The Bills have been forgettable since E.J. Manuel got hurt, though they did win last week in Miami.  Not a blowout maybe, but a win for New Orleans.

NYG @ Phi - That MNF game vs Minnesota was a sad one, but maybe it was just the boost the G-men needed to get going again.  The Eagles think Michael Vick will start this week, but they are winless at home & don't seem to have any of that magic left that we saw early in the season.

NYJ @ Cin - The Bengals have won their last three after starting 2-2.  They're winning their division, but have a penchant for close games and upsets.  They can be trusted at home though, even with the loss of CB Leon Hall and the Jets coming in hot, having beaten the Patriots last week.

Pit @ Oak - Big Ben and the Steel-men have been coming to life recently.  They've won their last two, including a big win vs Baltimore.  The Raiders are out of the playoffs for all intends & purposes and don't have the team Pittsburgh does.  Look for a dirty game that ends close.

Atl @ Ari - I picked the Cards to upset last week and was dead wrong.  I'll try them again one more time cause I think they have it in them.  The Falcons don't win on the road, and I know they looked like they had it together last week, but all their injuries will take a big toll.

Was @ Den - Going into it, everyone knew the Broncos were going to have a tough time with the Colts.  Emotions were high in Indy, Peyton was a little off, and Denver lost.  I think they bounce back this week in a big way.  The Redskins aren't pushovers, but I think Manning takes it to them.

GB @ Min - Wow the Vikings are a mess.  No Ponder, no Cassel, they pick up Freeman, he's hurt, back to Ponder.  Enough is enough.  Rodgers, please go into Minnesota and score 40 points and show them what a real quarterback does.  This game shouldn't even be close.

Sea @ STL - With Sam Bradford done for the year, the Rams ought to be too.  Whoever they throw into the fire is going to get creamed by a Seattle defense that is super solid & knows how to win games.  Russell Wilson should have a nice game and the Seahawks should roll.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Movie Trailer - That Awkward Moment

Director: Tom Gormican
Starring: Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Imogen Poots
Release: January 31st, 2014

Warning; this is a Red Band trailer so it's extra adult.  2nd Warning; this movie is going to be bad.  It just looks juvenile & pointless, with a plot that's been done before.  It's also got a first-time director, which is probably why it looks second-hand.  Skip it.

Movie Review - Nine

Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz
Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Fergie Duhamel, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson
Year: 2009

I get a little nervous when I see a cast like this.  Some of the actors are excellent, like Day-Lewis & Cotillard.  And some are not so much, like Hudson & Fergie.  But talent sometimes doesn't even matter when you throw a thousand stars into a pot & stir.  Sometimes the product is awful regardless of the talent because it's just too much, there's too many pieces and all they can do is flounder around in what is usually a flaw-ridden film.  Rob Marshall, the director, also made me nervous since I hated Chicago so much and was afraid this movie would be an exact copy.  And it was, to some extent, but it's a film version of a play so he had only so much poetic license.  Anyway, I was worried I wouldn't end up liking this movie.  I did, but only just.

Guido, Guido, Guido; the story is all about Guido.  He is a famous director whose last movies have been flops and he's trying to make a comeback.  The problem is, production on the movie is beginning but he still has no idea what to make it about.  It doesn't help that his life is a mess.  His wife, Luisa, knows he's been unfaithful.  His mistress, Carla, is always in the back of his mind.  His muse, Claudia, serves as the inspiration for his films.  His costume designer, Lilli, is the only friend he's got.  And his mother is always with him in spirit, reminding him of his youth and the boy that is trapped inside the man.  In order to resurrect his career, Guido must confront all of these women, as they are his goddesses, his demons, and his reason for living.

There were too many things wrong with this movie for it to be great.  First, the story does have a Chicago feel, especially at the beginning, which might get some women on board.  But there is a very overt sexual tone throughout the film, showing women in alluring outfits, singing about their bodies, having affairs.  So while the style might attract women & the content might attract men, I don't see either sex falling in love with this movie.  The next problem was the singing.  The actors did their own songs, and that wasn't a good thing.  The music itself was bad, and then it was badly sung by Dench, Fergie, Loren, Cruz, Hudson, and even Day-Lewis.  You can't have a musical with forgettable songs & bad singers.

Now, Cotillard & Kidman were actually quite good, both singing and acting.  And of course Day-Lewis brought his A-game as he always does, despite a weird Italian accent.  So the scenes between he & the two women were nice; well done & believable.  Most of that and the rest of the drama happened during the second half, so I would definitely say the first half was bad & the second saved the day.  Because it didn't end up being a horrible movie.  It just felt amateur, like having Kate Hudson do a song & dance number.  And then Fergie, and then Cruz, and then Loren.  It was just too little talent in too much of the movie.  But when the movie settled down & the story got deeper I was drawn back in and found myself enjoying the experience.  So I guess my rating will reflect my combined feelings; half the movie stunk, half was excellent, leaving me right in the middle.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Movie Trailer - Non-Stop

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery
Release: February 28th, 2014

Oh Liam.  I mean, this movie shouldn't be good.  It has a silly plot & one of the worst actresses ever.  But somehow I still want to see it.  Neeson has that "it" quality that makes people want to like him & to like his movies, even if they're awful.

Thought - Stay-at-home

I hate home repair.  I have no idea what I am doing, it makes me feel totally inept, and I would much rather pay a professional a ton of money to just do the job for me.  Sadly, I'm an average American who can't afford to just hire someone to do minor repairs and so I find myself wading into the unknown world of pipes & screws more often than I would like.  On these occasions I often find myself wandering around Home Depot, searching in vain for the washer that will fix all my problems.  And when I'm there I invariably thank God, my wife, my luck, that I don't have to work there; that I have a much better job.

It's not Home Depot specifically that I would hate to work at, it's anywhere.  Catering to customers, sucking up to your bosses, trying to act busy when you're doing nothing, trying to appear knowledgeable and interested about subjects you hate.  I've worked hard at stupid jobs before, and I couldn't imagine doing it right now.  How much would I hate my life if I had to work a meaningless 9-5 where I didn't make a difference, where I didn't do something I was interested in, where I didn't have any fun, and where it wouldn't matter if I disappeared off the face of the Earth.  We wonder why people are depressed; look at what they have to do the majority of the time they're awake.

But not me.  I have a good job.  I stay at home, I keep the house running smoothly, I take care of my children, and I play for a living.  Not a bad way to spend your work week.  Quite often I read Facebook posts about the hard work of being a stay-at-home parent, how we're doing a large number of thankless jobs all at once for no pay and no time off.  And while this is pretty much true, we also have the best job in the world.  What we do matters, it makes a difference.  We get to interact with our kids & teach them every single day, shaping them into the adults they're going to be.  We get to play, make believe, color, dance, sing, wrestle, snuggle, watch movies, all with the people that we love most in the world.

Of course it's hard work staying at home.  I don't have to go into all the gross, tedious, and difficult tasks I have to do every single day; you can imagine.  But there are so many benefits, so many reasons why this is such an awesome job, especially when compared to what else I might be doing day in & day out.  So I'm the lucky one.  I'm lucky that my wife works hard to support our family, that my kids are fun to be around, that I get to see them more than most parents get to see their children, and that I don't have to work at some stupid job that I hate and that makes my life worse.  My job makes my life more enjoyable and not too many people can say that.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Movie Trailer - Foxcatcher

Director: Bennett Miller
Starring: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo
Release: November 14th, 2014

Wow.  Steve Carell looks insane.  It reminds me a little of Robin Williams in One Hour Photo except this is a true story.  I'm not a big Channing Tatum fan but I think that Mark Ruffalo is a highly underrated actor.  This is getting Oscar buzz & I think it's warranted.

Movie Review - The Island

Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Sean Bean
Year: 2005

When I remembered that The Island existed and that I had missed it I was excited.  I was looking forward to a cool dystopian plot, a great sci-fi vibe, and a good performance by Ewan McGregor.  What I forgot, apparently, was that Michael Bay is the director.  If I had known that I would have tempered my expectations and/or steered clear.  He's just not my style.  I guess I don't like action movies, or at least ones that totally ignore the basics that make good movies: a gripping story & some solid acting.  Michael Bay movies put those in the background or bury them under a pile of exploding crap: The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, all the Transformer films.  They all have a good story, they have some nice actors, but they were turned into awful movies by a director who has zero touch.  And The Island is no exception; the pieces are there but the construction is so bad that the final product leaves you wondering why you ever wasted your time.

The story follows Lincoln Six Echo, a unhappy man in a near perfect society.  He believes that he lives in a post-apocalyptic wolrd in which the survivors of some great contamination have been gathered together and are now living in a very sterile facility.  They work, they exercise, but they never leave the compound and they are under a strict set of rules.  Lincoln feels like there must be something more, that there must be answers to his never-ending questions.  Everything changes when Lincoln's friend Jordan Two Delta is chosen to go to the Island, the only safe place in the outside world, a perfect utopia for those lucky few.  But when Lincoln discovers that Jordan is actually going to be killed, he knows he must save her, save himself, and uncover the secrets behind this seemingly perfect world.

If the movie had just continued with the setup and focused on it for two hours I think I would have been happy.  The plot was really excellent and I wanted to know more, to understand this strange Huxley-like future.  But of course Michael Bay let his style take over the story and all hell broke loose.  The plot was abandoned, a thousand gunshots were fired, countless vehicles exploded, and at one point the main characters fell thirty stories and luckily landed in a net.  It was just ridiculous action and silly scenes.  I was so disappointed that the movie became not about the storyline but about the action.  That's not what I wanted.  Nor did I want Ewan McGregor to speak in an American accent or Scarlett Johansson to speak at all.  She is a horrible, horrible actress and cannot possibly be believable when she's trying to be serious.  She's done sexy & funny well, but not dramatic and emotional.  She was bad, the constant running was bad, and the movie turned out not to be as good as I had hoped.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton
Adrian Brody, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray
Release: March 7th, 2014

This could very well be the greatest movie ever made.

DVD Review - Night Tide

Director: Curtis Harrington
Starring: Dennis Hopper, Linda Lawson, Gavin Muir
Year: 1961

I first knew Dennis Hopper from Hoosiers, the drunk father with a good heart.  And then, for some reason, my family was forever saying "Choo Choo baby!", straight from those Nike commercials in the 90s.  It wasn't until later that I saw more of Hopper's films and began to appreciate him as an actor: Cool Hand Luke, True Grit, Super Mario Bros., Speed, Waterworld, Land of the Dead.  Some of those are pretty bad movies, but he always has a certain flair, a strange charm or likability that is hard to deny.  I had never heard of Night Tide; it's a good bit before my time & not quite my style.  But when I saw that it was one of Dennis Hopper's first films, I was excited to see him at such a young age.  So I expected to like him, but I did not expect to love this movie; a wonderfully surprising piece of cinema that I'm very glad I watched.

The Movie

The story revolves around a young man named Johnny Drake.  Johnny is fresh out of Denver, Colorado, a place he always longed to escape from.  Having no father, he was always close to his mother and therefor tied down to his home.  But after her death, he decided to see the world, and what better way to do that than to join the Navy.  So Johnny heads out and the first "exotic" place he takes leave in is California.  At a carnival on the pier he stops in at a local club and there sees the woman who will change his life.  Her name is Mora.  She is a Greek beauty, dark hair, enchanting accent, and Johnny is immediately taken by her.  They begin a budding romance, walking the beach together and enjoying the time they have.  All is going swimmingly, until dark secrets begin to emerge and Johnny finds that he is in over his head.

Mora is the star attractive at a sideshow in the carnival.  She plays a captured mermaid, lying under glass & supposedly under water, posing for passersby to see for twenty-five cents a peak.  It's an honest living and Mora seems to love her job, the sea, the moon, all things ocean, but soon rumors begin to reach Johnny's ears.  Captain Murdock, the owner of the show, tells him that he is in danger, that Mora is not what she appears to be, that her life is shrouded in mystery and horror.  And at the same time, a local girl named Ellen shares with Johnny that Mora has a sordid dating history, that the men she is seen with mysteriously disappear.  Poor young, naive Johnny doesn't know what to do with all of this information, and only one truth guides his decisions: that he loves this beautiful & captivating girl.  As the couple become more entwined, their passion will lead to a stunning climax.

I find it hard to put my finger on just what exactly it is that I loved about this movie.  One of the main reasons would have to be Dennis Hopper and a role that seemed tailor-made for him.  Johnny is just such a romantic, so blind to the danger that he is in, so willing to open his heart to someone that he barely even knows.  And Hopper plays the part so well, creating a character that is lovably dumb and totally believable.  Love does strange things, and Johnny is a perfect example of that, perfectly captured by a great actor.  I don't think I've ever seen Hopper better than he was in this film, and at such a young age.  The side characters were just fine, and Linda Lawson was solid as Mora, but Hopper stole the show and really made the movie a study on young love, not the horror/mystery that it was advertised as being.

That said, the film did have a wonderfully creepy vibe throughout that kept me entirely interested and invested until the end.  I wouldn't call it a thriller or a horror movie, at least when compared with others in that genre, but it definitely had a great undertone of suspense & mystery that was engaging and fun to watch.  The strange music, the black & white, the rundown carnival; all the elements came together to create a mood that served as a cool backdrop for a good story.  Ultimately, that story became the focal point and the relationship between Johnny & Mora became what was important, but the vibe, the unease, was always present and always keeping audiences on the edges of their seats.  There might not have been much blood or death, but it wasn't really needed, as no cheap tricks were needed to hide the flaws; there just weren't many.

OK, there were some.  Apart from Hopper & Lawson the acting was pretty bad.  The merry-go-round operator, the detective, the fortune-teller; all roles that were fairly unnecessary and done quite poorly.  Luckily, most of the movie featured intimate scenes between Johnny & Mora, so the bad side acting didn't detract too much from the film, especially if you remembered what year this movie was made in and gave it a little slack.  A little overacting here & there doesn't bother me if it's done for dramatic effect and done infrequently, and I thought the director reined in a plot that could have gotten out of hand had it been let to run wild.  But it stayed solid, the acting was nice, and the suspenseful story played out perfectly.  Night Tide is a great movie with a great feel that is hard to define.  Hopper brought a nice character to the film and added another level to what could have been just another mystery movie but was so much more.


Video - With as aspect ratio of 1.66:1, the video quality is what you'd expect from a film from the 60s that was restored from its original 35mm format.  The film is in black & white, and there are often times that the picture is darker than it ought to be, making some scenes hard to see.  Again, understanding the time period helps accept the slight flaws, but it's not a horrible picture.

Audio - The sound for the film was done in Mono and isn't wonderful.  There are many moments when the background music is too loud and the speech of the characters is too low.  On the DVD there is one audio option; a feature-length commentary by Dennis Hopper & Curtis Harrington.

Extras - There are a couple extras on the disc.  Curtis Harrington Interviews is a section that has two episodes of interviews done for a public access series called "Sinister Image": Program 1 & Program 2.  Also, there are three trailers: Night Tide, The Stranger, and White Zombie.

Final Thoughts

Highly RecommendedNight Tide delivers a feeling that is hard to capture combined with a wonderful performance from a young & talented actor.  It's creepy, heartfelt, and mysterious; a very enjoyable film that will surprise you.  The video was fine for a restoration, the audio was good as well but for a few flaws, and you get a couple of extras on the disc.  Overall, a hidden gem of a film & one that should please both movie-buffs and the passing fan.

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

Friday, October 18, 2013

Movie Trailer - Paradise

Director: Diablo Cody
Starring: Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, Octavia Spencer
Nick Offerman, Holly Hunter
Release: October 18th, 2013

I'm not sure what to say about this one.  Yes of course it looks awful and probably will be, but that seems so obvious.  Who thought up this movie & why was it made?  Oh, Diablo Cody, that might explains things.  She accidentally wrote one good movie in Juno and now she thinks she can direct Julianne Hough to greatness.  Not gonna happen.

Movie Review - Captain Phillips

Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi

Year: 2013

I recently saw Gravity, a film that some people are calling the movie of the year.  I felt a little bit differently about it and got some flack for it.  It was visually interesting, sure, but it lacked the simple things that I'm looking for in a movie to get me to love it: a good actor & a believable story.  That's pretty much all I need and I think that's what the average person wants too.  Give us a good plot with some good acting and you can throw away the digital effects and the artistic symbolism.  Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed many cool-looking and/or deep-thinking films, but at their core they've been well-acted fascinating stories.  And that's what Captain Phillips is.  It doesn't relay an incredibly poignant message, it doesn't wow audiences with special effects, and it doesn't blow any minds, but it delivers an amazing performance, a gripping plot, and enough detail to make us believe in the credibility of the story.  Not rocket science really, just solid film-making.

The titled Captain Phillips is an American cargo ship captain, a family man, and a hard worker.  His most recent job takes his boat around the coast of Africa and past the Somali coast.  Pirate activity in that area had been high & warnings had been sent out to all traffic, but the job came first and the ship remained on its course.  During a drill, Phillips and his crew spot two small boats coming up behind them and begin to fear for the worst.  When one boat turns back and the other loses power, the threat seems to be over.  But when one boat returns, Phillips knows that his worst nightmare is about to come true.  The hijackers board the ship, taking the Captain hostage while his crew hides in the engine room.  Attempting to negotiate with the pirates, Phillips agrees to go with them onto a lifeboat while a captured hijacker is brought up for exchange.  But when things go wrong Phillips finds himself a prisoner, a hostage to these desperate men, and his life hangs by a thread.

Captain Phillips delivered.  It gave me what I wanted and that's always appreciated.  The story was intense & realistic, the acting was (for the most part) top notch, and I was left feeling satisfied that I had seen a high quality film.  Director Paul Greengrass did a great job of conveying this story in a believable way, in a way that got me in the shoes of the characters on both sides and hooked me until the climax.  The action was nicely timed, not silly, and never cheap.  There weren't a lot of fake tugs at our heartstrings, which I appreciated, just real emotion well-portrayed.  And the majority of that credit goes to Tom Hanks.  He was excellent as Phillips; in charge but human, confident but afraid.  Hanks is an amazing actor, he really can be anyone, and this role didn't seem to give him even much of a challenge.  It wasn't incredibly deep or multifaceted, but it was solid and he pulled it off with ease.  None of the other actors were really on display except for Barkhad Abdi, and while he was fine Tom Hanks stole the show and made the movie.

In a way it was actually two movies.  The first half was about the ship, the threat of pirates, the way in which they would be dealt with, the fear as they boarded, the human element of negotiation.  That was where Hollywood stepped in, made a movie out of a true story.  And incidentally, a lot of the details of that part of the plot are being refuted.  Apparently Phillips ignored warnings, put his men in danger, and was basically despised by his crew.  But the film painted him as more of a hero, and since you & I don't know the truth we'll just have to assume both stories are partly right.  The second half of the movie was more of a learning experience.  The rescue was just so detailed; the procedures that were followed, the military involvement, the hierarchy of operatives.  We were basically behind the scenes in an intensive Navy mission and got to learn the language, the method, and the outcome.  Now, that wasn't my favorite part, but it was pretty interesting and I'll give them credit for switching back & forth between the details and the characters, putting faces behind statistics in a really nice way.  All in all, Captain Phillips was a solid movie.  I doubt it wins any Oscars, although Hanks stands a chance, but in my book it was far superior to Gravity.  That film didn't give me what I wanted, this one did, and I left the theatre feeling satisfied.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Invisible Woman

Director: Ralph Fiennes
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas
Release: February 7th, 2014

I'm not a big Dickens fan, but I could get behind this movie.  I like Ralph Fiennes and I enjoy a good period piece.  This is only his second attempt at directing, so we'll see how he does, but I think it could be a strong, long, emotional, but high-quality film.

Sports - 2013 NFL Picks, Week 7

Here are my NFL Week 7 Picks
(11-4 last week, 63-29 for the season)
Bye teams: NO, Oak

Sea @ Ari - This game might not be as lopsided as some might think.  The Cards went toe-to-toe with the Niners last week in San Fran, and this week they're home against a Seahawks team that is good but not dominant.  I smell an upset in Arizona to start another wild week.

TB @ Atl - Poor Falcons.  They're losing players & games faster than they can fathom and there's really no relief in sight.  With Julio out for the year & Roddy hurting, I don't see Hotlanta being very fiery.  However, the Bucs flat can't score, so Atlanta might get a home win here.

STL @ Car - The Rams are coming off a game in which they dominated the Texans in Houston.  But I'm not buying them yet.  Bradford is throwing TDs, which is a nice change, but the Panthers are playing tough D, allowing only 14 points per game, and Cam is playing well.

Cin @ Det - This is a simple matter of home & away.  The Bengals aren't good on the road and the Lions don't lose in Detroit.  Both teams are good (4-2 & winning their divisions) but I think the high-flying offense of the Lions will put up too many points for Dalton to match.

SD @ Jax - The Jaguars didn't roll over for the Broncos last week and for that they deserve a little respect.  But they're still horrible when it comes to points, scoring the 2nd least and allowing the 2nd most.  Rivers had an "off" game last week, but he'll rebound here and have a nice day.

Buf @ Mia - The surprising AFC East.  The Bills almost won last week vs the Bengals, but lost and are winless on the road.  The Dolphins are coming off a bye week and should be prepared.  Watch for RBs Miller & Thomas to get going and pound Buffalo out of Miami.

NE @ NYJ - The other two AFC East teams go head-to-head as well.  The Pats won a lucky thriller vs the Saints, and the Jets just got whooped by the then-winless Steelers.  So New England has all the momentum, most of the talent, and should find a way to win this game.

Dal @ Phi - The Cowboys are winless on the road and the Eagles are winless at home, so something's got to give.  Romo has been playing well, but a rash of injuries and two high-scoring games will wear his team out, so I think they hit the wall this week vs a good Eagles team.

Chi @ Was - The Bears defense is a turnover machine, going +7 for the season.  The Redskins are at -1, and I see this game being decided by that statistic.  RG3 just doesn't look right & Cutler is playing well, so the Redskins will stay winless at home with a loss here.

SF @ Ten - After surprising starts, these teams are going in opposite directions.  The Titans started hot and are sliding, while the Niners started slow and are hot.  It's going to be a tough road game, but the Kaepernick-Davis connection is working and this team should keep winning.

Cle @ GB - The Packers have been a little up-and-down this year, but they're coming off back-to-back wins and are undefeated at home.  Meanwhile, each week the Browns are one bad Weeden-decision away from losing.  He's not good, Aaron Rodgers is, and that should be enough.

Hou @ KC - Talk about polar opposites.  The Chiefs are a perfect 6-0, allow the least points in the league, and beat up each team they face.  The Texans are 2-4, having lost four in a row, and seem rather lost.  This game might only be close because that's Kansas City style.

Bal @ Pit - The Steelers are coming of their first win of the season & get to play at home to celebrate.  Problem is, the Ravens have come to town.  They're coming off a tough loss to the Packers and will be playing angry.  That's never a good thing for the team that gets the brunt of it.

Den @ Ind - I was ready to jump on the Colts bandwagon if they could beat the Chargers & the Broncos.  Well, they failed early.  They looked quite bad last week, and although so has the Broncos defense, I think Denver has a great shot at winning, especially with Von Miller back.

Min @ NYG - The Giants are doing a very, very bad job of playing football.  They are winless, pathetic, and have Adrian Peterson coming to town.  The Vikings will start former Buc Josh Freeman and will look to get their ground game going.  I think the G-men get their first win.