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!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Movie Trailer - Expecting

Director: Jessie McCormack
Starring: Radha Mitchell, Michelle Monaghan, Jon Dore
Release: December 6th, 2013

I expect this to be very bad for a multitude of reasons.  This is director Jessie McCormack's first movie.  Not good.  Both Mitchell or Monaghan have very little talent.  Not good.  And the plot seems beyond recycled, bordering on mundane.  No thank you.

Movie Review - The Wedding Singer

Director: Frank Coraci
Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Matthew Glave
Year: 1998

I know some people just don't like Adam Sandler.  And, hey, I might be one of them.  I didn't really enjoy Billy Madison, Waterboy, or 50 First Dates, and those are supposed to be his funny ones.  Of course no one liked Click, Mr. Deeds, Little Nicky, or his other ridiculously stupid movies.  But on a very rare occasion he gets it right.  He did it in Punch-Drunk Love and he did it here with The Wedding Singer.  He can act a little when he chooses to, when he's not just being a moron for the hell of it, and he can bring real emotion & real humor to a character as long as it's written well.  Robbie Hart the wedding singer was a part almost tailor-made for Sandler and he pulled it off.  Maybe you don't like him, maybe you think he's hilarious, but either way this is a film worth seeing.

Robbie is obsessed with marriage.  Not only is he a wedding singer but he's been talking about getting married since he was a kid.  He wants a wife, kids, a house, love, the whole package.  The only problem is, on the day of his own wedding his fiancee doesn't show, announcing that she's not in love with him any more.  Robbie spirals downward and writes off anything to do with love, even quitting his wedding gig job.  But a special someone might change his new outlook on life.  Her name is Julia and she too is thinking about weddings.  She's getting married soon to a rich asshole name Glenn who Robbie can't stand.  And when he starts to fall for Julia things really get screwed up, as she begins to question her choices & to see Robbie in a whole new light.  Will they get together, or will true love elude them forever?

First off, Adam Sandler does a terrific job in this film.  He tones down the stupid, he shows some real emotion, and he makes Robbie believable.  Drew Barrymore on the other hand, is pretty awful.  It seems like she just read the script and is reciting the lines for the first time.  The side characters, apart from Glenn, are really bad too, although there are a few cool cameos; John Luvitz, Steve Bushemi.  But when makes this movie great is the 80s vibe.  It's not exactly a spoof, but every 80s cliche is thrown in, joked about, and make to look ridiculous.  From Flock of Seagulls to Deloreans, no funky icon is left unmolested.  So take a simple love story, set it in 80s, add in Billy Idol, create some original humor, and you've got yourself The Wedding Singer, an enjoyable experience that barely stops itself from going over the top.  It's just dumb enough to laugh at but not idiotic enough to turn us off.  Get through the first 15 minutes, which are rough, and the rest will amuse you at the very least.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, November 29, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Pirate Fairy

Director: Peggy Holmes
Starring: Mae Whitman, Christina Hendricks, Tom Hiddelston
Release: March 3rd, 2014

Well, I've seen all the rest, might as well see this one too.  They really aren't that bad; kinda funny, fairly enjoyable, and my daughter loves them.  My favorite is Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, I gave it four stars.  Don't judge me.

DVD Review - St. Louis Cardinals Championship Collection

Presenter: Major League Baseball Productions
Studio: A&E Video
Year: 2013

When it came to baseball, my dad was always a St. Louis Cardinals fan.  He didn't grow up there, but it was his team as much as any native's.  Now, there are two types of sons: the rebels who would have rooted for the Cubs just out of spite and the ones who cheer for the same teams their dad always did.  I'm the latter, a Cardinals fan from birth.  I grew up watching them when they weren't that good, a drought in the 90s with no NL Pennants and obviously no World Series rings.  But I never gave up hope in the quality of my team, and finally they came through for me and other fans around the country.  With World Series trips in 2004, 2006, 2011, and 2013, the Cardinals were a legitimate force.  But they have also been so throughout the history of the game, a baseball dynasty with championships in its blood.  This DVD chronicles the greatest moments of the past eighty years, the titles of a team that has always been rich in talent and in history.

The Movie

Disc 1 features game by game coverage of five World Series championships: 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, and 1982.  In 1944 the St. Louis Cardinals faced the St. Louis Browns, both teams sharing the same home field.  The Cardinals won in six games under manager Billy Southworth.  In 1946 the St. Louis Cardinals faced the Boston Red Sox, with Enos Slaughter's "Mad Dash" to home plate.  The Cardinals won in seven games under manager Eddie Dyer.  In 1964 the St. Louis Cardinals faced the New York Yankees, leading to the firing of Yogi Berra.  The Cardinals won in seven games under manager Johnny Keane.  In 1967 the St. Louis Cardinals faced the Boston Red Sox, a rematch of the '46 classic.  The Cardinals won in seven games under manager Red Schoendienst.  In 1982 the St. Louis Cardinals faced the Milwaukee Brewers, the "Sud Series" between beer towns.  The Cardinals won in seven games under manager Whitey Herzog.

Disc 2 features game by game coverage of two World Series championships: 2006 & 2011.  Both segments are Official World Series Films, the first narrated by Billy Bob Thornton and the second narrated by Jon Hamm. In 2006 the St. Louis Cardinals faced the Detroit Tigers, Adam Wainwright emerging as a star closer.  The Cardinals won in five games under manager Tony La Russa.  During the regular season, St. Louis had a record of 83-78, which was the second-worst record ever for a league champion.  They beat the 95-67 Tigers easily in five.  In 2011 the St. Louis Cardinals faced the Texas Rangers, MVP David Freese delivering game savings hits.  The Cardinals won in seven games under manager Tony La Russa.  During the regular season, St. Louis was behind the Atlanta Braves for the Wild Card spot, but took the berth thanks in part to a Braves collapse.  The Cardinals were one strike away from losing the Series twice in game six, only to come through with clutch hitting and eventually win in front of their home crowd.

Watching Disc 1 is like a walk through baseball history.  The names that jump out from the screen are some of the greatest in the sport; Yogi, Whitey, Red, Enos.  To see the games being played one by one in that era is really fascinating and so very different from the game as it is today.  These classic games are etched in time and each led to where the St. Louis Cardinals are today as a franchise.  Any fan of this team or of the game can appreciate this rich history.  The DVD runs two hours and forty-eight minutes, with roughly 30 minutes given to each World Series.  They are not tied together in any way and can be watched separately or all in a row.  Each Series has its own feel, but they are all presented in a game-by-game manner, allowing you to follow along with the pace of play.

The feel of Disc 2 is slightly different because of the recency of events.  The names are still as big but they are modern characters, not legends yet: Carp, Waino, Pujols, Eckstein, Freese, La Russa.  For a Cardinals fan watching this disc it is a reminder of what just happened, a look back on the glory of winning and the thrill of success.  Some of these games are instant classics and will be remembered forever in baseball history, and the moments that defined them are captured forever and available to watch whenever the mood strikes.  This DVD also runs for two hours and forty-eight minutes, with roughly 80 minutes given to each World Series.  They are also not tied together and can be watched separately, but have the same feel & general delivery.  Both narrators are strong, with my preference being for Jon Hamm in the 2011 Championship video.


Video - Disc 1 is done in full screen with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.  Disc 2 is done in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.  Of course the second disc has a clearer picture quality and is quite enjoyable to view, with the first disc being nostalgic & classic but not crisp.

Audio - The audio was done in Dolby Digital English 2.0.  There are no sound options on either disc and no subtitles.  Again, of course the second disc has a better sound quality.

Extras - There are no extras with either DVD.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  This is really only a collection for either Cardinals fans or extreme baseball enthusiasts.  That said, it's a must-own if you love St. Louis, as you can watch the moments of glory over & over again.  The championships are detailed nicely and kept separate for your convenience, which is nice, and the quality of the work put into the collection is strong.  The video is fine, the audio is passable, and there are no extras.  A DVD for the super-fan & for baseball aficionados.

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Movie Trailer - Sabotage

Director: David Ayer
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia Williams, Sam Worthington
Release: April 11th, 2014

For just a second I thought this movie might be alright.  And then, thankfully, that feeling went away.  It's like there are a shortage of people who can make action seem interesting.  How hard can it be?  Could I direct an action flick?  Probably.  You just say things like, "do a flip" or, "shoot that!".  Doesn't seem too hard.

Sports - 2013 NFL Picks, Week 13

Here are my NFL Week 13 Picks
(7-6-1 last week, 116-59-1 for the season)
Bye teams: none

GB @ Det - Well the Lions lost another one they shouldn't have.  Good thing the other teams in their division suck because Detroit seems to be looking for a way out of the playoffs.  With Rodgers still down the Packers don't really stand a chance in this one, even with the Mighty Flynn.

Oak @ Dal - Another team that likes to lose and is lucky that they're at the top of their division despite some very poor play.  Romo looked good last week & the Boys always play well at home.  Add that to the fact that the Raiders can't win on the road.  Happy Thanksgiving for Dallas.

Pit @ Bal - This is a really tough one to call.  The Steelers have been doing great lately, going on a 3 game win streak after starting the season 2-6.  Big Ben is finally scoring some points, but I have to go with the home team here.  The Ravens are 4-1 at home and should win a close game.

TB @ Car - The Panthers got a bit of a scare last week in a game that wasn't that surprising given the context.  They're still a great team and will look to play focused football this week vs a Tampa team that has won 3 in a row after starting 0-8.  Carolina 4-1 at home, Bucs 1-4 away.

Jax @ Cle - The Jags are actually starting to win a few games and don't look quite as pathetic.  And both their wins have come on the road, so they shouldn't be counted out of this game.  And don't forget that Weeden is back as QB for the Browns, which is good sign for their opponent.

NE @ Hou - The Texans have now lost 9 in a row after starting 2-0.  They may have passed the Jaguars as the worst team in football.  The Pats are coming off a huge win vs the Broncos and are starting to click.  That's a bad thing for any team they face the rest of the season.

Ten @ Ind - The Colts have been playing some very bad football lately, but most likely will still win their division.  A win here would aid that goal and I think they can get the job done at home.  They're a better team than the Titans, they just have to show it over the course of 60 minutes.

Chi @ Min - So what's worse; losing Jay Cutler or having Christian Ponder?  The Vikings won't be good until Ponder is gone, but the Bears are reeling without their gunslinging QB.  Adrian Peterson should be able to do enough to lead him team to victory over the awful Chicago defense.

Mia @ NYJ - The Jets have had the month from hell.  They are now out of the playoffs, have scored the second least amount of points on the year, and Geno seems to be in a giving mood; turning over balls with fervor.  If they're to get back on track they need a home win right here.

Ari @ Phi - Talk about a hot team.  Arizona is firing on all cylinders and can match up well with any team they face.  They're much better at home, but given the Eagles' poor record in Philly you've got to think that the Cards must feel pretty confident.  Palmer vs Foles; surprisingly relevant.

Atl @ Buf - I just can't stop feeling sorry for the Falcons.  This season has been a nightmare that won't end and they don't deserve that.  Unfortunately it doesn't matter, teams continue to beat them up.  They are winless on the road and will most likely lose against a solid Buffalo team.

STL @ SF - A tough division game, could go either way.  The Rams have been playing well, but so have the Niners, as they seem to have figured out a solution to some of their problems.  I may not be a big Kaep fan, but he's talented enough to beat this upstart St. Louis team.

Den @ KC - It's probably the last time I'll do it this season, but I've got to pick against my Broncos again.  That loss last week was stomach-turning rather than lesson-teaching and I don't think they react well to it.  And a cold weather game in KC where even bad Chiefs teams beat us?

Cin @ SD - Well-coached teams come off byes playing their best football.  Poorly-coached teams come off looking rusty.  I'm gonna say the Bengals are the latter.  They've not been playing great football, Rivers has been pretty hot, and this is a touch matchup that they'll probably lose.

NYG @ Was - So who do you pick here; the bad away team or the awful home team?  Neither team deserves much confidence,  but at least the Giants were looking better before they lost last week to the 'Boys.  The Skins haven't looked good all year and I doubt they start.

NO @ Sea - This is a simple numbers game.  Both the Saint and the Seahawks are excellent teams and will probably play each other for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  But New Orleans is 3-2 on the road while Seattle in undefeated at home.  The 12th man wins.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Movie Trailer - Muppets Most Wanted

Director: James Bobin
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell
Release: March 21st, 2014

Although I've never been a Muppets fan (except for Muppet Babies in my youth), I think this looks really funny.  I've always wondered why I never watched this show or these movie because I think the style of humor is right up my alley; I like slapstick in kiddy movies, it's funny when people fall down.  So maybe this'll become my first Muppet experience.

Movie Review - Road House

Director: Rowdy Herrington
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Kevin Tighe, Kelly Lynch
Year: 1989

Patrick Swayze, like Kurt Russell, is a one trick pony.  Sometimes he falls into the perfect role for his demeanor and it just happens to work, through no real talent of his own.  For Russell it was Backdraft, or maybe even Escape from New York.   For Swayze it was Dirty Dancing, which launched him into stardom and got him a ton of jobs: Ghost, Point Break, and of course Road House.  But he never really found that special role again, he had peaked and it was over.  That's a sign of someone who's really not that great; Tom Hanks never peaked, Ed Norton never had a perfect moment followed by a downhill slide.  And yet, Swayze is a likeable actor & an icon of an era, so he deserves some credit for at least making a mark and leaving us with some unforgettable if fairly awful films.

In this classic, Swayze plays Dalton, a cooler by trade.  He manages a team of bouncers in a club and is the best that money can buy.  And when a man named Tilghman offers him a boatload of cash to turn a run-down road house into a swinging hot spot, he takes the job & the new challenge.  But he's about to be in way over his head.  The little town where the Double Deuce resides is controlled by a millionaire madman named Brad Wesley who takes a little from every local business as tax for his ongoing support.  He doesn't want the club to be cleaned up & independent, and so Dalton's work is a little harder than he thought it might be.  Teaming up with his old pal Wade Garrett and with a little help from his new doctor girlfriend, Dalton will try to save the Double Deuce, bring justice to a wild town, and face the demons that drive him from place to place without ever calling them his home.

Talk about a mess.  It's as if a hundred writers got together with a hundred directors and asked a hundred actors what they'd like to see happen, making a movie of everyone's collective ideas.  A bouncer who knows kung fu!  A monster truck!  Strippers!  Beer bottles smashing!  Polar bears!  Sam Elliott!  If someone had just known when to stop the film could have been salvaged, but it was more a wild rampage than a movie.  That said, it was still pretty fun to watch.  Patrick Swayze kicking people repeatedly in the knees & faces?  Sure, why not.  Add in a rocking soundtrack, a lot of stupid lines, and some naked girl and we've got ourselves a good time.  This has got to be one of those movies that's incredible when you're drunk, but comes off as a head-scratcher when you're sober.  It's hard to imagine anyone taking this one seriously, and really as long as you don't there are some parts that can be enjoyable.  But watch it for fun & with low expectations.  Just don't come in expecting Dirty Dancing.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Nut Job

Director: Peter Lepeniotis
Starring: Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Katherine Heigl
Release: January 17th, 2014

Bad bad bad bad bad.  Just bad.  I like to think that when I was a kid I liked movies with less stupid humor.  Am I imagining things, or did fart jokes used to be less funny?  I don't know, but there is a lot of good animation out there if you look for it and this isn't it.

Book Review - A Little Princess

Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Year: 1905

I've always enjoyed reading to my daughter and now to my son.  Even though they are quite young, just the act of reading aloud is both enjoyable & beneficial.  When she was a baby I would lay beside my daughter and read her The Chronicles of Narnia while she had tummy time.  During snack time I would read Animal Farm, just to have literature alive in the house, even if the concepts of the novels were lost.  Now, as both my children get older, they are beginning to appreciate these times even more & catch on to the wonderful stories that I'm reading.  We've covered a lot of classics; Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, The Secret Garden.  And it was the latter that opened my eyes to the greatness of Burnett, author of so many children's classics.  And now, after having read A Little Princess, I can say that it's one of the most beautifully written books for young people that I've ever read.

The main character of the story is Sarah Crewe, wealthy daughter of a single father, a Brit stationed in India.  Sarah leads a pampered life, and even when she moves to London to go to boarding school she is treated as a princess, with all the amenities she might need for a comfortable stay.  But when her father dies suddenly, Sarah find herself penniless & without a home.  Although she is not thrown out of school, she is only invited to stay as a worker, a slave in all respects who is treated worse than the paid servants.  And yet she never loses her dignity or her wild imagination, an ability that keeps her sane in the most desperate of times.  With the help of her friends Becky, Lottie, and Ermengarde, Sarah survives this dreadful turn of events & brings joy to the people around her, showing that no matter what she looks like she will always be a little princess.

What an amazingly simple and yet stunning book.  The concept isn't complicated and it's a perfectly easy story for children to understand, and yet there are so many undertones to the plot and to the character development of Sarah.  She is an optimist, a compassionate friend, a heroine who truly rises above any dire situation she finds herself in.  There are some pretty powerful lessons to be learned in this book, lessons about how we treat each other, how we take advantage of each other, and how hope is never completely lost.  It's just a great story and one that is written marvelously.  Burnett writes with beautiful language & precision, not wasting words and not over dramatizing everyday life.  The characters come to life in the way their speech is shown to us and we can imagine these girls & their lives; they become so real so quickly.  Not only is this an excellent children's book because of it's simplicity & relatable characters, but it can be enjoyed by adults as well because it is written so well & is full of deep meanings & wonderful messages.  I'm glad I had a reason to read the classic stories that I might otherwise have passed over and I recommend that you do the same.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Monday, November 25, 2013

Movie Trailer - Twice Born

Director: Sergio Castellito
Starring: Penelope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, Pietro Castellito
Release: December 6th, 2013

I'm not sure if these two actors can pull off an against-all-odds love story, but I kinda want to see them try.  I like them both separately, and the trailer does have some emotional triggers, so I'm intrigued.  I just feel like it might not be great.  Worth a shot?

Movie Review - Any Day Now

Director: Travis Fine
Starring: Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt, Isaac Leyva
Year: 2012

Alan Cumming is a terrific actor.  Born in Scotland, he can play any part & do any accent.  He's a passable singer, he has an ease about him, and he's likeable.  Only problem is, he'll do just about any movie.  Goldeneye, Spice World, Get Carter, Josie and the Pussycats, Spy Kids, Son of the Mask, Gray Matters, The Smurfs; a laundry list of awful films.  He needs a new manager or something, someone who knows how to showcase his talent or at least talk some sense into him when he wants to be a part of Tin Man, the worst mini-series I've ever seen.  But thankfully, every once in a while he does something like this, starring in a wonderful movie where he can actually act and use his art successfully.  If for no other reason, I enjoyed Any Day Now because Alan Cumming was in it & showed just what he can do.

Rudy is a gay man making his way in 1970s show business.  He's only made it as far as dressing in drag & lip syncing, but he doesn't let that ruin his positive outlook on life.  And that energy is what draws Paul to him, a closet homosexual trying to start a new life after a divorce and a new career as a lawyer.  Rudy and Paul are just starting their relationship when something happens that will change both their lives.  Rudy's neighbor abandons her son Marco, who has Down's Syndrome.  When she is arrested & taken to jail, Rudy petitions to become Marco's guardian.  But he & Paul's budding relationship stands in the way of full custody, as the courts will not allow a gay couple to raise a child, fearing for their safety in a "deviant" home.  But Rudy has never given up on a dream without a fight, and his new-found love for Marco makes this a dream worth fighting for.

The plot might sound a little cheesy, with a lot of emotional triggers thrown in just for fun, but it's actually based on a true story and was very realistic for the time period.  The social issues touched on by this film are fascinating, even more so for being real, not Hollywood produced.  The story is heartbreaking, be forewarned, but the importance of the message cannot be understated.  Denying what is obviously best for a child based on irrational beliefs is nothing short of criminal, and we can hope that our world has changed for the better in part due to the tireless effort of people like these characters who fought for what was right.  But the issues aside, the movie featured some excellent acting, especially from Alan Cumming.  He was tremendous; believable, confident, funny, exposed.  And basically he carried the film, with Garret Dillahunt the solid backup player.  The film used empathy to grab the audience and not a ton of perfection, but it was good enough to deserve forgiveness for its obvious emotional ploys.  A great movie with a great actor and one that you'll still feel long after the credits roll.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Wind Rises

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Hideaki Anno, Mirai Shida, Jun Kunimura
Release: February 21st, 2014

I don't really watch a lot of animated movies, and I've never seen a Hayao Miyazaki film before.  The only movie similar to his style that I've seen is Princess Mononoke.  I liked it, and I think I could like this one as well, especially with the historical content.

DVD Review - Laurence Anyways

Director: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clement
Year: 2012

The first Xavier Dolan film I watched was the first he ever made, I Killed My Mother.  It is a French language film out of Canada that has a decidedly European feel.  Dolan starred in it himself and also wrote the script; it is basically autobiographical and tells the story of his coming out and the strain that put on his relationship with his mother.  It's a solid film, especially for a kid making his first movie.  It was personal, honest, short, fairly straightforward, and came across the screen boldly.  All the same can't be said about Dolan's third film, Laurence Anyways.  It doesn't feel incredibly real and isn't presented with the ease that I enjoyed in his debut.  But there is one quality that saved this film from becoming an over-dramatic bludgeon, and that is some of the best acting that you're ever likely to see.

The Movie

Laurence is a schoolteacher and a writer.  His stories and poems are beginning to become published, his students think he's great, he's about to turn thirty-five, and life is good.  One large part of his current happiness is Frederique, his live-in girlfriend.  Fred is in the film business, she is an artist at heart, a vivacious companion, a wonderful lover, and the pair are very happy together.  On the occasion of his birthday, Fred plans a trip for herself & Laurence to New York City.  She is extremely excited, a bit drunk, and wants him to share in her enthusiasm.  But Laurence is keeping a secret, a truth that he can barely share with himself and one that will tear apart his entire existence; work, friends, family, and most especially Fred.  No longer able to bare the guilt of the lie, he reveals to her his one unfulfilled desire in life; to become a woman.

And so begins ten years of struggle as Laurence attempts to come to terms with the transformation that he can't stop wanting.  As he begins to live the life of a woman, everything around him changes: the students at school stare, the parents of the children demand his dismissal, his friends on the staff fail to support him, his mother callously keeps him away from her life.  But the most important piece of Laurence's world has the most trouble accepting who he wants to become, who he feels like he has always been.  Fred can't leave and she also can't comfortably stay.  After the initial shock, she attempts to see Laurence as the person he is inside, loving him despite the way in which he now wants to dress and to be seen.  Her love for him is at times the only thing keeping him going, but as he continues his metamorphosis, she finds that her own life is spiraling out of control.  Through the years the pair battle to protect that fragile bond that they forged so long ago, trying desperately to hold on to what they used to have before everything changed.

I don't think it would be exaggerating to call the acting in this film 'phenomenal'.  I'd be hard pressed to think of a duo who had more chemistry, more compatibility than these two, or who worked together as actors to push across the table a story that needed to be told.  The only couple that comes to mind is Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams from Blue Valentine, an extremely powerful & emotional film that is amazingly acted.  That movie felt more real than most I've seen, and Laurence Anyways had that same feeling due to the talent & ability of the lead pair.  Melvil Poupaud, though a second choice for the role, was incredible as Laurence.  He was vulnerable, courageous, believable, and had the difficult task of convincing audiences that his portrayal of both characters was honest, either as a male or as a female.  He pulled it off somehow, allowing us to the see the person underneath the makeup and to relate to Laurence no matter the appearance.

But as great as Poupaud was, Suzanne Clement was better.  The role of Fred must have been so incredibly hard to pull off, this woman torn between the love she has for her man and trying to accept the fact that he no longer wants to be one.  She was literally awesome in this role, creating a character that I somehow related to, having known no great heartbreak.  She brought something special to the part, something undefinable that only the best actresses on the screen can ever dream of.  Perhaps she never reaches that pinnacle again, perhaps she laid it all out for us in this film, and if so we should consider ourselves lucky.  She was half of an amazing love story, one that went beyond male/female into the depths of the heart where true love lives.  The last time I can recall feeling this affected by a love story was with Brokeback Mountain, a film that portrayed unconventional but unarguable passion and one that I will never forget.

The only thing keeping this film from being in the same elite category as the other two I've mentioned was the directing.  Dolan's first attempt at cinema was so honest, so concise, so effortless.  But Laurence Anyways was, if anything, over directed.  The scenes didn't flow as quickly as they could have, the film didn't end as speedily as it should have.  I felt Dolan too much and not in the self-revealing way that I felt him in his debut.  He was just too heavy-handed and the film's high points were always when he stepped away and let his actors take control.  Then the emotion escalated, the scenes were charged, and I felt "it".  I didn't feel that the whole way through, and I wish I had, because this film could have been up there with the great modern romances.  It fell short, but not by much, and is still an excellent, artistic, captivating love story that I don't want to let go.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the video was nice but not amazing.  It was shot using an Arriflex 435 and a Panavision Panaflex camera with Panavision lenses.  The film was set in the 90s and almost had the look of a movie from that time.  The visuals were better than the picture, as the director chose beautiful scenes over crystal clear shots.

Audio - The film was done in Dolby Digital, yet there are no audio options of the disc.  The language of the film is French with English subtitles and with a small amount of spoken English dialogue.  The sound quality is fine, with no obvious errors.  The music in the film is incredible, with a solid soundtrack and songs that fit the mood of the film very well.

Extras - There are a good deal of extras on the DVD.  Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Xavier Dolan is just that; fifty-six minutes of numerous deleted scenes with their cuts explained by the director.  Photo Gallery; two and a half minutes of stills from the film.  Laurence Anyways Trailer; a trailer for the film.  And finally Breaking Glass Trailers: Out in the Dark and I Do.

Final Thoughts

Highly RecommendedLaurence Anyways is a stunning film, one that boasts some of the best acting you're likely to see and delivers a story that needs to be heard.  An incredible love story with amazing characters, this is a film that is little known but should be seen by all.  If the directing had just been a little softer, a little less indulgent, then this could have been up at the top of the list with some really amazing pieces of artistic cinema.  The video was fine, the audio quite strong, and the extras plentiful.  Don't pass on this film; you'd be missing out.

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Movie Trailer - Need for Speed

Director: Scott Waugh
Starring: Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Dominic Cooper
Release: March 14, 2014

It's never good when a movie is based off a video game.  You need depth in order to take a story and pare it down for a film.  You can't take a shell of a plot and then try to flesh it out, that doesn't work.  And also, Aaron Paul is supposed to be a badass hero?  Lo dudo.

Movie Review - Europa Report

Director: Sebastian Cordero
Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Sharlto Copley
Year: 2013

I was one of the few who thought that Prometheus was great rather than good.  I thought it was a perfect homage to the sci-fi genre and a wonderful representation of the Alien series.  Now, it was a little Hollywood and perhaps a little overworked, but it was an entertaining ride that wasn't stupid and wasn't forgettable.  But for those who didn't love it, who want their space flicks to be gritty, realistic, minimal, then have I got a film for you.  Europa Report is a sc-fi movie made for those who don't want blockbusters but also don't want crap.  It follows the classic guidelines but doesn't fall into the trap of being typical.  Not many movies can say that, regardless of genre, and it's refreshing to see a new take on an old premise.

It's a new era in space exploration and corporations have taken over.  The newest venture is the Europa project, an attempt to reach & explore a moon of Jupiter.  The goal is to further explore the idea that there may be water deep under the ice of the surface, that life might be possible there, and that it could shed light on the great questions of life.  A team of astronauts, doctors, and experts are sent on a mission that will take years but that will be broadcasting their thoughts & their results all the while.  But when communications are lost & tragedy strikes the crew, the connection between the spacecraft and the Earth base is lost and the Europa team find themselves on their own.  Once they reach the moon, they must make difficult decisions, risking their mission, their findings, and their lives.

What this movie has going for it is that it's not your typical flick.  It's set up so that all the action is recorded on spacecraft cameras, so we're seeing what the people on Earth are seeing; recorded video & real time security footage.  This immediately makes the story believable & interesting, as if the audience is along for the ride in what turns out to be an intense journey.  The acting supports the plot fairly well, though no one is outstanding.  Everyone does a fine job of coming off as genuine & like the moment is bigger than they are.  Put together, the minimalist concept & the simple acting work well together and make the whole story pretty ingenious.  Some might not like the ending, but it's hard to please everyone with the finale of a intriguing film.  I didn't mind it, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and I would recommend it to all sci-fi buffs.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Movie Trailer - Cuban Fury

Director: James Griffiths
Starring: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Olivia Colman
Release: February 14th, 2013

I'm right on the edge with this one.  There are parts that look funny, but that's to be expected; the trailer is designed that way.  But I just have to guess that the movie as a whole is not going to be great.  Hasn't this movie been made before & made badly?  And the fact that it's coming out on Valentines' day is suspect.

Sports - 2013 NFL Picks, Week 12

Here are my NFL Week 12 Picks
(10-5 last week, 109-53 for the season)
Bye teams: Buf, Cin, Phi, Sea

NO @ Atl - I would love to pick the Falcons here at home to upset the high flying Saints, but have you watched these two teams play?  They could not be on more different paths; Atlanta is playing through the season from hell while New Orleans looks like a Super Bowl contender.

NYJ @ Bal - I keep believing in Baltimore and they keep letting me down; you'd think I'd learn my lesson.  But the Jets are only posing as a good team, are coming off a horrible loss, and play bad on the road.  The Ravens are good at home & should have won a sloppy game last week.

Pit @ Cle - Big Ben & the Stillers have been heading in the right direction & finally scoring points after a rough start to the season.  But now they have to go to Cleveland to face a team that's not good but can play some defense.  Look for a close, cold, run-the-ball battle in this one.

TB @ Det - Head Coach Jim Schwartz lost the Lions their last game; he's a moron among morons.  But even he can't mess up this one.  Detroit likes to put up points and the Bucs just can't compete, even though they've won their last two games behind the masterful Mike Glennon.

Min @ GB - Even without Aaron Rodgers the Pack ought to be able to pull this one out.  The Vikings are winless on the road & have a complete mess at QB.  Adrian Peterson can't do everything & their defense is horrendous.  Look for GB to run the ball and try to win on the ground.

Jax @ Hou - What an ugly game.  Combined these teams are 3-17 and both have trouble scoring points.  The Texans started 2-0 but have since lost 8 straight but they can get back on track here if QB Case Keenum can keep it together, because the Jags have a horribly porous defense.

SD @ KC - The Broncos handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season last week, totally dominating in all phases.  I expect the KC D to play mad at home against another division rival & take out their frustrations on Phillip Rives.  Fine by me; I can't stand his accent, demeanor, or face.

Car @ Mia - This game scares me a little.  I've been a supporter of the Panthers from the beginning, but they had an emotional high last week, a lot of media attention, and now have to go on the road.  The Dolphins aren't pushovers and might just make a game out of this.

Chi @ STL - Remember what the Rams did to the Colts before their bye week?  They've had a lot of time to think about what they did right and I think they do it again to the Bears.  I'm not a McCown supporter and I think he'll crumble when the pressure is on; there's a reason he's a career backup.

Ind @ Ari - Despite their record, the Colts have been playing some very bad football, barely beating the Titans & Texans & losing to the Rams.  Arizona, on the other hand, is hot right now, winning three in a row and totally dominating at home.  I like the Cards as a playoff dark horse.

Ten @ Oak - This is one of those games that no one wants to watch.  Two 4-6 teams, both with backup QBs, neither scores a lot of points.  When in doubt go with the home team I guess, and especially after rookie Matt McGloin's performance last week.  Is he the Raiders' future?

Dal @ NYG - Like I said, when in doubt pick the home team.  Also, the Giants are hot right now, winning their last 4 games.  Add in the fact that the Cowboys always seem to crumble when there's the least amount of pressure and you've got a game that's surprisingly easy to pick.

Den @ NE - I don't like doing it, and it's the first time I've done it all season, but I'm going to have to pick against my Broncos.  They are the best team in football, no doubt, but the Pats are undefeated at home, are playing mad after a loss, and know how to get the job done under the lights.

SF @ Was - This should be a great game, if only because both teams are desperate.  The Niners are fine record-wise, but they need a boost after having lost 2 in a row.  The Skins are a mess; their defense is awful, RG3 is lost, and Shanahan is suddenly feeling some warmth when he sits down.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Movie Trailer - Grace of Monaco

Director: Olivier Dahan
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth
Release: March 14th, 2014

The problem with Nicole Kidman is that she's not believable as a human.  She just doesn't seem like she fits in with the rest of us and therefor is sometimes hard to watch.  But that actually may work in her favor for this movie as she's supposed to be an unreachable being.

Movie Review - 12 Years a Slave

Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch

Year: 2013

No other movie is getting as much Oscar buzz as 12 Years a Slave.  It seems tailor-made for a Academy Award; period piece, dramatic, social issue, big name actors.  In past years this film would have been a shoe in to win Best Picture and probably Best Director as well.  But in today's Academy, any movie can win.  They've expanded the list of nominees from five to nine or ten, including many genres that aren't usually there.  This year, it seems that there might be a couple films that could give this one a run for its money: Gravity, American Hustle, and perhaps Inside Llewyn Davis.  I might not have liked Gravity much, but that doesn't mean the Academy didn't, as they seem to be tapping into public opinion more than they used to, giving credit to entertainment as well as drama.  But if I had to put money on it & before a few contenders have even come out, I would have to say that 12 Years seems to be the front runner.  And apart from This Is the End, which I thought was hilarious, it's the best movie I've seen all year.

This is the true story of Solomon Northup, an African American man living a free life in New York during the years before the Civil War.  He lives there with his wife, two children, friends, is well off, and has all a man could ask for.  The unthinkable happens when Solomon travels with two men to Washington D.C. under the guise of being hired to play his fiddle; the men drug him & sell him as if he were a common slave.  Overnight Solomon's old life has vanished.  He is now called Platt, taught to forget his privileged background, and sold into bondage.  Over the course of years, Solomon has many masters, meets many slaves, comes to understand the Southern world in which he involuntarily lives, and yet somehow never gives up hope that someday he will be a free man once again.  His determination to live and to keep his humanity in tact creates conflict wherever he goes, but he survives with what dignity he can, accepting the goodness from some and the terrible treatment from others, staying alive no matter what the cost.

12 Years a Slave is one of those films that is hard to watch.  It's so powerful and so very real that it's sickening in its brutality & truth.  It's not unbelievable that man can be so cruel to other men, but it's difficult to see this vile treatment right before our eyes, to feel the torture and experience the pain of loss; loss of life, loss of family, loss of self.  It's almost hard to call this film "good" or to claim to like it, as it shows us mankind at its worst and makes no attempt to cover up a terrible story with fake heroics or lessons learned.  There hasn't been a film as harsh as this since Amistad, another story of slavery, but one that wasn't as excellent a movie as this one is.  Amistad was not nominated for Best Picture and I'm sure 12 Years will be.  Not only because of its great & compelling story, but because of the way that story was told; quietly at times, often loudly & uncomfortably, and even beautifully at certain moments.  It had great music underscoring the action, excellent cinematography, a light director's touch, and some wonderful acting.

Chiwetel Ejiofor was very strong as Solomon.  He played him with perfection, giving us a character who was both completely lost & also surprisingly resolute, a man who was a hero in a very vulnerable way.  He deserves a nomination for his role and I would be surprised if he wasn't up for Best Actor.  Michael Fassbender also did an excellent job with his part.  He played a religiously unhinged plantation master so wickedly that he became the epitome of all that was evil in that world, all that had to change in order for men like Solomon to live freely.  I would perhaps be pleasantly surprised if he were nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but it would be a deserved award.  Past those two men, the side characters were either fine, unnecessary, or just plain bad.  Benedict Cumberbatch was solid, Paul Giamatti wasn't really needed, and Brad Pitt was actually a distraction and one of the weaker actors in the film.  I'm not a fan of cameos, as they often break down the fourth wall, and I don't think they strengthened this film.  But putting that aside, the story & the way it was delivered were both gripping in a powerful way, producing a film that is one of the best you will see this year and will be well represented come March 2nd.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰