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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Movie Trailer - Guardians of the Galaxy

Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, John C. Reilly
Release: August 1st, 2014

What did I just watch?  A trailer for a comic book action comedy?  I'm so tired of Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana sucks, and James Gunn is a douchey director.  This looks like it might end up being worse than After Earth, and that's saying something.

Thought - 2014 Oscar Picks

Sunday March 2nd, 2014, the Academy Awards!  I've very excited about this year's Oscars, there are a ton of excellent films represented as well as the annual snubs left out.  It should be a great show, with Ellen hosting, and I'll be live-tweeting the event on Twitter (@OlieCoen).  You can check out my Oscars page for a complete listing of the nominees in the six major categories, but here are both my predictions and my picks for the best films of 2013.

Best Actor
Best Supporting Actor
Best Actress
Best Supporting Actress
Best Director
Best Picture

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Movie Trailer - Joe

Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Ronnie Gene Blevins
Release: April 11th, 2014

I don't really trust David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Your Highness, The Sitter, Prince Avalanche), and I also don't like Nicolas Cage, but this movie has a certain something that piques my interest.  Maybe it's the kid, who I've heard was very good in Mud.  Whatever the reason, I'd watch this movie at home, but I doubt I'd run to the theatre to see it.

Sports - 2014 NFL Free Agency

As another NFL season begins and we put the last one behind us (which is a complicated thing for a Broncos fan to do since the season went so well and then so badly), we look ahead to next year.  First up, Free Agency.  Here are some of the top FAs by position and my thoughts on their future.

  • Michael Vick (Phi) - The Jets are interested & he could be a nice backup for Geno.
  • Josh McCown (Chi) - The Bucs could grab him and start a nice quarterback competition.
  • Josh Freeman (Min) - Speaking of the Bucs.  I don't see anyone slobbering over Freeman.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew (Jax) - I predict MJD won't find a starting job by season's beginning.
  • Knowshon Moreno (Den) - With Montee Ball in the backfield Denver can let Moreno go.
  • Ben Tate (Hou) - Look for Arian Foster's competent backup to take his talent to Cleveland.
  • Darren McFadden (Oak) - Would Cincinnati's backfield be too crowded for Run DMC?
  • Eric Decker (Den) - The Broncos just don't have the money for him, but the Raiders do.
  • Hakeem Nicks (NYG) - Almost definitely out, the Panthers could be his team in 2014.
  • Anquan Boldin (SF) - I think he stays a Niner, but he's getting too old to be great.
  • Jeremy Maclin (Phi) - He's coming off an injury, could be a steal for whoever gets him.
  • James Jones (GB) - He wants to re-sign, and who wouldn't given his quarterback.
  • Jimmy Graham (NO) - Almost guaranteed that the Saints will franchise him immediately.
  • Dennis Pitta (Bal) - Again, no drama, should be re-signed soon, too talented to let go.
  • Fred Davis (Was) - Suspended indefinitely and should be a free agent still come 2015.
  • Jermichael Finley (GB) - Could be the best TE actually available on the market.
  • Branden Albert (KC) - Someone who deserves the money & will get re-signed.
  • Eugene Monroe (Bal) - If Albert stays look for the Cardinals to pursue Monroe.
  • Jared Veldheer (Oak) - And if all that happens, look for the Dolphins to look here.
  • Greg Hardy (Car) - I think the Panthers keep Hardy, a sack machine the last 2 years.
  • Jared Allen (Min) - A monster, but getting older.  Denver or Oakland perhaps?
  • Michael Johnson (Cin) - He had a down year, but he's young and very talented.
  • Jason Hatcher (Dal) - Look for the Browns to get this 3-4 defensive end.
  • Lamarr Houston (Oak) - The Raiders will keep him if they get beat out for Allen.
  • Brian Orakpo (Was) - He had a great bounce-back year, I think the Redskins keep him.
  • Shaun Phillips (Den) - A great year with Denver, but they'd prefer to have Allen.
  • London Fletcher (Was) - At 38, I don't see a team signing him to any contract.
  • Karlos Dansby (Ari) - Will stay in Arizona where he started his career.
  • Jairus Byrd (Buf) - The Bills won't franchise him again & he'll end up in Chicago.
  • T.J. Ward (Cle) - He is an up-and-coming safety who the Browns need to keep.
  • Brent Grimes (Mia) - Grimes had a great first year in Miami and will re-sign.
  • Vontae Davis (Ind) - Would be a great fit in Denver if they lose DomRC.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Movie Trailer - Godzilla #2

Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Release: May 16th, 2014

I don't normally post another trailer for the same movie I've already talked about, but holy crap.  I couldn't help but put this second trailer up, it's just so cool.  I don't care if the movie is ultimately no good, it just looks so awesome, I love Godzilla, and I wanna see this ASAP.

Movie Review - Blue Summer

Director: Chuck Vincent
Starring: Davey Jones, Bo White
Year: 1973

I was expecting 70s camp.  I mean, it was made in the 70s, it's about teenagers camping, how could it not be a funny, dated, campy romp in which people wear too-small shorts?  I knew it wasn't going to be a slasher/horror/thriller like so many others that I love from this time period, but I expected a few of the same elements, if not the psycho killer.  What I got was something very different, a romp of sorts, but not exactly as I had imagined it.  No, Blue Summer is much less teen comedy and much more soft core porn.

Friends Tracy & Gene (boys, not girls) are about to start college in the fall.  They'll be going to different schools and their adult lives will start, but before they do the pair want one last chance at fun.  So they decide to go bumming around in their bus, cruise around the woods, head towards the lake, and enjoy their final summer of freedom.  Along the way they meet a duo of hot hitchhikers, a mysterious biker, someone trying to save their souls, a commune of hippies, a nymphomaniac, a bored housewife; all incredible characters on this wonderful road trip of youth.

First off, the main actor is not Davy Jones the Monkee, so don't get exited.  This Davey Jones is strictly a 70s soft core porn actor, which is exactly what we have here.  It's just a silly plot used to showcase a few sex scenes.  But again, don't get excited, unless of course you enjoy sweaty hairy men pawing at homely women's nipples.  There's no real explicit nudity, the actors are all unattractive, and the movie feels like someone's lame attempt at a cheap thrill.  If you want 70s porn watch Debbie Does Dallas.  It's at least classic, if still pretty gross.  But don't watch Blue Summer.  It's not a comedic romp, it's not a sexy film, it's not porn, it's not camp, it's not much of anything really except people filming themselves drinking beer and showing their boobs.  It's a waste of time is what it is, so don't fall for it.

My rating:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Movie Trailer - Calvary

Director: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O'Dowd
Release: April 11th, 2014

I do like Brendan Gleeson, but I don't have much faith in this film.  I'd rather go back and watch The Guard, McDonagh's 2011 movie also starring Gleeson.  It got good reviews and has a lighter tone.  This one looks heavy for heavy's sake.

DVD Review - Living by the Gun

Director: James Miller
Starring: Pat McIntire, Judith Rhodes, Donald Jespersen
Year: 2011

It's never a good sign when you laugh out loud through the first five minutes of what I can only assume is supposed to be a serious film.  I mean, it's a bloody Western about a gunman, his dead family, and redemption.  It's not meant to be hilarious, right?  I spent most of the movie trying to decide whether or not it was written tongue in cheek, if Miller was attempting to be humorous in a spoofy sort of way.  But I don't think so.  I think this was actually supposed to be a good movie, which is only surprising after you watch it.

The Movie 

It's a wild time somewhere in the West, a time of hard men & easy money.  An unnamed man, who we know only as the Uncle, is living by the gun, taking out contracts on the lives of others.  It's only slowly revealed that he has a dark past, that he's on the run from his memories as much as from the bounty hunters who want his head.  And as he kills he creates more enemies, but that doesn't bother him, he just kills them too, indiscriminately murdering anyone who gets in his way.  But when he gets shot himself, he's got to rely on the kindness of others to survive, a weakness he's not had to endure in a long time.

The past has a way of catching up with you though, and this hardened killer can't escape his.  The daughter of the brother he once worked alongside is out for vengeance, hunting the uncle who she holds responsible for the death of her father.  But she's no gunman and finds herself in trouble more often than not.  Her uncle, meanwhile, is in trouble of a different kind.  He's found friends who feel more like family and is starting to feel responsibilities that make him question his wild life.  Can both the uncle and the niece face down there demons, learn to stop hating the world, and make peaceful lives for themselves?

From the opening sequence I knew I was in trouble.  It got me laughing right away until I realized that it wasn't supposed to be funny.  But it sure seemed like a comedy in that first scene.  Two "actors" who were spitting out lines like they were in a high school drama class, a lead actress who has one of the more homely faces I've seen on screen, strange pop-up shootings, and a theme song that sounded like Neil Diamond singing something a twelve-year-old wrote.  I thought for sure it was a comedy, or at the very least a farce, but it quickly became apparent that everyone involved was doing the best they could.  Or, in other words, the worst job imaginable.

After that horrible beginning things just got worse; depressingly worse.  Ugly men rode around on horses, drank whiskey, had whores, all the while seeming less like actors and more like drunk people at a very trashy wedding.  Guns were fired every six seconds, pink blood was splattered seemingly at random, and dirty cowboys died in pretty much every scene.  The movie was built on the idea that audiences would enjoy watching ninety minutes of dust, pistols, and mustaches.  It was basically a hideous attempt at a Western, like an awful & violent episode of Hey Dude, but void of any sort of talent or emotion.

Seriously void, as in no bright spots whatsoever.  I have no idea why any of these actors were cast in their roles.  Any number of random people I could approach on the street would have been more believable as human beings than the cast of this film.  It was the worst acting I've ever seen, and I've seen Sharknado.  The side characters seemed hand-picked to be talentless, unattractive, and smelly, even through the camera.  The main actors, Uncle & Niece, led the pack with their pathetic performances.  At least he seemed a little sad & tired, which fit, while she seemed to be delivering every line as if it said in the script, "pretend that you just learned how to read & speak."


Video - With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 Widescreen 16x9, the video may have been the best part of the film.  The color was nice, the balance was good, and the images were crisp.  The picture quality was high for such a horrendous and talentless movie.

Audio - The disc was done in Dolby Digital with an option to chose between English or Spanish subtitles.  The sound quality of the film was also much better than the film itself.  It was mixed nicely, although the music throughout was pretty awful.

Extras - There are a few extras on the DVD.  Behind the Scenes; an 18-minute-long segment on the making of the film.  Living by the Gun trailer; self-explanatory.  And Also From Lionsgate; four trailers including Six Shooters, Billy the Kid, Any Last Words, and The Righteous and the Wicked.

Final Thoughts

Skip It Living by the Gun is the worst thing I've seen in a while.  It started out funny and I had some hope that it would at least be enjoyable, but those dreams quickly evaporated and I was left with a film that was just plain bad.  The acting was remarkably terrible, the music was crappy, and the movie as a whole is not even worth a glance.  The video and audio qualities are the best part of the DVD, and even the extras are OK.  But don't waste your time on this worse-than-amateur production.  Go outside and kick up some dirt instead; it'll save you time and you'll entertain yourself just as much.

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

Movie Trailer - The Purge: Anarchy

Director: James DeMonaco
Starring: Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Frank Grillo
Release: June 20th, 2014

I was excited to see the first Purge; I like the dystopian feel of it and I'm a sucker for horror movies.  It didn't get great reviews but it at least got people talking and apparently warranted a sequel.  Now, I still need to see the first one and I think I'll enjoy it even if it's not good, but this one looks like total crap.

Movie Review - Hard Eight

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, Gwyneth Paltrow
Samuel L. Jackson, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Year: 1996

Paul Thomas Anderson gets the #2 spot on my list of favorite directors.  #1 goes to Wes Anderson, director of my favorite film and the inspiration for the name of my blog, The Royal Tenenbaums.  Rounding out the Top 5 would have to be the Coen Brothers, Christopher Guest, and Woody Allen.  But I digress, back to PTA.  Here is a list of his films so far: Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, and The Master.  All excellent movies in my book, with five stars going to 3 out of the 6, four stars going to the others.  He's also got one coming out later this year called Inherent Vice that sounds promising and has an interesting cast: Jena Malone, Joaquin Phoenix, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Maya Rudolph, and Martin Short.  Anyway, I love his films, they're always unique & strong, with this one being no exception.

The story opens with a meeting between two men.  John is down & out, sitting by the door of a diner with no money, no plan, and no hope.  Sydney is a stranger who wants to do John a favor; buy him a cup of coffee and maybe get him started in the right direction.  The two become an unlikely duo, forming a partnership based on gambling and bordering on father/son, with Sydney as the mentor and John the eager pupil.  All is well for a while until two more people enter their lives, threatening to disrupt the good thing the pair have going.  Clementine is a beautiful waitress who John falls for right away, and Jimmy is a no good troublemaker who John innocently trusts as a friend.  This new quartet of quirky characters find themselves in deep water very quickly, and will have to learn which of them is dependable and which should be cut loose.

What is it with the three names in this film?  PTA, JCR, PBH, SLJ, PSH, and then there's Gwyneth Paltrow, who apparently didn't get the memo.  Anyway, assassin names aside, Hard Eight was just another awesome movie to add to the list of strong Anderson projects.  It was his first full length feature and so perhaps it wasn't as perfect as Boogie Nights or There Will Be Blood, but it was still better than 80% of films in existence, probably better than 95% of crime thrillers.  It was successful from the opening sequence on, starting out really nicely and ending strong. It was like a combination of Jackie Brown & The Cooler; it had a cool Vegas feel, a screwed up plot, and some nice subtle humor.  It wasn't as violent as a Tarantino film, although not many are, but it still had a good crime vibe supported by great characters.  I just love John C. Reilly, once more playing a guy named John.  Philip Baker Hall was excellent, Gwyneth Paltrow has never been better, Samuel L. Jackson was slimy, and the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman almost stole the show with a three-minute scene.  If you love Anderson's work than you'll really enjoy this one.  And if you're not that familiar with it, this might be a good place to start.  Hard Eight is a slightly less oppressive film than some of his others, making it more available to audiences perhaps, but keeping it from the very top of my list.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, February 21, 2014

Movie Trailer - Walk of Shame

Director: Steven Brill
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden
Release: April 25th, 2014

Ma'am, no ma'am.  And no thank you.  Brill directed Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds, Without a Paddle, and Drillbit Taylor.  Those movies combined with this trailer make me run screaming in the opposite direction.

Movie Review - The Monuments Men

Director: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett
Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin
Year: 2014

I guess it was just too good to be true.  When I first saw the trailer for The Monuments Men I was sure it would be a home run.  How could it fail, right?  One of the best cast lists I've ever seen, an incredibly captivating setting, a little humor to lighten the heavy mood.  The film had Oscar written all over it, until people starting seeing it.  Then the wide release was pushed back, the buzz surrounding the project started sounding more like boos, and every trailer I saw for it, other than the initial teaser, make the movie look worse and worse.  But I was already pot-committed, already ready to forgive a few flaws because I really wanted to like it.  And so I saw it, saw for myself that all the criticism was dead on, and that this unsinkable ship sank.

World War II is almost over, Hitler is nearly beat.  The Allies are approaching Berlin from every direction; the Russians from the East, the Brits from the South, the Americans from the West.  And while victory is nearly guaranteed, there's a great threat that is only now gaining attention.  During the War, the Germans had been stealing the art of every country they conquered, taking for their own the very core of the culture of these fallen nations.  And so now, with defeat looming, Hitler will destroy everything he can't have for himself.  Enter the Monuments Men, a group of artists & scholars who have been tasked with stealing back the stolen art, finding the German treasure troves, and saving the artistic history of Europe from complete annihilation.

It shouldn't have been possible for this film to be bad, and yet it was.  With a stellar cast such as this, a dud should have been impossible, and yet they figured out a way to make it happen.  Clooney, Damon, Blanchett, and all the side characters fell completely flat, failing to make any sort of mark or convince audiences of their believability even for a moment.  The roles were never developed, never fostered or grounded.  We were left floating from one character's storyline to the next, never connecting with one individual piece of the greater puzzle.  The whole film was too disjointed, too fragmented, having too many plots going in too many directions.  It left me feeling muddled and disappointed, wishing that I had seen the tight film that I had expected, the acting clinic that should have been put on.  But the film left no room for great acting; too much was crammed into a small space and absolutely nothing shone.

Should we blame George Clooney for the failings of the film?  Perhaps.  After all, it's not like he's an A-class director; he's done a few things but nothing brilliant.  I think he may have bitten off more than he could chew; WWII, Jews, Hitler, art, love, religion, redemption.  It would have been a tough story to convey for any director and perhaps he simply wasn't up to the task.  At times the film felt like a copy of The Great Escape, a throwback to the old style of war dramas that incorporated characters with specific jobs, comedy, theme songs.  But where those old movies succeeded, this one flopped.  It wasn't funny, it wasn't clever, the music was awful, and at times I felt pandered to.  It was like a war movie made for people who don't like war movies, or at least can't understand them.  Everything was spelled out, from the plot to the emotions, and I never felt challenged, only talked down to.  That's not a great way to feel leaving the theatre, like you just watched a history lesson designed for middle-schoolers.  And that's not the way I expected this film to come off, at least not until all the bad press, and by then I had already decided to give it a chance.  I'm not bitter that it didn't come out the way I had originally assumed it would; how's the saying go?  I'm not mad I'm just disappointed.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Movie Trailer - The Two Faces of January

Director: Hossein Amini
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst
Release: May 16th, 2014

I have some major concerns about this one.  First off, all these guys can act, even Dunst who I don't really like.  But from just the small amount we see here I start to worry that none of them will be able to pull off the over-dramatic/espionage/expatriate thriller.  And secondly, that genre of movie usually isn't very good anyway.  So I'm not feeling too great about this one.

Sports - 2014 MLB Predictions

With free agency over, spring training starting, and no one having any real idea how any of the clubs will actually perform, I think it's time to make some picks.  So here they are, my 2014 MLB Way Too Early Predictions:
AL East 
  1. Red Sox - Why couldn't they do it again? Added Pierzynski. Lost Ellsbury.
  2. Yankees - Added Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann, & Roberts. Lost Cano & Grandy.
  3. Rays - No longer a surprising team. Added Balfour, Bell, & Hanigan.
  4. Orioles - Their weak spot is their pitching. Added Jimenez. Lost Roberts.
  5. Blue Jays - Shouldn't be much improved. Added Navarro. Lost Arencibia.
AL Central
  1. Tigers - Should be great. Added Kinsler & Nathan. Lost Fielder & Peralta.
  2. Indians - Francona! Added Murphy & Axford. Lost Perez & Jimenez.
  3. Royals - Nice pitching staff, solid team. Added Infante & Aoki.
  4. White Sox - A team with zero punch. Added Eaton. Lost Reed.
  5. Twins - Seems like a brand new bad team, other than Mauer.
AL West
  1. Rangers - Changing. Added Fielder, Choo. Lost Pierzynski, Kinsler, Murphy.
  2. Athletics - Won't repeat last year. Added Jim Johnson. Lost Suzuki.
  3. Angels - Could win a lot of games. Added Freese & Ibanez. Lost Trumbo.
  4. Mariners - Could make noise. Added Morrison, Cano, Hart, & Rodney.
  5. Astros - Should be just plain awful again. Added Dexter Fowler.
NL East
  1. Braves - Return an extremely solid lineup. Lost McCann & Hudson.
  2. Phillies - No reason they shouldn't be contenders. Added Burnett. Lost Halladay.
  3. Nationals - Not much changing here, should be good but not great.
  4. Mets - Losing Matt Harvey really hurts. Added Granderson & Colon.
  5. Marlins - Trying at least. Added Jones, McGehee, Furcal, & Salty.
NL Central
  1. Cardinals - Ready for a run. Added Peralta & Bourjos. Lost Beltran & Freese.
  2. Reds - Great rotation, nice lineup, back from injuries. Lost Choo & Arroyo.
  3. Pirates - Strong team, but should digress just a little bit. Lost Jones.
  4. Brewers - Not a horrible team, but stagnant. Added Garza. Lost Hart.
  5. Cubs - No great talent at any position and won't make much noise.
NL West
  1. Dodgers - They have so many incredible players they have to sit on the bench.
  2. Giants - Should be much improved. Added Morse & Hudson.
  3. Diamondbacks - Good, not special. Added Trumbo, Arroyo, & Reed. Lost Eaton.
  4. Rockies - So-so pitching. Added Stubbs & Morneau. Lost Dexter Fowler.
  5. Padres - Weak rotation and poor lineup. Very little support or energy.  
Most improved teams: Mariners, Phillies, Giants.
Least successful teams: Astros, Twins, Cubs.
World Series: Red Sox vs Dodgers.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Movie Trailer - Alan Partridge

Director: Declan Lowney
Starring: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney
Release: February 27th, 2014

This comedy looks right up my alley.  Brits, innuendos, Steve Coogan; I'm in.

Movie Review - 300

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham
Year: 2006

I've never been a fan of "graphic novels".  I think they're the cheap middle ground between novels & films, lacking both the depth of a good book and the vision of a good movie.  If I wanted to read the story I'd want more than word blurbs, and if I wanted to see the story I'd want more than still images.  So I see comic books as a waste of time, but they do spawn some very interesting characters, I'll give them that.  Superman, Spiderman, Batman, just to name a few super heroes; great figures with cool back stories that have led to a lot of movies, some excellent some awful.  But here's something a little bit different, which makes a big different to me.  300 is a graphic novel about a historic event, dramatized of course, but brought to life in a very creative way.  And then that story is transferred to the big screen, keeping the artistic elements of the comic in tact but delivering a film that gives you a live action account of an incredibly epic event.

Leonidas is king of Sparta, a militant state of Greece.  The year is 480 B.C. and the greatest empire in all the world in Persian.  The lord of Persia and self-titled god-king is Xerxes, who sees himself as anointed ruler of all the world.  The Spartans are asked to bow down to their new king, along with the rest of Greece, or face annihilation by the largest army the planet has ever known.  The oracle and many leading politicians believe that Sparta should just bend knee, but King Leonidas thinks otherwise.  He leads a band of 300 warriors to meet the Persians on the shores of Greece, at a place called Thermopylae, or the Hot Gates.  There the giant army's numbers will count for nothing as man will fight against man in a tiny pass through the mountains.  If Leonidas can hold the Gates against Xerxes all of Greece might soon rally to his aid, proving the might of Sparta and the courage of its people.

This film has all the elements to make it great: a "true" story, an artistic approach, and action that will knock your socks off.  I may not like comics, but what Snyder did here was pretty genius.  He took the graphic novel, kept the beautiful colors & images, and transferred that to film.  It's like watching the pages of the comic come to life, and with history backing the story up it never feels like a wasted effort.  The death, the blood, the soldiers; everything feels slightly fake, but in good way, like you're watching a series of paintings fly past your eyes.  And that makes the violence more acceptable, less gruesome, because it's portrayed as a drawing rather than real life.  I wish the acting was as good as the visuals, but sadly it's just OK with a few moments of crap.  It's just not strong, nor was the dialogue, so 300 becomes eye candy & awesome, but never amazing.  The movie is history come to life, scene after scene of stunning artwork, and something that is incredibly enjoyable to watch.  It's kept from being a wonderful film by a lack of strong acting & an overuse of cheesy lines, but that doesn't stop it from being both entertaining & visually appealing, a wild & bloody ride.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Movie Trailer - The Zero Theorem

Director: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Christoph Waltz, Melanie Thierry, David Thewlis
Release: March 14th, 2014

You either love Gilliam films or you hate them.  I happen to love them so I'm excited to watch this movie no matter how strange it is.  Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys; all great ones in my book, but I understand how they might be too weird for some people.  And Christoph Waltz is a genius (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained), so I'm in.

Movie Review - The Missing

Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones, Evan Rachel Wood
Year: 2003

Every once in a while I have a "how'd I miss that?" moment.  I mean, I have a Watchlist of 700+ movies, there are a ton of good ones I know I need to see, there's just not enough time in a day.  But with The Missing I somehow forgot its existence.  I stumbled across it on Netflix, remembered that I had heard of it, and then wondered why I hadn't watched it in the eleven years since its release.  After all, the pieces are there.  Ron Howard, a solid director of a lot of good stuff.  Cate Blanchett, perhaps the best actress of the last twenty years.  Tommy Lee Jones, an actor that Lonesome Dove made me love.  And an epic Western setting, putting the film in a genre that's hard not to enjoy.  Well, some movies prove that random pieces don't make a perfect puzzle and that there might be a reason why so many people chose to overlook them.

The Gilkesons are a hard-nosed New Mexico family living on their own land, their own wit, and making due.  Maggie is a doctor of sorts, a healer who runs a tight ship at home.  Her daughters, Lilly & Dot, are as different as can be; the elder a proper girl, the younger a tough farmhand.  And then there's Brake, Maggie's lover and protector of the bunch.  But the family dynamic changes when one more member comes to town; Maggie's estranged father Samuel Jones, an Indian by all but birth, a wild & hard man.  He's not welcome at the farm past one night's rest, but when tragedy strikes he might be the only one who can help.  Lilly is kidnapped by a group of renegade Army scouts, dangerous men who aim to sell women for a large profit down in Mexico.  The leader of the group is a brujo, or Indian witchdoctor, and he's not a man who can be defeated easily.  But Maggie, Samuel, and Dot head out on the trail, tracking down the evil men with rescue on their minds.

There were a lot of missed (pun intended) opportunities in this film.  The actors are all strong, but ill-used.  Blanchett, Jones, Even Rachel Wood, Aaron Eckhart, Val Kilmer; I'm not saying that they're all legendary, but they all have talent and their skills were not well-displayed here.  Blanchett & Jones were one note, while Wood, Eckhart, & Kilmer were barely featured.  Had the movie played upon their strengths I think I would have enjoyed it much more.  As it was, there was too much posse-riding-through-the-canyons, too much voodoo, too many over-dramatic moments, and not enough real grit to really get audiences in the Western spirit.  If you want a similar film better done check out The Searchers, a John Wayne classic that's at least two stars superior.  It's not that The Missing was awful, it just failed to grab me and could have been so much stronger, edgier, and more realistic.  I guess there was a reason why I totally forgot about this film; I wish I hadn't remembered.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Monday, February 17, 2014

Movie Trailer - A Million Ways to Die in the West

Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson
Release: May 30th, 2014

My first reaction is to laugh and assume that I'll at least find this movie pretty funny if particularly wonderful.  But then I remember Ted and the fact that Seth MacFarlane is a voice guy, not an actor, and I start getting worried.

Movie Review - About Time

Director: Richard Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams
Year: 2013

My wife saw this film in the theatre and came home saying that it had changed her life.  To say that I was skeptical would be putting it lightly.  I mean, how could a romantic comedy starring Rachel McAdams be anything more than a chick flick, let alone a life-altering movie?  Even the time travel element didn't convince me, nor did the fact that most of the actors are British.  Perhaps I should have given it more of a chance, considering Richard Curtis also did Love Actually, a romantic favorite of mine that I watch every Christmas.  But I was still doubtful, even as I sat down to finally watch it.  Turns out the only thing I had to worry about was whether I was prepared to cry in front of my wife, as About Time might not have exactly changed my life but it was one of the most emotionally stirring dramas I have ever seen.

Tim is a gangly, red-headed Englishman who has never been anything but awkward.  He can't talk to girls, makes frequent bad decisions, and, as his 21st birthday approaches, hasn't got anything to be proud of except the love of his family.  But his life is about to change forever when his father reveals to him a paternal secret; the men of the family can travel in time.  Of course Tim doesn't believe him, but when he tries it on for size he soon realizes the he can relive his own life, change the choices that he's made, and sculpt a wonderful existence out of what has already happened.  It's not all perfectly easy though, every action has a reaction, but Tim uses his new gift wisely; to fall in love, to help his friends, to enjoy every moment of every day.  But when tragedy strikes, as it's bound to do, even time travel can't fix the broken pieces of your life and erase the memories of heartache.  Tim must learn what he can & cannot mend, getting along one day at a time as we all must do.

It would be an understatement to say that this movie affected me.  It got under my skin, it bothered me in a great way, and it did make me take a look at my own life through a different lens.  About Time is a powerful movie with a lot to say.  Love, family, kids, death, sacrifice; they hold nothing back and by the end I felt pretty wrung out.  It was as amazing as Love Actually, if you're a fan, with a little more of a sad and/or reflective note.  But it was an excellent film, filled with great music, top-notch actors, and a directing style that facilitated the mood perfectly.  To touch on the acting, every single actor was on top of their game.  Domhnall Gleeson was a good storyteller as well as a great character.  Bill Nighy was phenomenal as Tim's dad.  And Rachel McAdams has never been better, blowing away all her other roles.  In the end the film was about the relationships between the family members, about the idea of living every day with no fear, with appreciation for the details.  It was never really about time travel; that was more a vehicle for the plot, not the focus of the story.  And in the end I cried, I felt it, it got to me.  But its hook doesn't make it a wonderful film; it did that on its own with real emotion, honest portrayals, and a message that we all need to hear.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, February 14, 2014

Movie Trailer - Enemy

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon
Release: March 14th, 2014

I know the plot seems a little bit cheesy; the whole "which one is which and where did they come from" thing.  But the trailer creeped me out in a good way and I'm willing to give it a shot.  I really enjoyed Prisoners, Villeneuve's only big American picture, I heart Jake Gyllenhaal, and I thought Melanie Laurent was incredible in Inglorious Basterds.

DVD Review - Dead Weight

Director: Adam Bartlett, John Pata
Starring: Joe Belknap, Mary Lindberg, Michelle Courvais
Year: 2012

You toss the dice when you watch low budget horror.  There are a couple things you know you're not going to get: great special effects, amazing cinematography, the best actors.  But you're hoping to get lucky and stumble across a film in which someone knows what they're doing.  A director who has a good eye despite his empty wallet, an actor who is made for better things but just hasn't caught their break quite yet, a writer who came up with something wonderfully original; any of these would be a pleasant surprise.  But unfortunately the majority of indie thrillers aren't much more than a bunch of amateurs walking around with a handheld camera.  Dead Weight might not be quite that bad, but it's definitely not a diamond in the rough.

The Movie

Charlie has a good life.  He enjoys his job, his hometown, his comics, his cereal, and has recently met the girl of his dreams.  Samantha drinks, swears, enjoys movie quotes, looks great, and is basically the best girlfriend.  But a problem arises that threatens their relationship.  Sam wants to move away to take an internship.  She thinks it's a great opportunity, Charlie thinks it's too far away.  But she goes, he stays, and they try to make it work.  And if that were the end of their troubles things might have turned out alright, but it's only the beginning.  An unknown disaster strikes the country while they are separated and society as they know it breaks down.  Charlie vows to find her, no matter what, and begins a journey to reach a meeting place no matter what, or who, gets in his way.

But it's not going to to be easy to find one girl in a landscape of biologically warfare.  Charlie joins with a group of survivors and they attempt to make sense of it all while trying just to survive.  Is it the government, is it zombies, are there any safe zones, and where have all the people gone?  Over the next few months Charlie sticks to the course, making a bee line towards where he hopes Samantha will be.  But he needs the group, needs protection & food, and can't leave anyone behind if he hopes to make it all the way.  Matters are complicated by roving scavengers, undead attackers, the cold of winter, and Charlie's inability to veer from the goal he's set for himself, a goal that he will reach regardless of who he has to hurt along the way.

The very first scene of the film gave me some hope for the rest of the movie.  It was interesting, methodical, and I could tell that there was going to be one character who was at least well thought out.  And the story that followed was a strong one; some sort of apocalypse, sketchy details, a love that defies the odds, a trek through a barren wasteland.  The directors of the film also wrote it and you can tell they put a lot of effort into creating a plot that wouldn't be throwaway, a relationship that would be the foundation for a mad adventure.  Sure, a lot of the details were borrowed from other projects, but there are only so many ways you can do a zombie movie; eventually you're going to end up with a few copies.

And so the set up was fine and the film looked to be headed in the right direction.  That is, until Samantha started speaking.  Mary Lindberg was incredibly awful as the leading love interest of the movie.  She had no talent, no charisma, and probably should have just kept to her other job on set which was makeup artist.  Did someone bow out at the last minute and so they asked some lady in the makeup trailer to step in and, oh by the way, convince us that you're worth Charlie's love and his suicidal trek across a wasteland?  Because the chemistry didn't work, it failed miserably, and in so doing brought down the entire production.  There were flashbacks of the pair's love affair during Charlie's adventure and not one time did I believe that they were into each other.

So with the entire driving emotion behind the plot evaporated, we were in need of something else to fill its place.  Some action, some effects, a zombie, anything.  But then we remember that this is a low budget walk through the woods and there's nothing cool waiting for us if we keep watching all the way to the end.  The zombies never really materialize, the small amount of gore is just silly, and nothing great ever really happens.  We don't learn about the disaster, we don't get any omniscient looks, and by the end we've got to settle with the fact that we basically watched nothing happen.  Someone should turn this movie into a graphic novel, because that might be the only way of depicting the events and nuances that they were trying to shove across.  I'd read it, but I definitely wouldn't watch this again.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the video quality was OK but not much more than you'd expect from an indie film.  The movie was shot using a Sony PMW-F3 camera and wasn't the worst visual you'll see from a low budget film, but was also not something worthy of praise.

Audio - The disc was done in Dolby Digital, with an option between 5.1 & 2.0.  There are no language options.  The audio quality of the film was fine, but again not anything to write home about.  The balance of the sound was OK, with no glaring errors, but neither audio or visual delivered much to get excited about.

Extras - There are a few extras on the DVD.  You can turn on either Directors' Commentary with Adam Bartlett and John Pata or Actors' Commentary with Joe Belknap and Mary Lindberg as a companion to the film.  There are a few extended scenes totaling 13 minutes of bonus footage.  There is almost an hour of Featurettes and Outtakes, a nice look behind the scenes.  And there is also a Theatrical Trailer for the film.

Final Thoughts

Skip It.  Perhaps if a major studio had gotten their hands on this script they could have produced a solid film.  The story was there and Joe Belknap was actually pretty good as Charlie, so maybe with some money to throw around a good actress could have been found and some action could have been added to get our blood going.  But most likely Hollywood would have screwed it up too and it would have ended up just as blah of a film, just a much more expensive one.  The video quality of the movie was fine, as was the audio, and there were some nice extras on the disc.  But all in all, Dead Weight was group of people trying to make a cool film and failing.  Some of the pieces were there, but the lead actress was awful, the "horror" was boring, and I was glad when it ended.

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

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Movie Trailer - A Long Way Down

Director: Pascal Chaumeil
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots
Aaron Paul, Rosamund Pike, Sam Neill
Release: March 21st, 2014

I almost wish they could break this movie up into parts; I think I'd like it better that way.  As it is, there are too many cooks in the kitchen.  Good actors, but too many.  Dramatic situations, but too many.  Holiday settings, but too many.  This film cannot possibly stop itself from going over the top, pun intended.

Movie Review - Adore

Director: Anne Fontaine
Starring: Robin Wright, Naomi Watts, James Frecheville, Xavier Samuel
Year: 2013

Critics really hate this movie.  Its Metascore on IMDB is 3.7 out of 10, while users give it a 6.2.  Not great scores either way, but that's a pretty big discrepancy.  When critics and audiences disagree so much I tend to find myself smack dab in the middle, understanding both viewpoints and generally splitting the difference.  But I wanted to like this movie going in, I didn't want it to be a 5 out of 10 or, in my star system, a low three stars.  I wanted it to be great and it definitely had the pieces to pull it off.  A great locale, two under-appreciated & beautiful actresses, an artistic director.  But I can't say I'm surprised that I ended up barely liking the movie, rating it three stars, and landing right in the middle of the debate once again.

This is a story of mothers and sons, but also of love breaking all barriers.  Roz & Lil are best friends, have been since childhood, connected deeply & emotionally.  They live on the coast of Australia, lead pampered lives, and spend the majority of their time drinking, swimming, and soaking up the sun.  They each have a son and each of these boys grows up to be a handsome young man.  And that's where the problems start.  Each mother falls for the other's child, creating a strange foursome of lovers who never cross the line of incest, but might as well since all four are basically one family unit.  Life attempts to move the group in different directions; new jobs, new lovers, advancing age.  But nothing seems to be more powerful than their love for each other, the pull of the beach, and the bond that can never be broken.

Some people might find this to be a disturbing story.  After all, these young men are having sex with women who are basically second mothers to them.  That part of the plot raises a lot of questions on the topic of morality, and it may be too much for some to handle.  But the taboo nature of the story aside, there are some great parts to this film.  Both actresses are excellent as aging women who fall in love despite themselves, both playing their parts brilliantly.  And the scenery of the movie was enough to keep me watching; beautiful beaches, perfect weather, relaxing scenes.  I wanted to immediately move to Australia.  But taking the film as a whole, it's not amazing.  It goes too slowly too often, it's over-dramatic at times, it spans too many years, and neither of the boys is a great actor.  At the end, I found myself shrugging, as if to say "OK, that was fine" but I don't see myself remembering it or thinking about it past writing this review.  I don't agree with the critics that it was awful, and I don't agree with users that it was good.  It was somewhere in between for me, though perhaps polarizing for others.  You'll just have to check it out yourself if you're intrigued; it's not a waste of time but don't expect a lot.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Movie Trailer - Breathe In

Director: Drake Doremus
Starring: Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan
Release: March 28th, 2014

This looks pretty much like every other cheating/murder/thriller that's ever been made.  The only difference is Guy Pearce, who's an exceptional actor.  I'm intrigued, but I doubt that his presence alone will be enough to carry an entire movie.

Book Review - The Left Hand of Darkness

Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Year: 1969

Well-crafted science fiction can be a thing of beauty.  It can take us to another world, show us a different life, imagine the changes of the future, preview technology, paint pictures of our dreams.  But it can also speak to us about our current world.  Sci-fi is not just a look into the far reaches of space, it's an introspective criticism of today, how we act, what we choose, and why these decisions may affect the lives we will lead years from now.  Sci-fi takes our current cultural path into account and attempts to predict where humanity will be fifty, a hundred, or thousands of years into the future.  And so every story in this genre should be dissected to explore the deeper meanings of the plot, but none more so than The Left Hand of Darkness, a book designed specifically to bring our own societal flaws to the forefront and to expose the mistakes of mankind.

Genly Ai is an alien in an alien world.  He comes from Earth, where it and many other planets have joined together to create a peaceful & profitable alliance, called the Ekumen.  The Ekumen have sent Ai to a newly found planet to convince them to join the federation.  This small world, called Gethen, is in the midst of an ice age, earning it the nickname Winter.  There, Ai attempts to convince the king of the great nation of Karhide to believe his story and accept the open invitation from the Ekumen.  But the society of Gethen is too complicated for a simple yes or no.  First, the countries of Karhide and neighboring Orgoreyn are close to war, a first for the history of the planet.  And secondly, the humans of Gethen are not like the humans of Earth; they are neither male nor female.  Instead, they go through a monthly cycle in which they temporarily display sexual organs, a period called kemmer.  Only during kemmer do they show any gender, making them automatically both curious & cautious around a constant male like Genly Ai.  But his mission is incredibly important to the future of Gethen, and with the help of an uncertain ally named Estraven, Ai will try his best to convince whichever power will listen that he is indeed an alien, that he comes in peace, and that the fate of the planet is balanced on a very dangerous edge.

There's so much to touch upon when discussing this book.  The sci-fi element alone is fascinating; the distant planet, Ai's mission to there, the constant freezing temperatures of the world, the continents that make up the planet, the technology that allows Ai to travel and to communicate with his orbiting ship.  It's a well-written science fiction story, filled with great detail and exhibiting an amazing imagination.  But the technical aspects aren't really even the point.  It's the societal messages that become the best part of the book.  Le Guin is a feminist sociologist and you can tell it in her writing.  She has so much to say about human gender roles, the division of the sexes, the distribution of power among the wealthy & poor, the advancement of culture over a given time, the religious dogma that is always in the background.  Life on Gethen is just an accurate portrait of life on Earth, excellently depicted and shockingly revealing.  And then there's the dramatic side of the story, the relationship between Ai & Estraven, the unlikely bond they form, the lessons that we the readers learn from their interaction.  There are dozens of different reasons that The Left Hand of Darkness is one of the best novels I have ever read.  You had better enjoy the genre, be interested in sociology, be prepared to jump right into a culture that doesn't make much sense immediately, and allow the fictional language barrier to work itself out.  But if you can do those things, you'll be rewarded with a magnificent story set in an beautiful land and written to near perfection.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Movie Trailer - Odd Thomas

Director: Stephen Sommers
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, Willem Dafoe
Release: February 28th, 2014

I kept waiting for the punchline that didn't come.  I guess it's not surprising that this movie looks like a joke; it is based on a Dean Koontz book after all.  Koontz sucks, Stephen King is where it's at, period.  And even movies made from King books suck, so there's no way I'm watching this.

DVD Review - How I Live Now

Director: Kevin Macdonald
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, George McKay, Tom Holland
Year: 2013

Saoirse Ronan leaped onto the scene by playing strong young female characters pulled from the pages of popular books.  Briony in Atonement, Lina in City of Ember, Susie in The Lovely Bones, and now Daisy in How I Live Now.  She caught all our attention with her portrayal of Briony, the intense girl who is trying to understand an adult world that she's not yet a part of.  And her talent is unquestionable; she's a strong professional who can deliver when given a good script crafted from a good novel.  But that's the problem with this film.  The story is cheap, the characters shallow, the real emotion lacking, and Ronan sticks to the script way too well, becoming Daisy One Note and failing to use her talent to knock the film a notch higher than where the book set it up to be.

The Movie

Daisy is an American in England.  Her mother is dead, her father is distant, and her life has just been turned upside down.  The world is on the brink of WW3, with governments meeting furiously to attempt to avoid a conflict that will start a disaster.  And with all the danger focused on major cities, Daisy has been send into the British countryside where she'll be safe.  Her aunt & cousins live there, leading a life that is far from any she's ever known.  Little Piper just wants attention from her cool older cuz.  Isaac wants to be the man of the house while still being a boy.  And Edmund, the eldest, may want Daisy.  The two begin to fall for each other against a backdrop of war, but their new love affair might not last long.

The unthinkable happens when London is bombed, the world becoming a place of chaos overnight.  No power, no news, no contact with the outside world, but it actually doesn't affect the family that much.  They are happy in the relative safety of the countryside, Daisy & Eddie happy within their love.  But when local troops are mobilized, when the families of the area are rounded up and sent to "safe zones", the idyllic peace of the woods disappears.  The boys are sent to one camp, the girls to another, but Daisy doesn't forget her promise to Edmund that they will do whatever it takes to reach each other.  Through a war zone, without much hope, against all odds, but with a determination that cannot be dissuaded and will not be turned aside.

To be fair, I haven't read the book.  But then again I'm not a tween girl who romanticizes about love in the English countryside and the war that tears that love apart.  So I don't know how well the film sticks to or does justice to the novel, but I can't imagine the book gave them much to work with.  And it's a good idea; possible World War, forbidden love, a journey to find each other again.  But it just doesn't work in film form.  It was more a cheap Narnia knockoff than anything else, down to the character named Edmund.  I half expected the kids to go snooping around some wardrobes and save the day with the help of a giant lion.  Old house, bombings, four young people; it was just too C.S. Lewis without the cool fantasy element.

And it dragged, that was the worst part.  The war played a minimal role; it was more a background than a plot, so we never got any real action or terror.  The "love scenes" were over-dramatic and yawn inducing.  The characters were silly and never made me feel anything.  So the movie dragged, the pace was slow, I never bought in, and I couldn't really make myself care when the kids were split up and taken away.  I'm not sure I wanted Daisy & Eddie to find one another in the end; they were kinda pathetic when they were together anyway.  Throw in some symbolism about a hawk, a dog, sucking blood from someone's wound, washing your hands too much; they were just attempts at emotion badly done.

The acting didn't help much.  Every single actor in the movie was bad, with no one standing out as believable as a human.  Edmund was just plain weird, coming off creepy rather that alluring.  The younger kids were whatever, and there weren't very many side characters.  But it was Ronan who wins first prize for sucking.  I've never seen her worse, and she was pretty bad in The Way Back.  It was like she was trying to be someone she wasn't.  That might be an odd thing to say about an actress, but you could tell she was forcing it; forcing the emotion, the passion, the I'm-closed-off-but-I'm-gonna-fall-in-love-anyway loner girl.  It was all too much work and not enough smooth film making.  'Belaboured' is the word that comes to mind; nothing came easy.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the video quality was really nice.  The film was shot using Arri Alexa and Arriflex cameras and delivered a very high quality visual.  The color was beautiful; the yellows of summer, the gritty muted tones of the war.  The picture quality made the movie enjoyable to view, at the very least.

Audio - The audio of the disc was done in 5.1 Dolby Digital.  There is an option to turn on either English SDH subtitles or Spanish.  The sound quality was very high, great clarity and depth, with a good balance as well. 

Extras - There are a lot of extras on the DVD.  Deleted Scenes; three scenes that last five minutes total.  Making of How I Live Now; an in-depth look at the creation of the film with some narration by the director and actors, six minutes in length.  Interviews; with your choice between Kevin Macdonald (Director), Charles Steel & Alasdair Flind (Producers), Saoirse Ronan ("Daisy"), George MacKay ("Eddie"), Tom Holland ("Isaac"), Harley Bird ("Piper"), Danny McEvoy ("Joe"), Meg Rosoff (Author), or Play All.  Behind the Scenes Comparisons; a look behind the Airport Scene, Riverbank Scene, Bonfire Scene, Separated Scene, or Play All.  AXS TV: A Look at How I Live Now; basically a three-minute-long special trailer.  Trailer; the official trailer for the film.  And Also From Magnolia Home Entertainment; trailers for The Last Days on Mars, Mr. Nobody, Best Man Down, Bad Milo!, and AXS TV.

Final Thoughts

Skip It.  It's just not a good movie.  There aren't a lot of poetic things you can say about the poor quality of the film, the people who make it just didn't do a good job.  The plot was difficult to accept, the emotion of the scenes never came off as real, and the acting was poor bordering on awful.  They took a good premise and failed to make a strong film, simple as that.  On a positive note, both the video & audio qualities were excellent, as were the extras on the disc.  How I Live Now should probably be read, not watched, but I think even that would be a risk.

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

Monday, February 10, 2014

Movie Trailer - Under the Skin

Director: Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Antonia Campbell-Hughes
Release: April 4th, 2014

Weird.  And it doesn't really show us that much about the movie, which makes me assume that the movie is even weirder than the trailer.  I'm not a big Scarlett Johansson fan, and I'm not sure how well she'll play an alien abductor.

Movie Review - Take Me Home

Director: Sam Jaeger
Starring: Sam Jaeger, Amber Jaeger, Victor Garber
Year: 2011

I stumbled upon this movie while watching something else; it was a trailer before the film.  And it caught my eye for a lot of reasons.  One was that Sam Jaeger wrote, directed, and starred in the movie.  That always makes me curious, because that is a lot of yourself to pour into a project.  Sometimes it bombs and sometimes it's excellent, but it's usually not somewhere in the middle.  The other factoid that got my attention was that Jaeger cast his real-life wife as the love interest that would play opposite himself.  Would that make the chemistry in the film better or worse, natural or awkward?  So I was excited to watch Take Me Home so that my questions would be answered, and I was rewarded with a solid rom/com with a dash of originality.

Thom & Claire are not having good days.  Thom is flat broke, no real job, and has just been kicked out of his apartment.  He's a photographer who can't find work, so he drives around an independent taxi to make due.  Claire is a wealthy married executive who is fairly certain that her husband is cheating.  She just wants out of the city, to escape her complicated life for a while.  And here's where they meet, Claire jumping in a taxi and ordering the driver to go anywhere, Thom more than happy to chauffeur her all night as long as the money keeps coming.  But when the two realize that neither of them really want to return to the city, they turn a simple cab ride into a road trip, getting to know each other & themselves along the way.

Yes it's a rom/com and yes I've been watching too many lately, but Take Me Home is actually a good one.  First off, it's not extremely famous people phoning in performances to make a few million bucks.  It's a guy who put everything into a film; his time, his money, his talent, and even his wife.  The personal touch was obvious and movie was better because of it.  The story might be a little cliche, two people who don't get along at first but will eventually fall in love.  But the delivery was good & honest enough to support the old plot.  Sam Jaeger was really superb; funny, fluid, natural.  Amber Jaeger wasn't any of those things though, and she was definitely a weak point when called upon to be dramatic.  But the film as a whole worked because it attempted to be more than typical, there was a lot of unspoken tension, and I really enjoy when not every nuance is explained out loud, when the director lets the audience figure things out by reading the characters faces and subtle messages.  By the end I got a bit bored perhaps as the action slowed way down, but at that point I was invested enough to forgive a little sap and appreciate a strong movie that obviously tried hard to be more than your normal romantic drivel.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰