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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Movie Trailer - Laggies

Director: Lynn Shelton
Starring: Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell
Release: October 24th, 2014

Sam Rockwell is an amazing actor and I'd see him in almost anything.  But Keira Knightley looks weird in this one.  I don't like that she's grungy & American, it feels odd.  And who decided that Ellie Kemper is a good actress?  She was kinda funny on The Office, but that's it, stop casting her.  Also, I don't trust Lynn Shelton; Touchy Feely was dull and uninspired and I'm afraid Laggies will be too.

Sports - 2014 NFL HOF Game

The NFL Preseason kicks off this weekend; Sunday, August 3rd at 8pm on NBC.  The game is between the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills, and will be played at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio, right next to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  If you've never been to the Hall, I highly recommend it.  I haven't been in years but it's an experience every football fan needs to have.  Apparently they've redone it recently and it's even cooler, so I plan on checking it out ASAP.  The stadium itself is a great place to see a football game.  I went a few years back when it was Colts vs Redskins.  The stadium is so small that you feel like you're watching a high school game and the players are literally right there.  Anyway, here's a look at what to watch for during the game.

New York Giants - Last season was a total bust for the G-Men.  They ended up 7-9, couldn't score enough points, win on the road, or win enough in their division.  They actually scored the 2nd least points in the NFC, behind only the Bucs.  So say goodbye to your offensive coordinator and say hello to Ben McAdoo, who will hope to get Eli back on track.  Manning started all 16 games, threw only 18 TDs and 27 INTs.  Not good.  He'll have to improve on those numbers, the worst in his career, if the Giants are to have any postseason hopes.  They lost a ton of key veterans: LB Kieth Rivers, WR Hakeem Nicks, DE Justin Tuck, S Ryan Mundy, DT Linval Joseph, TE Brandon Myers, CB Terrell Thomas, DT Shaun Rogers, and basically their entire offensive line.  But they added some really good talent: OG John Jerry, DE Robert Ayers, CB D. Rodgers-Cromartie, S Quintin Demps, RB Rashad Jennings, WR Mario Manningham, TE Kellen Davis, CB Walter Thurmond, and rookie WR Odell Beckham.  The entire offense is undergoing a big transition with its new OC and new line.  If Eli can have a bounce-back year and if he can get his offense moving, the Giants have a bit of a chance.  But their defense needs to improve as well, especially considering the QBs in the NFC East: Romo, RG3, Foles.  This division is always competitive and every team has a chance, but I don't see another miraculous Super Bowl run in New York's future.

Buffalo Bills - 2013 was a lost season for the Bills.  They went 6-10, scored about as much as they allowed, won a few divisional games, but really made little real impact on the NFL.  E.J. Manuel, their rookie QB, couldn't stay healthy, only starting 10 games and scoring 13 total TDs.  He needs to avoid a sophomore slump if Buffalo is to have any competitive chance.  The offensive remains the same, which should help Manuel, as should a couple new weapons.  The defense will be run by new DC Jim Schwartz, the unlikable ex-coach of the Lions.  Look for the defense to play dirty, be heavily penalized, and try to force takeaways.  They didn't lose a lot of key players during Free Agency: S Jarius Byrd and S Jim Leonhard.  The players they added will help right away: LB Brandon Spikes, CB Corey Graham, LB Keith Rivers, WR Mike Williams, OG Chris Williams, and rookie WR Sammy Watkins.  The team has great weapons at WR and RB, so if E.J. can step up his game this could be a sleeper team to watch put up some points.  The defense needs to get physical without getting stupid.  I don't see Buffalo challenging New England for the division, but they won't be a pushover team either.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Movie Trailer - St. Vincent

Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts
Release: October 24th, 2014

Incredible.  This is Melfi's feature length debut and that's the only thing that has me slightly worried.  The rest, aces.  Bill Murray is a genius, that kid is hilarious, and I even think Melissa McCarthy is gonna do alright.  Naomi Watts playing a Russian stripper is weird, but whatever, I'm in.

Movie Review - The Book Thief

Director: Brian Percival
Starring: Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson
Year: 2013

When the trailer for this film first came out last summer, it definitely caught my attention.  After all, Germany during WWII was a place full of fascinating stories, any number of which could successfully be made into hit films.  But judging the movie solely by its trailer, it didn't seem to me like it would be excellent.  Then it started getting Oscar buzz, started conversation, got a lot of interest, and I wondered if perhaps I was wrong.  I guess I should have stuck with my gut, because The Book Thief failed to be the poignant drama it promised.  It ended up not winning any big awards, not being highly rated by critics, and not delivering its advertised product.  Many of its pieces are strong, but taken as a whole it's an overrated war story and a minor disappointment.

In the years before Hitler's attempt at European conquest, Germany was changing.  The Socialist party was taking over, the Communists were driven out, and the line was being drawn between Nationalist and Intellectualism.  Liesel was a girl caught in the middle.  Her poor, Communist mother sent her & her brother away to live with adoptive parents, giving them a better chance to survive the coming war.  Liesel's brother died along the way, leaving her to adjust alone to her new life as daughter to Hans & Rosa Hubermann.  Liesel and Hans quickly became best friends, sharing their love of books despite their struggle with literacy.  Rosa was a harder nut to crack, but she began to love Liesel in her own way.  But when a Jewish fugitive named Max came to live with them, Liesel was faced with the difficult truths about the German leadership she was blindly following, including the burning of the books she was growing to rely on.  And when war finally came, everything would change, leaving a young girl floundering in an adult world, fighting to survive.

The base story is as interesting and important as most others in this genre.  The war, Germany, Hitler, the rounding up of the Jews, the book-burning rallies, the blind patriotism, boys pressed into service, food shortages, the SS; everything we love & hate about this time period is put on display here and done very well.  The plot is paired with great acting that supports it throughout and always captures the heart of the audience.  Nelisse is beautiful and melancholy, an excellent heroine for the story.  Rush & Watson are perfect as her adoptive parents, showing strength and heart in turn.  But what keeps the film from becoming something excellent is the ever-present feel that it was made for teenagers.  The style is juvenile far too often, with a narrator that I just hated pointing out the morals of the plot and ruining the finest moments.  The action could speak for itself marvelously, but instead everything is spelled out and nothing is left for us to conjure for ourselves.  Were this film shown in a classroom of 14-year-olds to introduce them to WWII it could do great things.  But I needed something more, or something less, more specifically.  Less instruction, less explanation, and less narration.  I wanted an adult film and what I got was something younger, leaving me disappointed in a movie that had great music, that had great characters, that I enjoyed, but couldn't love.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Movie Trailer - This Is Where I Leave You

Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda
Release: September 19th, 2014

I don't know, maybe it'll be good.  I like the actors, all except for Rose Bryne.  But the whole life-is-hard-but-family-is-strong thing has been done so many times before.  I'd leave it up to the director, let him manage to make it fresh somehow, but this is the guy who brought us Big Fat Liar, Just Married, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Pink Panther (2006), Date Night, Real Steel, and The Internship.  Hmm.

DVD Review - The Pretty One

Director: Jenee LaMarque
Starring: Zoe Kazan, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston
Year: 2013

Welcome to Indie heaven.  The Pretty One has everything you're looking for if what you want is low budget quirk.  An unknown director; Jenee LaMarque writes & directs her feature length debut.  A bearded non-hunk; Jake Johnson isn't what Hollywood usually casts as its leading man.  An under-the-radar debut; the film made a thousand dollars on its opening weekend.  And of course, a hipster sweetheart: Zoe Kazan is the new face of off-beat romance.  She & Daniel Radcliffe will soon star in What If, a romantic comedy that hopes to break the mold, and I for one think it can.  So the pieces are all present and Indie perfection should ensue.

The Movie

Laurel & Audrey are identical twin sisters.  Growing up they were inseparable, best friends, roommates, two halves to a whole.  But when their mother died things changed.  Audrey went off to find a life of her own; big city, big job, independence, you name it.  Laurel stayed home to take care of her father and basically become her mother; wearing her clothes, doing the dishes, never going out or glamming up.  Audrey was always the pretty one, with enviable fashion, boyfriends, life experience, awards, drive, strength.  While Laurel was the plain one, never cutting her hair, never dating, never leaving home, always in the background.  But that's all about to change.

Audrey & Laurel decide to move in together in order to get Laurel out of her shell.  On a whim, she cuts her hair to look more like Audrey, and the two sisters drive away toward a new life together.  But then tragedy strikes in the form of an oncoming car, and everything turns upside down.  Audrey dies, Laurel is in shock, and people confuse the two.  They think Laurel was the one who was killed, convincing her that's she's Audrey and that she's dead.  Make sense?  It doesn't to Laurel, not at first, but by the time she understands that there's been a mistake she's already headed toward the life of her twin, a life that's so much better than her own.  A fancy boyfriend, an apartment, a classy job; Audrey had it all and now it's totally Laurel's.  But when she meets Basel, her sister's tenant, she knows she'll eventually have to tell the truth, letting everyone know that they better have a second funeral.

It's a ridiculous story that's surprisingly easy to accept.  It might feel a little silly at first, but it soon becomes just the way things are and you learn to live with it.  The path Laurel takes on her way to becoming Audrey is a simple matter of baby steps in the wrong direction, and by the time the plot is progressing you've already accepted the fact that this girl is pretending to be her dead twin sister.  And not only does it start to feel normal, but it becomes pretty hilarious.  Depressing at times, yes, but mostly funny, as Laurel the homebody attempts to be this confident woman that she's always envied.  So it's a comedy first, if a dark one, and the drama of the situation comes second.  The love story, the difficulty of growing up, of finding one's self; those themes are present and add depth to the story, but The Pretty One is a comedy foremost.

You'd better have some talented actors able to pull off such a weird plot if you're going to try selling audiences a movie like this, and thankfully everyone did their job.  Zoe Kazan was excellent as Laurel, and as Audrey too for that matter, playing her with a quiet likability that couldn't be denied.  She really is an Indie It Girl right now and can seem to do no wrong.  She was cute, sad, realistic, and captivating, giving us a main character we could root for.  Jake Johnson as the love interest was also quite wonderful.  He's an incredibly underrated actor; do yourself a favor and check him out in Drinking Buddies, a five-star film that went below many radars.  The pair had a nice chemistry together, they kept the plot moving in a film that was a short ninety minutes, and ultimately they delivered a story that was entertaining, quirky, and made me laugh.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 Widescreen, the video was everything you could ask for from such a low-budget film.  There were never any contrast issues, the color was always very interesting, and the clarity of the picture was perfectly fine.  The quality was actually higher than I expected, with some wonderfully whimsical shots and a very smart use of space & color.

Audio - The DVD was done is Dolby Digital, with an option for English subtitles.  No other audio choices are available.  The sound quality was fine, with no problems and no stand-outs.  The soundtrack wasn't what I thought it would be, given that many Indie films rely heavily on song choice, but there was one strong track at the end and some nice background sound throughout.

Extras - There are a few extras on the disc.  The Pretty One; Visual Effects is a two-minute look at the shots that included both the sisters, or in other words, the scenes that Zoe Kazan was in twice.  It's not an explanation exactly; there are no words spoken.  It's just a brief behind-the-scenes look at how the images came together.  Also, there are five trailers: In a World..., Inside Llewyn Davis, Moms' Night Out, Austenland, and Gambit.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  If you're looking for a well-made Indie comedy, you've found it.  The Pretty One is clever, quick, meaningful, and humorous, a great way to spend an evening.  The comedy is sometimes silly, sometimes subtle, but the story is one that supports such an strange plot.  The actors do their work marvelously, Kazan & Johnson convincing us of their love & of their oddities.  The video quality is quite nice, the sound just fine, and the extras interesting.  A pleasant movie for those who enjoy the genre and a nice use of ninety minutes.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ - Content
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ - Video
☆ ☆ ☆ - Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ - Extras
☆ ☆ ☆ - Replay

Monday, July 28, 2014

Movie Trailer - Addicted

Director: Bille Woodruff
Starring: Sharon Leal, William Levy, Boris Kodjoe
Release: October 10th, 2014

If this movie is about sex addiction I think I'd rather watch Thanks for Sharing.  If it's about adultery I think I'd rather watch Unfaithful.  Both of those movies look to be much better than this one, which seems like a mix of too many plots, with Tyson Beckford thrown in for good measure.

DVD Review - No Vacancy

Director: Chris Stokes
Starring: Dustin Harnish, Kristen Quintrall, Braxton Davis
Year: 2012

Sometimes when you make a horror movie by all the standard horror movie rules, fans thank you for it.  It's nice to be familiar with the set up, to know what's coming next, to feel comfortable with a plot line that you love.  A bunch of young people on a road trip, some hot girls, a nerd, the token black guy; we don't mind recurring themes as long as we A) buy into the genre & 2) are given at least a couple original ideas.  But sometimes you come across a horror movie that robs from the successes of the past, delivers the standard story, but fails to add anything new to the mix, becoming a vulture rather than an innovator.  No Vacancy is definitely the latter, a film that starts with a common setup but then never becomes its own project, leaving audiences less than amused.

The Movie

It's time to head to Vegas, baby!  And man is this gonna be one wild road trip.  Seven friends head out in an SUV across the desert on their way to a fun-filled weekend of gambling & drinking.  You've got Todd & Claire, the attractive couple, Jordan & Brandy, the hilarious ones, Ryan & Anna, the friends with an edge, and don't forget Phil, the loner with the handheld camera.  The friends are ready for a party and raring to go, when all of a sudden they blow a tire.  No, make that two tires, with only one spare on board.  So the girls stay cool in the car while the boys go looking for help.  And wouldn't you know, down the road a ways is a tire store/mechanic/bar/hotel.  How convenient!  All the employees at the plaza are super friendly, willing to lend a helping hand, and at no cost whatsoever; what a lucky find.

And so the group spend the night.  But not before going wild on free drinks, pairing off & hooking up, and basically getting crazy.  That flat tire was a bummer, but things are looking up and Vegas is just around the corner.  Morning finds the friends groggy from their revelries, not really able to recall much of what happened, and a little weirded out by the fact that no one else seems to be around.  So this is when the fun begins.  Turns out, the happy plaza people aren't so friendly after all, and have some wicked games in mind to play today.  The games involve capturing and torturing the couples, usually while one of them watches and/or assists in the death of their lover.  Good times!  Can anyone escape alive, or will they all become cut up co-eds?!

It all started well enough.  I'm a big fan, as are so many, of the horror genre as a whole.  I don't mind the standard set up, the friends going on vacation, the killer on the loose.  That all can be so fun and so funny, an entertaining way to see some gore & nudity that's usually quick, clever, and tongue-in-cheek.  And No Vacancy began that way, a homage to the horror that had come before, a classic take with a modern twist.  The road trip, the pretty people, the creepy hotel; the first half an hour is quality horror.  Now, not everyone will agree, some would see it as crap from the very beginning.  You'd better be a fan, otherwise you'll hate what you get here.  But assuming you've seen your fair share of slashers, the beginning of this film is for you.  It's the rest that sucks.

After a strong start, the movie tanks.  What begins as a classic plot quickly turns into no plot at all.  People get ripped apart, murdered violently, drugged, shocked, often out of hand and always uninterestingly.  It's like, after the first thirty minutes, everyone gave up and decided to just wing it.  The plot fell apart, the killings became stupid, and the action began to make no sense.  They tried to tie it all together with a lame back story, but it was so juvenile it couldn't be taken seriously and failed to do anything more than add to the idiocy of the film.  And wow was the acting bad.  Again, right at first I thought we were gonna be OK, everything was going well.  But then people started attempting to act and all hell broke loose.  Sobbing violently, running around screaming, holding people at gunpoint; the cast lost control of themselves or the director left the set or perhaps they all agreed to just give up.  Whatever happened, it was bad, and the film became hard to even watch.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (16x9 Widescreen), you might expect high quality video, but that's not what you get.  Some of the shots are nice & crisp, done very well.  But so much of the film was shot using a hand-held camera, a camera that was loosely worked into plot.  That quality was, of course, bad and didn't really need to be there.  Then there was the security camera footage, again very low quality and pretty unnecessary.  So don't watch this movie for great visuals.

Audio - The DVD was done in Dolby Digital, with an option to turn on either English or Spanish subtitles.  There are no other audio options.  The sound quality was fine, whatever.  There were no problems, but how clearly do I need to hear "Oh my god, why are you doing this?!"  There wasn't much of a soundtrack to speak of either, so the audio was pretty unimpressive.

Extras - The only extras are a few trailers: No Vacancy, Killer Holiday, The Cabin in the Woods, and You're Next.

Final Thoughts

Skip It.  What started as a promising horror flick quickly became just another throwaway slasher movie.  It began with a standard backdrop, but lost its way and just started hacking away at both the characters and the story.  Fans of the genre will recognize a lack of originality here, while those who don't like horror should run for the hills.  The video quality was marred by useless additions, the audio quality was so-so, and the extras were few.  Not a film I would recommend to anyone really, as it failed to entertain or captivate me, and isn't worth much of your time.

☆ ☆ - Content
☆ ☆ - Video
☆ ☆ - Audio
☆ ☆ - Extras
- Replay

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Movie Trailer - Unbroken

Director: Angelina Jolie
Starring: Jack O'Connell, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson
Release: December 25th, 2014

All they had to say was "written by the Coen Brothers" and I'd have been on board.  It looks pretty epic and powerful; not sure if Jolie can sculpt that into something that isn't cheesy, but I'm willing to give it a shot.  POW movies are instant hooks, so are biographies for that matter; I smell an Oscar nomination.

Movie Review - Perfect Sense

Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Eva Green, Ewan McGregor
Year: 2011

I think I might have a mancrush on Ewan McGregor, and I think it's his smile.  Either that or his awesome accent.  Or the fact that he's a brilliant actor.  He does tend to churn out a few too many movies, not being overly selective with his role choices.  But it's hard to fault him for that; if they're offering you millions of dollars you should probably take the money and run, especially while you're still young, in, and handsome.  Anyway, I like McGregor.  I like Eva Green too, but begrudgingly.  She's a little off-putting and twisted, a perfect demeanor for most of her roles, but in Perfect Sense she was called upon to be the leading lady of a love story, albeit a weird one.  Well the couple both pulled off their characters, creating a film that's part romance, part sci-fi, and wholly intriguing.

Susan is a research doctor and Michale is a chef; why not meet and fall in love.  They both have rocky histories, which doesn't mean they can't be perfect for each other, and their affair begins with enviable passion.  But the world around them is going through a change that no human has ever coped with before.  For an unknown reason, an epidemic is sweeping the world that eliminates human senses.  First goes smell, paired with a short period of intense grief.  Then goes taste, with a burst of incredible paranoia.  As each sense leaves the body, mankind panics and then regroups, going on with life having lost something that will never be regained.  Susan & Michael are no different, riding the waves of loss with only each other to cling to, falling in love despite the chaos that surrounds them.

It's a fascinating plot, created by Danish screenwriter Kim Fupz Aaakeson.  It has the sci-fi elements that I love coupled with a romance that's extremely believable.  The way they describe and show the disease is really horrifying, especially well done considering it doesn't really hurt anyone.  It's just a loss of a sense, but watching the film you can understand the panic that the characters must feel as they are slowly abandoned by the body they have always trusted.  So the movie is very sensational, very pleasing to the sense it's about to take away, but it's also very emotionally real.  At its heart it's just a love story like any other, a tale of two people whose lives have become about each other, blocking out the rest of the world as they wrap themselves together.  Green & McGregor are both excellent, bring a sense of reality to their roles, and hold on to that even when the story begins to go wild.  I didn't love some of the narrating over the action; narration has never been a good idea in my book.  And a few of the moments were definitely heavy-handed when the actors could have silently spoken for themselves.  But as a whole, I found the film to be captivating, with a very unusual backdrop framing a very common theme.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Friday, July 25, 2014

Movie Trailer - Fifty Shades of Grey

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Release: February 13th, 2015

I've not read the book, though I have to say I'm intrigued.  I doubt the content would shock me, but it's incredible the amount of women who are all about this story.  They'd see the movie version were it the worst in the world.  Judging by the trailer, I don't think it's going to be horrible, but it doesn't look amazing either.  I feel compelled to watch it if just to see what all the fuss is about, but I don't have high hopes.

Movie Review - The Best Offer

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sylvia Hoeks
Year: 2013

I've been a fan of Geoffrey Rush ever since I saw Quills, a sadistically expressive film that he was perfect in.  He had made his mark before then (Shine, Elizabeth), but that particular role allowed him to show an intensity that I loved, to portray a character that was fascinating.  The talent he brought to the Marquis de Sade is the same that he brings here, as Mr. Oldman in The Best Offer.  He takes the movie upon his back, carrying it whenever it falters, and gives us a story to remember.  It's his remarkable fervor that propels the plot and keeps our attention until the climax, and it's his face I remember when I think back on what I just watched.  If for no other reason, this film deserves a viewing because of Geoffrey Rush, and you won't be disappointed in what you see.

In the art world, there is no greater mind than that of Virgil Oldman.  Not only is he the world's top art auctioneer, but his appraisal talent is unmatched and his eye is razor sharp.  He can spot every forgery, perfectly price every piece, and instruct anyone as to the handling of their art.  That's how he's tricked the entire world into believing that so many masterpieces are worth nothing, masterpieces that are now in his secret possession, cunningly hidden for his eyes only.  These women in the portraits he chooses are the loves of his life, his reason for living.  Until Claire.  The daughter of a rich, recently deceased couple and a complete recluse, this beautiful young woman hides within her own home, hiring Mr. Oldman to handle the sale of her estate.  But she can't hide forever, and as Virgil begins to unravel her mystery he begins to fall for her as well.  He has finally felt the love that has eluded him all his life, and he won't let it slip back into the shadows once more.

I have never seen Rush better than in this role.  He takes Mr. Oldman to heart, fleshes him out, and gives us a character that is sometimes detestable but often strangely endearing.  And it's not a static portrayal, it's one that changes and grows as the film progresses, keeping our interest as well as showing that people change as do their surroundings.  Rush adds nuances to the film that only he could have pulled off; the fastidious glove-wearing, the palpable fear of exposure, the vast range of emotion one can only feel while in love.  He gives us everything, holding nothing back for himself, and the result is a performance of a lifetime.  If only the others around him had been as strong.  Sturgess, Hoeks, and even Donald Sutherland all did a fine job, giving us characters who were well portrayed, but not standing out as irreplaceable actors.  The film could have gone on without them, or with someone else to fill their shoes, and the same could not be said about Geoffrey Rush.

The acting aside, the movie itself was a page-turner.  It was a fascinating thriller, an exciting ride, a heart-pounding who-done-it, but not much more.  The plot sped along quickly, always keeping my attention and forcing me to question why, how, and what.  But the general premise wasn't wonderfully original.  It was a mystery; well done, highly entertaining, and I'm still thinking it through, but I know a cheap hook when I feel one.  I was willing to forgive it in the moment because I was having a good time, because I was invested, and I'm not totally willing to slam it now, but that doesn't mean it was perfect.  The visuals were though.  They were stunning, beautiful, pause-worthy, and added to the feel of the film, which was creepy & alluring at the same time.  The mood of the movie was often oppressive, dark, mysterious, and the art used on set was right in line.  Despite its imperfections, The Best Offer was a film I would watch again; for Rush's great performance, for the drama of the plot, and for the accessible excitement it offered.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Movie Trailer - Wild

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Michael Huisman, Laura Dern
Release: December 5th, 2014

I'm not usually a big Reese Witherspoon fan; I think it's her chin.  But I might be willing to give her a chance.  I like what Vallee was able to do with Dallas Buyers Club and McConaughey; maybe he'll be able to do the same with Wild and Witherspoon.

Movie Review - Sex Tape

Director: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz, Rob Lowe
Year: 2014

They say sex sells, and they're right.  Raise your hand if the name 'Cameron Diaz' caught your attention.  And then keep it raised if the sight of her in panties got you into the theatre.  You're not alone and you're not as pathetic as you think.  It's a formula that has worked a million times and will keep working as long as humans have hormones.  Make a movie about sex, cast someone hot, say it's funny, and audiences will arrive.  You'd think we'd be smarter than that, that we'd see the bad movie coming a mile away and steer clear.  And perhaps we're not as dumb as all that; it's not like Sex Tape is raking in the megabucks.  But I went to see it, maybe you did too, and you know when it's released on Netflix it'll be one of the most popular movies available for streaming.  We just can't help ourselves I guess, the urge to be a pseudo-voyeur for an evening is too strong and we, I fear, are too weak.

Jay & Annie are in a slump.  They used to be a wild couple; sex in every position, every room, any time, any place.  But nowadays things just keep getting in the way.  Jay works a lot, Annie is a busy mom, their two kids take a lot of their time, and they're starting to forget how to make the magic happen like they used to.  So they make a sex tape.  That's right, boom, a sex tape.  And it works, their spark is relit, but there's just one small problem; the Cloud.  Jay doesn't erase the video right away, some devices get synced, and all of a sudden the tape is out there for the world to see.  So the happy couple go on an adventure to stop others from watching their special moment, to secure their privacy, and perhaps to save their marriage.  Attack dogs, psycho preteens, wild millionaires; nothing will stop them from erasing that movie, no matter what they have to do.

I'll start off by stating a fact; Cameron Diaz is still hot.  She still has a killer bod and it's never a bad idea to parade her around in her underwear; that'll always be a crowd-pleaser.  Jason Segel on the other hand just looked sick.  He lost a lot of weight for the film and yes his body is fit, but his face looks skeletal and it weirds me out.  I guess he wanted to be a more viable partner for Diaz in order to make the film more believable, and I respect that he must have worked hard to get in shape, but he just doesn't look like himself.  As a pair, they tried hard to make the movie sexy, and in parts it worked.  Partial nudity & sexual positions abound, and it is a pretty realistic look at the wild times of youth compared to the relative normalcy of marriage.  The chemistry between Diaz & Segel wasn't amazing; it seemed a little forced at times and I never fully trusted that they were compatible.  But then again the sex was mostly used for humor, not arousal, so I guess they didn't need perfect harmony.  I just wish the humor had been more funny.

Maybe Segel lost his comedic timing along with his weight, because wow was he off.  It was like he was awkwardly spouting lines that had been made up two minutes earlier and had never been thought through to decide whether or not they were actually funny.  Diaz too was less humorous and more bumbly.  She's not a very good actress, let me put that out there, and seems to fail every time she's asked to handle a major role.  Put her in something smaller and she shines: There's Something About Mary, Being John Malkovich, Vanilla Sky.  But big roles are too much for her talent, asking too much of someone who has a quirky look and is pretty, but can't do a lead character.  Rob Lowe stole the show; he actually cracked me up.  The movie itself was funny at times, I'll give it that much, but I can't give it too much credit.  It was a constant barrage of dirty jokes, innuendos, sight gags, prat falls, raunchy comedy, and stupid humor.  It never stopped, seeming to randomly throw out humor and hope it sticks.  And so it was funny every once in a while, but it was accidental comedy, a shot in the dark that struck me only a couple times.  Other people in the audience got hit more that I did, laughing throughout, but I can only hope that they were the minority.  Sex Tape turned out to be a cross between Neighbors and The Other Woman; not as funny as the former but not as terrible as the latter, a dumb movie that we should have seen coming a mile away but just couldn't resist.

My rating: ☆ ☆

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Movie Trailer - Exodus: Gods and Kings

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul
Release: December 12th, 2014

Ridley Scott is a terrific director who can obviously handle an epic of this magnitude.  I just hope it's more Gladiator and less Robin Hood.  I trust that it will be, and I also trust that Bale & Edgerton can carry the roles, even if it's hard to accept them as Jews & Egyptians right away.

Movie Review - Wish I Was Here

Director: Zach Braff
Starring: Zach Braff, Joey King, Kate Hudson
Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Pierce Gagnon
Year: 2014

Zach Braff hasn't directed a cinematic feature since Garden State in 2004.  That movie is held by many to be a bit of a masterpiece, a modern cult classic that veered away from Hollywood mainstream and became something greater.  I had high hopes that ten years later Braff could deliver the same kind of magic, a story that spoke to us because it was weirdly honest and believably abnormal.  Watching the trailer, I got the feeling that we were in for something spectacular, a movie on the level of Little Miss Sunshine, a film that was something more than what it appeared.  I guess, since those are both 5-star movies in my book, that was a pretty high standard to judge this film by and perhaps I was setting myself up for disappointment.  But it's not my job to produce quality cinema; it's my job to critique it.

Aidan Bloom is a man in crisis.  He's an actor who can't find a job, a husband who can't support his family, a father who doesn't know how to raise his kids, a son of a disappointed father, a brother to a hermit, and a lost soul in general.  When his father begins to die of cancer and can't pay for the Bloom children to go to Hebrew school anymore, Aidan begins to teach the kids at school, a task he's nowhere near capable of.  What can a man who has no idea what he's doing in life share with his children but disappointment and regret, two things the Bloom men have always specialized in.  Aidan's wife is unhappy, his brother is trying hard to ignore life, his kids are confused, his house is falling apart, his father's dog is peeing everywhere; it's a tough month in his life.  To get through it he'll have to examine his choices and cling to the only thing that's never abandoned him; his family.

Let's start with the negatives, just for fun.  This isn't Garden State.  And it isn't Little Miss Sunshine.  You get the feeling that it was almost there, that it has a lot of the same ingredients, but that the finished product just didn't turn out the way it could have.  Those movies make you both very sad & very happy at the same time, leave you feeling as if you learned something about yourself, get you in a soft spot that you usually keep hardened against the world.  Wish I Was Here couldn't quite reach that level.  It was more depressing than forcefully introspective, more tiring than uplifting.  Regardless of the ending, the movie as a whole felt a little pointless and undirected, a little like a runaway story that Braff couldn't get under control.  That's his fault as a director, but as an actor he failed as well.  Not once did he convince me that he was a father.  Not once did his family seem real or loving.  With Kate Hudson as the mother maybe no family can feel authentic, and this one definitely didn't, making the plot seem way too much like fiction.

There just wasn't enough believability, enough heart.  It was too scripted and too unrealistic, from the family dynamic to the swear jar.  Maybe Braff should have been a bumbling uncle, maybe that would have felt better, because he played the loving father very poorly.  And the comedy didn't help.  It actually took away from the feel I imagine the film was going for.  It turned it juvenile instead of honest, like we were watching a bunch of kids trying to be adults.  Now, some of the acting was very good and probably saved the movie.  Mandy Patinkin of Inigo Montoya fame was excellent as the dying father, as was Joey King as the confused adolescent girl.  She's a force to be reckoned with; keep an eye on her in the coming years.  Kate Hudson was beautiful, of course, but she's not really believable as a human, so it's hard to see her as a hard-working mother.  Everyone else did a fine job, no one was completely awful, the film itself just didn't coalesce into the shape I was hoping for.  It wasn't real enough to make me applaud it and it was too depressing to love.  It relied too heavily on standard movie tricks (metaphorical fantasies and church confessionals) and never became the film that it should have been.  Was it horrendous?  Not at all.  Did it make me think & feel?  Sure.  But it wasn't great and I wanted it to be, leaving me let down when I should have been elated.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Movie Trailer - The Trip to Italy

Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon
Release: August 15th, 2014

I'm sure it'll help if you've seen The Trip, the film that started this little series.  I've had it recommended to me and will be watching it in preparation to review this one.  I was on board at the mention of Steve Coogan, the hilarious Brit behind Alan Partridge.

Movie Review - The Princess and the Frog

Director: Ron Clements
Starring: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David
Year: 2009

I had my doubts about a reboot of the old Disney style, an attempt to go back to the classic animated musical and win audiences over once again.  After all, the Disney movies of the 90s that I love so much are untouchable, unredoable, unreimaginable.  In other words, don't try.  But try they did and I didn't think it would work.  I thought the Disney princess was dead and buried when they moved on to Tangled & Frozen, two movies that, yes, have princesses, but don't fit the standard mold that I grew up with.  The Princess and the Frog was their last attempt at the old school ways, and not only did they get it right but they shocked me in the process, proving that Disney's still got it when they want to use it and that the fairy tale is alive & well.

Tiana isn't a princess, she's a waitress.  Living in New Orleans and working hard, Tiana is saving up to someday buy her own restaurant.  It was her daddy's dream, but he's gone now, leaving Tiana to make it happen all on her own.  Her chance comes when her best friend Lottie throws a party for the foreign Prince Naveen, hiring Tiana to do the cooking.  But here's where things go south.  Naveen is tricked by the evil Facilier, turned into a frog, and used for his princely blood.  Lottie is poised to marry an imposter, and Tiana would help her, only she was turned into a frog as well when she kissed the "frog prince".  Now Tiana & Naveen have to find a way to change back into humans, find Lottie, and get everything back on the right track.  So off they go on an adventure through the swamps, searching for love and meaning along the way.

It's a fun story filled with whimsy and wild rides, just like the old classics.  The princess and the frog storyline might have been done a thousand times, but you've never seen it done like this, set against the backdrop of Louisiana.  Jazz abounds, giving the film a great excuse for pumping up the volume and delivering hit songs like we haven't seen in a while.  The music might not be as popular as the Frozen soundtrack, but it's actually much more Disney.  It's got a comfortable feel and look, presenting like your 80s & 90s favorites, not like the new totally computer generated genre.  It's Disney like you used to watch, and that means fun.  And it doesn't lack in deeper themes or darker moments; those abound.  But it's still funny, goofy, silly, musical, feel-good; everything you could want from a childhood favorite.  Don't overlook this film if you missed it the first time around; it's what you're looking for if you've always been a fan.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Monday, July 21, 2014

Movie Trailer - Mood Indigo

Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou
Release: July 18th, 2014

A French Eternal Sunshine?  I'm in.  I loved the strange feel of that movie and would gladly watch another like it.  I have a hard time believing Audrey Tautou as anyone but Amelie, but she is a good actress and deserves a shot.

Movie Review - My Girl

Director: Howard Zieff
Starring: Anna Chlumsky, Macaulay Culkin, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis
Year: 1991

My Girl is one of those untouchable movies that I would actually be afraid to give a bad review.  So many people love it on a level that transcends cinema, that becomes personal, and that can't be argued with.  Whether you were eleven when it came out & it made you sob, or you lived through the 70s & you can recall your own very similar childhood, it's a film that speaks to people.  It's a film that captured a fleeting moment in time and has immortalized it.  So trying to judge is alongside other movies is difficult because you have its iconic status, its strong following, and your own feelings as well.  And I'm not trying to put myself above the majority, I felt it too, that tug that can't be denied.  But I tried to watch it with a more critical eye this time around and not every piece of the puzzle passed the test.  Most did, allowing me to give it a good review and avoid a public stoning, but this time capsule of a film is far from perfect.

Welcome to the 70s and to a very influential time in a young girl's life.  Vada Sultenfuss is eleven, a tomboy, and lives above a funeral parlor.  Her father is a funeral director and his family, including Vada, her uncle, and her grandmother, live where they work.  Vada's mother died giving birth to her, causing her to have a slight obsession with death and all things illness.  Her best friend, Thomas J., is also a little on the anxious side, being allergic to everything there is.  Vada & Thomas J. ride bikes, fish off the local pier, and generally enjoy the summer while Growing Up looms just out of sight.  But Vada will be forced to face "real life" sooner than she expected.  Her father is falling for Shelly, the cosmetologist he just hired, Vada is slowly becoming a woman, Thomas J. isn't just a pal anymore, and tragedy strikes where she least expects it.  Being a kid isn't as easy as it's advertised and Vada will have to get through some hard times on her way toward happiness.

At least I won't have to disappoint anyone and call this movie that they love anything less than wonderful.  Because that's what it is, a wonderful portrayal of youth and hope, of the struggle growing up really is, and the difficulties we all have to get through on the road to adulthood.  Vada is an excellent representation of the pressure that kids put themselves under; to please their parents, to hold it all together, to be loveable, to have fun.  Childhood isn't just bike rides, it's also a lot of pain, and this film showcases that very well.  Now, the little things aren't all perfect here, the details that would have taken My Girl from wonderful to superb.  Dan Aykroyd for one; bad actor.  The side characters were pretty bad as well and I wouldn't give Zieff any awards for direction.  Chlumsky was actually the best in the film and deserves most of the credit for making the movie a success.  And it was; it was enjoyable, heart-breaking, imperfect, honest, pleasant, a real gem.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Movie Trailer - Magic in the Moonlight

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden
Release: July 26th, 2014

Woody Allen the softy.  This looks like pure romance without much of the anxiety in it that made Woody famous.  Not that it looks awful, it just seems a bit sappy.  I like Colin Firth, but I don't like Emma Stone, so I'm not sure which way I'm leaning with this one.  I'd like to say I was super excited, after all he's a great director, but I'm just not very confident.

Movie Review - Planes: Fire & Rescue

Director: Robert Gannaway
Starring: Dane Cook, Ed Harris, John Michael Higgins
Year: 2014

If you read my review of Planes you'll know I wasn't a big fan.  I ended up giving it a 3-star rating, barely enjoying the visuals & the animation enough to forgive the recycled story and bad voice-overs.  It was basically just Cars in the air, and while I liked Cars I wasn't really wanting to watch the exact same thing again.  And this time the heart and the music were both missing, leaving audiences with something that was cool to look at but not that great to watch.  Well, thankfully I gave Planes 2 a chance to redeem the franchise.  I took my daughter to see her first night-time movie, and also her first advanced screening.  Perhaps we should become a famous father/daughter film critic pair, because we both had an excellent time, enjoyed comparing the sequel to the original, and came away with a much more positive outlook on a series that I was about to write off.

Dusty is now a famous racer and has returned to his hometown (sound familiar?).  He continues to win race after race and is the envy of the flying world.  But when he encounters a small problem with his gear box it turns into a major issue.  The part is barely broken but can't be replaced, forcing Dusty to pull back his speed, stay behind the red line, and basically stop flying fast.  He's devastated, obviously, but there may just be a new role waiting for him to scoop it up.  The town needs another firefighter to compliment their ancient firetruck, otherwise their landing strip will be shut down.  Dusty flies off, slowly, to find Blade, the legendary firefighting helicopter that patrols the forests with his team of dare devils.  Dusty is in way over his head, as his ego and his inability to tell the truth about his new limitations will put he and his team in jeopardy when it counts the most.  Fighting wildfires is no game, and Dusty must learn that the hard way or else.

Fire & Rescue delivered everything that was missing from the original.  It had actual emotions, gasp, and it asked its actors to actually try to convey some feeling instead of just reading the stupid lines from the script and heading back to the buffet.  The heart that should have been there in the first was here in the second, and you rooted for the characters in a way you wish you could have before.  And so the planes felt real, letting you forget they were machines, allowing them to personify much more completely and believably.  That's what Cars was able to deliver; vehicles that felt like people.  Planes couldn't pull it off, but this one could.  And then there's the firemen/patriotic/heroic aspect.  I'm not all that mushy and I don't really care about the message of helping others that the film conveyed, but it was there if that's your thing and it was just slightly touching that Dusty learned from his mistakes and began understanding the value of those around him.

It wasn't all perfect of course, and there were some reminders that this was a kids movie first and foremost.  Physical humor, fart jokes, flirting planes; sometimes the dialogue got a little silly, but what can you expect?  As an adult you have to slog through that, occasionally bumping into a joke that reminds you what it feels like to be seven again and causing you to crack up.  Overall the dialogue wasn't stellar, but it was at least a step up from the banality that was the plot of the first film.  Even Dane Cook improved, although he couldn't have done much worse.  He at least sounded like he cared, and Ed Harris as Blade was an even-keeled straight man that kept the plot level when it could have gotten out of hand.  I don't understand the poor reviews from the majority; if you saw the first, how can you not be glad to have seen something so much better?  And if you brought your kid to the showing, how could you not at least enjoy it a little bit as a child would?  This isn't the greatest animated movie you'll see this year, but it is a major step up and an entertaining way to spend an evening.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Friday, July 18, 2014

Movie Trailer - Behaving Badly

Director: Tim Garrick
Starring: Nat Wolff, Selena Gomez, Mary-Louise Parker
Release: August 1st, 2014

This looks like a movie I might have watched when I was sixteen, so I can't judge it too harshly, but it still looks bad.  It's just another sex romp/coming of age comedy that won't actually be as raunchy or as amusing as it's advertised to be.  And what's with all the cameos?  Heather Graham, Gary Busey, Cary Elwes, Elisabeth Shue, Dylan McDermott, Jason Lee.  I'm slightly intrigued, but I think I'll pass.

Movie Review - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman
Year: 2014

When I first saw the trailer for this film I began to think that I may have made a mistake.  I had shunned the first in the reboot series assuming that it was bad.  After all, the Marky Mark remake was awful, why wouldn't the James Franco prequel be as well?  And I'm a big fan of the original movies; these ones couldn't possibly be as good.  But the trailer for this film was enough to get me intrigued as to the new take on the old story.  So I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  It may not have been incredible, and yes Franco sucked, but Caesar the ape was so exceptional that I was hooked for as many movies as they wanted to make.  He stole the show and made the flaws of the film fade into the background.  What could Andy Serkis do with another movie, one that didn't cast a pothead as a neuroscientist?

You have got to see Rise in order to understand this film, so go back and watch it if you haven't and you're reading this review.  Consider that a spoiler alert.  Anyway.  Dawn is a look into the future, a bleak time for mankind.  The virus accidentally released by Will's second attempt to cure Alzheimer's has gone global, decimating the human population.  War follows, famine, societal breakdown, you name it.  And meanwhile, Caesar and his band of super-intelligent apes are flourishing.  Their community has been growing and advancing, taking advantage of the lack of human contact.  But when a group of survivors from San Francisco stumble upon the apes, tensions return immediately to a high level.  Some members of both species just want to leave the others alone, while others want to eliminate their competitors before all out war breaks out.  But war may be inevitable, as a dominant species needs to make itself known in a world wiped clean and awaiting a master race.

Let's talk about the story first.  It's awesome.  If you enjoyed the movies of the 70s you'll know the basic premise; that apes eventually evolve to be the dominant species, that humans return to their animal roots, and that the planet is no longer ours.  It's a pretty kick-ass sci-fi storyline, one that worked over a large number of films and apparently never really got old.  And even knowing how the plot will eventually play out, I still found myself enjoying the story.  Civilization is so fragile when you examine it closely, and this film does that in a quick & brutal way that's frighteningly refreshing to see on screen.  No one is the good guy here, everyone is just trying to survive.  Some think cooperation affords them the best chance of advancement, others think war will win them the future.  Who's to say which side is right; it may not even matter.  When two groups that are so different find themselves fighting for the same goal, can they ever get along, or is it necessary that one side win?

You could spend a lot of time examining the themes raised in the film, enjoying it for that reason alone.  But there's still an entertainment value needed to keep our attention, and man did they ever keep mine.  The film is pure adrenaline, not throw-away action, but intense scene after intense scene all sculpted to make audiences understand how desperate the times depicted are.  You root, you cringe, you despair; it's a wild ride if ever there was one.  And Caesar is there the whole way through to guide you through the chaos.  Caesar is the star of the film, he's the catalyst, the leader, the hero, the reason to watch.  I loved him in the first film; he topped himself here.  Andy Serkis does an amazing job portraying this epic ape, and the team in charge of animation should win all the Oscars there are.  The emotions portrayed are so basic and so honest, coming across clearly and shedding a revealing light on the "complex" emotions we love to define ourselves by.  If you want to feel all-important and unbeatable as a species don't watch this film.  At times it doesn't make humanity seem all that special or noble.  We often look like beasts, imagine that.  Dawn is an excellent film, taking an established storyline, combining stellar acting with cool technology, and rolling out a product that is both highly entertaining and wonderfully intriguing.  A must see.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Movie Trailer - Fury

Director: David Ayer
Starring: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf
Release: November 14th, 2014

I am beyond excited about this movie.  First off, Brad Pitt.  Secondly, WWII.  Thirdly, why haven't there been more movies about tanks?  They're so cool.  Perhaps this won't be the second coming of Saving Private Ryan, but I think it'll be a solid war epic that won't disappoint.

Movie Review - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Director: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: Andy Serkis, James Franco, John Lithgow
Year: 2011

As a fan of the old series, I had my doubts about a reboot.  When I was a kid I used to watch marathons of the Charlton Heston classics: Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet the Apes.  And then came more: Escape, Conquest, Battle.  They all had pieces of the original storyline, an amazing and fascinating plot that actually supported so many films, that never got old.  But then came the Marky Mark remake.  I think we can all agree that that wasn't the best idea.  It was a complete failure, annoying audiences and disgusting critics.  And so it looked like the ape concept had died, until ten years later someone got the idea to do a reboot/back story.  Like I said, I had my doubts, especially with James Franco as the lead.  But, as it turned out, Franco was barely a main character.  The star was Caesar, the ape who started it all, and he carried the entire film on his back.

Will Rodman is a scientist for a major drug company, attempting to design a cure for Alzheimer's.  His father is afflicted with the disease, slowly slipping away from reality into the confusing confines of his own mind.  Will is desperate for a cure, and when his new drug works successfully on apes he wants it immediately tested on humans.  But when one ape gets out of hand, the project is terminated, leaving Will at square one.  Hope is not completely lost however, as Will discovers a baby ape, newborn, with a genetic link to the mind-altering drug.  Taking him home and naming his Caesar, Will begins to understand the affect his drug had, how Caesar is completely different from other animals, how he might be the link to curing Will's father.  But Caesar isn't content being a pet, he wants his freedom, he wants to know where he came from, and ultimately he wants other apes to be like him.

I was prepared not to like this movie, but I really couldn't do that.  The story is still strong after all these years and I'm still deep inside the plot, trying to figure out where it might go.  Then I realize I pretty much already know, but it doesn't really matter, I'm still on the edge of my seat waiting for the next plot point.  They did it right with this one in a way they completely missed with the 2001 remake.  It's dark, sad, human, and very believable.  And don't be thrown by James Franco.  Honestly, he kinda sucks as the brilliant, depressed scientist, but it doesn't really matter.  Anyone could have taken that role because Caesar stole the show.  Andy Serkis and the animators did a terrific job giving us emotions through simple facial expressions, telling us the story through gesture and motion when voice wasn't an option.  The main character of the film was Caesar, he was the focal point and the reason to watch, and he was produced perfectly.  I could watch him again & again, attempting to understand himself, the world around him, and his confusing humanity.  See this movie for Caesar alone or for your love of the original Planet of the Apes series, but see it regardless.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Movie Trailer - About Alex

Director: Jesse Zwick
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Max Greenfield, Maggie Grace
Release: August 8th, 2014

It really is like a 30-years-later version of The Big Chill, but that might not be a bad thing.  That movie was excellent; this one can only hope to be as good.  Zwick is a first-time director so he should just stick to what worked in the 80s, let his actors do the talking, and try not to mess up what could actually be a great film.

Sports - 2014 MLB All Star Break

So far it's been a very entertaining year of baseball.  The season is over halfway done and it's time for a look at where the teams stand right now and how off my predictions were from the beginning of the season.  The teams are in order of how I thought they would end up, with their actual current rank next to their name:
AL East 
  1. Red Sox - (5th, 43-52) Didn't see this coming, but they still have some time.
  2. Yankees - (3rd, 47-47) Pitching injuries have really hurt them.
  3. Rays - (4th, 44-53) Not surprising, they're just not exciting anymore.
  4. Orioles - (1st, 52-42) With the Sox & the Yanks struggling they step up.
  5. Blue Jays - (2nd, 49-47) They'll drop back down by season's end.
AL Central
  1. Tigers - (1st, 53-38) No shocker here, one of the best teams in MLB.
  2. Indians - (3rd, 47-47) Still could end up being more than mediocre.
  3. Royals - (2nd, 48-46) Pretty much where I expected them.
  4. White Sox - (4th, 45-51) Abreu has been exciting at least.
  5. Twins - (5th, 44-50) Down at the bottom where their talent dictates.
AL West
  1. Rangers - (5th, 38-57) What a disappointment.  No coming back.
  2. Athletics - (1st, 59-36) I was wrong, they can repeat last year.
  3. Angels - (2nd, 57-37) A strong team right in the hunt.
  4. Mariners - (3rd, 51-44) Not a pushover team at all.
  5. Astros - (4th, 40-56) Bad as expected, but not Ranger bad.
NL East
  1. Braves - (2nd, 52-43) Tied for 1st place, will make noise in the playoffs.
  2. Phillies - (5th, 42-53) Should be better; Utley can't do it all.
  3. Nationals - (1st, 51-42) Only a matter of time before Atlanta takes control.
  4. Mets - (3rd, 45-50) Another "rebuilding year" for the Metropolitans.
  5. Marlins - (4th, 44-50) They're not laughable, but they're not great.
NL Central
  1. Cardinals - (2nd, 52-44) Injuries have really hurt them (Molina, Garcia).
  2. Reds - (3rd, 51-44) Another team with nagging injuries but with hope.
  3. Pirates - (4th, 49-46) Not a shock they they're just OK.
  4. Brewers - (1st, 53-43) Won't be at the top of the Central for much longer.
  5. Cubs - (5th, 40-54) Bad as expected & then they trade away their ace.
NL West
  1. Dodgers - (1st, 54-43) A team that is scary good and could win it all.
  2. Giants - (2nd, 52-43) Right back at the top where their talent belongs.
  3. Diamondbacks - (5th, 40-56) Too far behind the Dodgers to matter.
  4. Rockies - (4th, 40-55) Tulo can't carry the team, though he tries.
  5. Padres - (3rd, 41-54) Might be 3rd but are worst than that.  
Most improved teams: Mariners, Phillies, Giants. (Mariners, Brewers, Giants)
Least successful teams: Astros, Twins, Cubs. (Rangers, Twins, Cubs)
World Series: Red Sox vs Dodgers. (Tigers vs Dodgers)