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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Movie Trailer - The Theory of Everything

Director: James Marsh
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis
Release: November 7th, 2014

It's about time we got a dramatic telling of Stephen Hawking's life.  This looks a little like A Beautiful Mind but with English people, and I think that's a good sign.  It's true, it looks honest, and I for one will be in the theatres to watch it.

DVD Review - Trust Me

Director: Clark Gregg
Starring: Clark Gregg, Saxon Sharbino, Amanda Peet

Year: 2013

You might be asking, who the hell is Clark Gregg?  You've probably seen him a dozen times, but he's not exactly what you'd call a star.  He's always the federal agent or the army corporal or the TV producer; some guy on the sidelines whose role might not be vital but needs to be filled by somebody.  His biggest roles have come lately, thanks to Marvel, in Iron Man, The Avengers, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  He's also dabbled in writing & directing, doing both for Choke, the 2008 flop based on the Chuck Palahniuk book (Fight Club).  Anyway, that's Clark Gregg.  In Trust Me, he tries to do bit of everything; writing, directing, and starring.  A pretty big bite to chew for a C-list celebrity and a fairly amateur filmmaker, so when in doubt, copy.  You'll get a pretty strong American Beauty feel from this one, but to its credit the film has enough of its own voice to stand out as a solid attempt at drama, an honest story that Clark Gregg was only just talented enough to pull off.

The Movie

Howard is not a very good agent.  Hollywood is all he knows, having been a child star, and he loves his job.  But he can never seem to hold on to his clients, to land the big deal, to make the mark that he's dying to leave.  He was a failed actor as well, never landing the role of a lifetime, and he's been chasing that dream ever since, trying to pass it to some kid with a load of talent, someone who will become the star he never was.  But again, Howard's not very good at this gig.  His rival, Aldo, always sweeps the carpet out from under his feet, and time after time Howard just misses the chance of a lifetime.  That is, until he meets Lydia.

She is the best actress he's ever come across, the most talented kid he could ever hope to represent.  But she comes with some baggage.  She and her family are from Oklahoma and way out of their comfort.  Her mother is long gone, having run away to Las Vegas with another man.  Her father is a drinker and doesn't trust a soul.  And that's the biggest barrier standing in the way of Howard making Lydia a star; trust.  In this business, in this city, you can't trust anyone, which makes working alongside someone in order to make millions of dollars a very difficult task.  So Howard sets to work getting everyone on the same page, setting up the contracts, building relationships, and attempting to finalize the one & only monster deal of his career, a deal that will actually make a difference.

The number of cameos in this film is ridiculous.  Felicity Huffman (looking terrible, btw), Allison Janney, William H. Macy, Niecy Nash (acting terribly, btw), Sam Rockwell, Molly Shannon; it's a who's who of minor celebrities who must have owed Clark Gregg a favor.  Or maybe he's just the nicest guy in Hollywood, a man everyone loves to work with even if he isn't really amazing at anything.  Because he shows that in this movie, that he's OK at writing, directing, and acting, but not great at any of it.  He's not hunky enough to be a leading man and not quirky enough to be a dark hero.  He's not brilliant enough to be a big time director but not stupid enough to do throwaway comedies.  He's a middle-of-the-road guy, and ultimately his film follows suit.

It's a mediocre movie that has a few things going for it.  It's fairly funny, especially early on, though the comedy subsides into tragedy pretty quick.  The actors can all do their jobs, but their performances aren't once-in-a-lifetime.  The story catches your attention, but quickly turns into a American Beauty wannabe.  And the film as a whole feels a bit desperate, a grasping attempt at a depth that can't quite be reached at this talent level.  I did like Gregg, and I also liked the girl, Saxon Sharbino, what a name.  And Amanda Peet is always cool, that approachable hottie that has just enough issues to make her vulnerable but not crazy.  The cast meshed well together, the plot flowed, but it wasn't as original as you'd hope.  I guess I can say that I was pleasantly surprised at the beginning but a bit disappointed by the end, leaving me with a mixture of takeaways that might only be resolved by another viewing.  I'm just not sure it's worth it.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the video is top of the line.  There aren't a lot of chances for amazing cinematography, but the character-to-character scenes are all well-done.  The picture quality is crisp, with a nice color balance, and never detracts from the emotion of the dialogue.

Audio - The audio is done in Dolby Digital 5.1 with an option for English SDH or Spanish subtitles.  The sound quality is fine, with no background problems and a clear resolution.  The music doesn't add to the film, and actually gives it a copycat vibe, taking away from the believability of the film.

Extras - There are no extras on the DVD.

Final Thoughts

Rent ItTrust Me is a nice attempt at a deep drama.  It makes its points clearly and has some honest things to say.  But in the end, it's just a good try.  Clark Gregg doesn't have the talent to pull off such a lofty project, and surrounding himself by a good amount of talented actors didn't carry the weight enough.  It's just a good movie but never a great one, failing to reach the goals you can feel the director desperately reaching for.  The video is strong, the audio nice, but there are no extras on the disc.  A mediocre movie that's just barely worth the 89 minutes it takes to watch it.

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Movie Trailer - Frank

Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Release: August 22nd, 2014

What an absolutely odd idea, but how can we not trust it?  This looks like the strangest dark comedy I've ever seen, but I can't wait to watch it.  Gleeson was perfect in About Time, Fassbender is the biggest thing to hit theatres in the last three years, and Gyllenhall may be the only Hollywood actress that doesn't make me want to give up.  I'm in.

Movie Review - Thanks for Sharing

Director: Stuart Blumberg
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Josh Gad, Tim Robbins
Gwyneth Paltrow, Joely Richardson, Patrick Fugit, Pink
Year: 2012

Let's take a minute to talk about Stuart Blumberg.  This is his directorial debut, but he's been writing screenplays for quite a while.  His three films before Thanks for Sharing were Keeping the Faith, The Girl Next Door, and The Kids Are All Right.  Those are three very underrated movies with very well-written stories.  So this might be Blumberg's first attempt at directing, but he knows his way around a plot.  He also knows Mark Ruffalo, having worked with him on The Kids.  Talk about underrated.  Ruffalo is a very talented guy, someone who flies under the radar too often and doesn't get the credit he deserves.  We Don't Live Here Anymore, Eternal Sunshine, Zodiac, Blindness, Shutter Island, and soon Foxcatcher; all films that feature Ruffalo's talent in a variety of ways.  So combine Blumberg, Ruffalo, & a fascinating cast and you've got a film that, at the very least, will have you talking tomorrow.

This is a movie about addiction.  Adam, a good-looking executive, is a sex addict.  He's been sober for five years, meaning no porn, no prostitutes, no masturbation, anything sexual relegated to a committed relationship only.  Mike is his mentor and is also a recovering addict.  Add alcohol to his list, a drug that nearly destroyed his family before he regained control with the help of the support group he now heads.  Neil is an anxiety-ridden doctor who's coping mechanisms are sex & food, two things that he just can't seem to get enough of.  This a story of the lives of these three men, how they cope with their addictions, and the events that lead them to change, both good & bad.  Adam meets a the beautiful Phoebe and struggles with dating, Mike can't welcome back the son has that has been estranged for so many years, and Neil attempts a friendship with a female after dehumanizing them for so long.  Each character attempts to live one day at a time, controlling an addiction that they refuse to let control their happiness anymore.

Good thing the acting was spot of in this one, because the subject matter was intense.  It's labelled as a romantic comedy, but it's not that at all.  It's an addiction tale, a snapshot of the difficulties of beating & living with a demon that wants nothing more than to rip your life to shreds.  It's extremely honest & forthcoming, leaving no details safely locked away.  Disease, court orders, self hatred, anger, relapses; the naked truth is right here to watch and it's not pretty.  Now, this is still a Hollywood film, it's not a brutal documentary, but the reality of the situation is here on display and the actors do all they can to portray it.  Ruffalo is great, as always, Robbins is solid, and Gad is surprisingly good as Neil.  He has some really revealing moments that were probably personally difficult, but he holds nothing back with this character.  Even Pink was strong in a small role and her presence felt believable rather than a ploy to attract audiences.  The same could be said for the film; it nailed it's goal, to shed light on addiction, and it never felt like a cheap trick to get us to watch.  The story was honest, the actors were committed, and the movie as a whole succeeded.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sports - Advice from FanDuel

Here's a little fantasy football advice from Ben Ridge & FanDuel.com

Philip Rivers Could Make San Diego A Super Bowl Contender

Last season, there were more than a few people surprised that the San Diego Chargers were able to make the playoffs. Many thought it would be a rebuilding process for them, especially with the new coaching staff. However, they made the playoffs and won a game in the wild card round. Philip Rivers is not satisfied, and he is hoping to have even more success individually in fantasy football and collectively with his team.

Rivers has the reputation of a guy who at some times turns the ball over too much and does not get enough protection from his offensive line. However, he is arguably coming off his best season ever with the San Diego Chargers, as he was able to pass for around 4500 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2013. He took control of the offense very well, as he was only picked off a total of 11 times.

In fantasy football, Rivers is considered to be a backup quarterback according to most. He has the chance to put up some pretty nice numbers this year, and he could work himself inside the top 10. That is why he is being slept on not only in fantasy football, but in the NFL in general.

The defense is better in San Diego, and the offense is healthier. Rivers was able to do quite a bit with a depleted roster last year, so theoretically they could be even better in 2014. Yes, guys like Keenan Allen will need to back up lofty numbers from a season ago, but this team is definitely going to be dangerous out West. After years and years of underachieving, it might be time for San Diego to be an under the radar Super Bowl contender. All it takes is a solid quarterback stepping his game up to another level to roll off a few wins.

Movie Trailer - The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Director: Ned Benson
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader
Release: October 10, 2014

So, this is actually three movies.  It's one plot seen from three different points of view; His, Her, and Them.  There will be three movies showing the same love story from different perspectives; odd, I know.  It's an interesting concept, but a few things make me skeptical that it will work.  A) I don't like Jessica Chastain.  2) James McAvoy does an American accent? And blue) Ned Benson is a first-time director.  Seems like a few too many red flags.

Movie Review - Great Expectations (2012)

Director: Mike Newell
Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Flemyng
Year: 2012

I just watched the 1998 version of the same tale, Great Expectations done as a modern love story.  It, of course, was stylized very uniquely, setting the action in New York City, making the main character an artist, changing some names.  It stuck to the basic plot, but definitely made love the focal point, made the relationship between Pip & Estella one of star-crossed-lovers.  This film could not have been more different.  It's been years since I've taken a look at the novel, but here is a version that sticks to the original format, keeps the same time period, and creates a story about one young man's expectations and the events in his life that lead him there.  This is a period piece where the other was a re-imagining.  It's hard to compare the two and pick a favorite, since they are so different, but if I were to rewatch one it'd be the 2012 version.  It's a well-made adaptation, modernly acted but classically set, a movie that will make you want to read what I remember as a fairly boring book.

Pip is a young boy of the English laboring class.  His only aspirations are to become a blacksmith some day, just like his Uncle Joe, who is part father part best friend.  But destiny might have other plans.  Pip stumbles into the life of an escaped convict, a man named Magwitch who is on the run & looking for revenge.  Helping the man isn't actually very helpful, as the authorities catch him anyway, but Pip will always remember the experience vividly.  He also soon meets a beautiful young woman of his same age, Estella, a girl in the care of the very strange & very rich Ms. Havisham.  Pip falls in love with Estella instantly, but knows he will always be outclassed by the girl who seems to have no heart.  But when a mysterious benefactor pays for Pip to move to London, things begin to look up.  He is trained to be a gentleman, taught the ways of the wealthy, and his entire existence is altered, all at the whim of someone who want's Pip to have much greater expectations than the ones to which he was born.

If you like period pieces and you don't mind them not having Keira Knightley, this is the film for you.  It's a classic representation of the famous novel, a movie that strives for period perfection in all things, from the manner of dress to the accents, the buildings to the vast class differences.  It was even made to look like an older film at times, with a lighting and slight blur that had the feel of a ancient tome come to life.  So, if that's your thing, you won't be disappointed.  I wouldn't automatically say that it's mine, but I found myself enjoying the movie regardless.  The mood was just right, the plot moved just quickly enough, and the acting was incredible.  I recently saw Jeremy Irvine is War Horse and I thought he was just OK.  As Pip, he was tremendous.  So were Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch and Helena Bonham Carter as Ms. Havisham.  None of the actors ever came off as cheesy English Shakespearean dramatists; they kept the characters grounded and thus made the movie feel believable.  The story is one many of us already know, but it comes to life here in a film that boasts wonderful visuals and strong support, a movie we can learn to love the book through.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Movie Trailer - My Old Lady

Director: Israel Horovitz
Starring: Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas
Release: September 10th, 2014

It's not that this looks bad, it's that it looks boring.   I don't think I want to watch a movie about people slowly dying wild accordions play in the background.  And Kevin Kline just doesn't do it for me anyway, I just never got around to liking him.

Sports - Pater Familias 2014

Fantasy Football season is here!
Here is my team:

QB - Jay Cutler (Chi) - I'm hoping for 30+ TDs and a career year.
QB - Russell Wilson (Sea) - Just in case Cutler tanks, or the Hawks play the Bears.

RB - Adrian Peterson (Min) - Old reliable in a purple shirt.  AP all day.
RB - Montee Ball (Den) - I'm a Broncos fan but I'm not being a homer.
RB - Bishop Sankey (Ten) - We'll see when/if he starts, but he's got talent.
RB - Fred Jackson (Buf) - Quietly scores much more than people realize.

WR - Brandon Marshall (Chi) - Cutler to Marshall should be a nice combo.
WR - Andre Johnson (Hou) - He's not a superstar, but man the guy gets yards.
WR - Jeremy Maclin (Phi) - The Eagles should score and Maclin should get a piece.
WR - Reggie Wayne (Ind) - The old man; not a bad off-the-bench fill-in.

TE - Vernon Davis (SF) - He may not equal last season, but 10 TDs is possible.
TE - Charles Clay (Mia) - Backup TEs are not a vital necessity.

K - Justin Tucker (Bal) - Scored a ton of fantasy points last year.
K - Dan Carpenter (Buf) - I don't know why, but I'm rooting for the Bills to succeed.

Def - San Francisco - A stout D that can find the endzone.
Def - Pittsburgh - Not the beast it once was, but not terrible either.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Movie Trailer - Love, Rosie

Director: Christian Ditter
Starring: Lily Collins, Sam Claflin
Release: October 22nd, 2014

See, the feeling that What If gave me is completely the opposite of the vibe I'm getting from Love, Rosie.  The two-friends-in-love plot has been redone about a million times, but every once in a while someone gets it right.  I have a sneaky suspicion that these guys are about to get it wrong.

Movie Review - Great Expectations (1998)

Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Cooper
Year: 1998

This particular version of the classic tale is filled with befores.  It's directed by Cuaron before he was famous, before Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, and Gravity.  It stars Hawke & Paltrow before they were superstars, at the beginning of their successes.  It's a 90s love story that capped off a decade of romantic dramas, before the 2000s and a switch to the darker.  Great Expectations is a modern take on an old plot, a Romeo + Juliet copy that does to Dickens what that film did to Shakespeare.  It's a time capsule of a film, a representation of an era that now comes across as a period piece.  It can't be judged as just a movie; it's so much more than that.

Chances are you've at least been exposed to Great Expectations at some point in school, but you've never seen the story quite like this.  Finn is a boy from the Gulf, an orphan who lives with his sister and her man Joe, a poor boy who dreams of someday living the life of the rich.  He's a talented artist, a boy with promise, but one who doesn't have much of a chance.  But two events will change the course of his life.  One is coming across an escaped convict, a man named Lustig, who forces Finn to help him and then disappears.  The other is meeting the extravagantly wealthy Ms. Dinsmoor and her niece Estella, who become his patrons in a way, paying for his company once a week.  Young Finn falls in love with Estella, the most beautiful and cold female imaginable.  And when, years later, he travels to New York to show his art, they meet again, this time as adults full of desires, dreams, and desperate longings for the lives they do not lead.

It's 90s wonderment from start to finish.  The clothes, the dramatic music, the artistic look at the everyday; it screams that decade and comes across as a last attempt to hold on to a changing culture.  Having grown up then, it's enjoyable to watch that now, to see what used to be so trendy, so common, and so loved.  And you couldn't ask for better 90s stars.  Hawke & Paltrow were in their prime, young adults whose whole careers were ahead of them, heartthrobs who had it all.  The side characters were actually better actors: Cooper, De Niro, Hank Azaria, Anne Bancroft.  But the two leads were perfectly over-dramatic and excellently angsty.  The beginning of the film reminded me a lot of Mud, which I loved, and I almost wish more had been set in the swamps of Florida that made Finn who he was.  They did carry a green color theme throughout the movie, especially surrounding Ms. Dinsmoor & Estella, which was a nice way to tie it all together.  And although I did feel a bit sleepy at certain points, the story kept my interest and was always driving forward.  The visuals were incredible and became the main reason to watch the film, but the package as a whole was one that I'm glad to have seen, both for momentary enjoyment and for a memory of a time period that I will always love.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Monday, August 25, 2014

Movie Trailer - The Skeleton Twins

Director: Craig Johnson
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson
Release: September 12th, 2014

I think this looks excellent.  Stereotypical perhaps, but excellent.  I love seeing talented comedians come together to make believable drama, and I think The Skeleton Twins fits that description.  And I heart Luke Wilson, though he's not good enough to be a leading man, so this should be perfect for him.

Movie Review - Nymphomaniac

Director: Lars von Trier
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin

Year: 2013

You know you're in for something different when you sit down to watch a movie that advertised itself by having all its actors pose as if having an orgasm.  And that's good information to know when deciding whether or not this controversial film is for you.  Of course there's much more than sex, and I'll talk about that in my review, but you can't ignore the fact that the title of this movie is Nymphomaniac, that sex is the base for the plot, that you will see things that you might not be comfortable seeing.  Because this isn't a film for those with weak constitutions.  I'm not talking about modesty; of course those who are more reserved or more traditional will not approve of the blatant nudity and sexuality displayed here.  But it's more than that; it's graphic sexual practices, it's hours of frank sexual discussion, it's genitals on display constantly.  Move past that and you'll find an extremely fascinating story, incredible acting, the highest quality directing, and a package that can't be denied.

I watched both volumes consecutively, as they are one story told over the course of four hours.  Much like Kill Bill, the movies go together seamlessly and can only be told apart by the chapters of the plot they include.  So this plot summary is a collective look at both volumes, as is my critique.  The film begins with a beaten woman lying in an alleyway in the snow.  Along comes a man doing a bit of light shopping, but when he sees her he turns from his path and helps her to her feet, offering to take her to his home so that she might rest.  Her name is Joe, his name is Seligman, and they have little in common, but she is about to reveal her past to him one chapter at a time, leading to the moment that they met and the explanation of her arrival to the alleyway.  He is her confessor, and she has a lot to confess.  After all, she's a nymphomaniac, someone who has abused her sexuality her entire life; using it, loving it, detesting herself for it, and ultimately defining herself by it.  So she tells her life story, from childhood to the present, with her addiction always in the forefront, detailing the experiences that shaped her life, the men who shared her bed, and the demons that never disappear.

The nudity & sexuality of the film has to be talked about first so that it can be put aside.  This isn't so much a warning as it is a fact; this film will push you.  It's graphic, vulgar, realistic, in-your-face, uncovered, not for the meek.  Even those who see themselves as open-minded might be challenged by the nature of the sexuality in the film, how it's so often shown in an addictive and destructive manner.  Prepare yourself to be shocked and perhaps you'll be ready to have your boundaries stretched a bit.  A bit of humor, especially in Volume 1, helps to take the edge off, and shows youth to be an experimental time, allowing us to see the sexuality of the scenes as learning experiences for the characters.  Volume 1 is also the better of the two films because of the hint of comedy, but also because of Stacy Martin.  She plays young Joe to perfection, which is extra impressive considering that this was her first film and she's nude in a large number of her scenes.  She's featured less in Volume 2, as Charlotte Gainsbourg plays both current Joe and slightly younger Joe.  But Martin steals the show, giving us a character to love despite her flaws.

Gainsbourg & Skarsgard are solid throughout and in both Volumes, as they play the storytellers in a way, constantly returning to the present to talk through the details that Joe just revealed.  They lead the pace, they set up each chapter, and they allow us to get our bearings after each shocking escapade is unfolded.  But it's the cameos that really grab your attention.  They stand out as islands in a sea of depravity, small vignettes featuring known actors that surprise you with their intensity.  Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Connie Nielsen, Jamie Bell, Willem Dafoe; they all have a part to play, a piece to add, and they are all excellent.  It's the combination of all the ingredients that makes the film a success.  The acting is some of the best you'll see, the stories are both erotic & frightening, there's a touch of humor that can't be ignored, and the directing is Oscar-worthy.  Lars von Trier brings his style to the screen in a way that is totally unique, epic, beautiful, and graphically believable.  Nymphomaniac is as powerful and unrelenting a movie as you will ever see.  It doesn't ask forgiveness, never backs down, and yet still remains accessible thanks to its wit and occasional pauses in action.  Commit to watching both Volumes over the course of a day or two, prepare yourself for the intense subject matter, and enjoy an exceptionally vivid & engaging tale.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Movie Trailer - Horns

Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella
Release: October 31st, 2014

Whoa.  I just saw Daniel Radcliffe in What If and I think he's the real deal, not just Harry Potter.  I'm not sure what to think now though, whether this film will support or discredit that.  It looks odd, that's for sure, and what, he's doing an American accent?  That'll be weird.  I'm a little confused and a little intrigued, but I think they got my interest.

Movie Review - What If

Director: Michael Dowse
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver
Year: 2014

I think, in order to like this movie, you have to love When Harry Met Sally.  That's the ultimate rom/com, the pinnacle of friends-turned-lovers, the bible of the genre.  And it's amazing, let's not forget that.  It's not great just because it's a pioneer, it's great completely on its own.  Funny, true, heart-breaking, epic; it's a film that has everything and if you've not seen in fifty times go do that right now please.  Anyway, What If owes a lot to the successes of the past.  It's a movie that relies heavily on the standard story, the two pals that want to be so much more but just can't seem to make it work.  Movies like this are a dime a dozen, but very rarely do they triumph, very seldom do they win you over with simplicity and style in a way that makes you forget that this setup is as old as the hills.  But here's one that does, becoming an indie winner that you just might fall for.

Wallace is a jaded dropout.  His parents gave him terrible lessons in love, his most recent girlfriend cheated on him, and now he has a very negative outlook on the topic of love.  Chantry always tries to make it work.  She's been with her current boyfriend for five years, more out of stability than extreme happiness, and seems to have things figured out.  But when the two meet, everything changes.  They are perfect for each other, with the same style of humor, the same circle of friends, and totally opposite outlooks on life.  They attempt to be best friends, and at first it works just fine, but everyone knows disaster is just around the corner.  Wallace can only hide his feelings for so long, and Chantry can't go on ignoring her crumbling relationship forever.  So the pair with have to face the truth, a reality that might destroy the beautiful friendship that neither want to lose.

What If is basically When Harry Met Sally for the modern age.  It's a hipster version of the late 80s masterpiece, falling only just short of being perfection all on its own.  It takes the old song & dance, revamps it, throws in a bit more sex & language, sets it in Vancouver, keeps things young, and ultimately delivers a rom/com that won't make you puke.  And that's not an easy thing to do.  So many throwaway films of this sort are made so often, making us sick to death of love stories, making cynics of us all.  But here's one that we can believe in.  Like its predecessor, this movie makes us want to believe, want to root for the couple, want love to conquer all, and so we find ourselves invested in a fairly unbelievable story even though we've told ourselves a hundred times that we wouldn't be fooled again.  Well, love makes fools of us all I guess.

But don't feel too bad; give some credit to the actors for doing their jobs and sucking us in against our will.  If you still can only see Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, just stop it.  He's the real deal and proves it here.  He gives us a character who is loveable, sad, realistic, intriguing, and well-rounded when so many other would have fallen completely on their faces trying to do the same thing.  Radcliffe is legit, and we need to take him seriously.  Zoe Kazan holds her own as well, not with incredible acting perhaps, but with an It Girl quality that's her's to command.  I really enjoyed her in The Pretty One, where she was called upon to be more of a main character.  Here, she's Radcliffe's sidekick, but she still forces you to walk away thinking about herThe chemistry between the pair was excellent, the story was never boring, I always cared, it amused me often, toyed with my emotions plenty, and lived up to the great rom/coms of the past.  See this to see the genre well done.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Friday, August 22, 2014

Movie Trailer - Love Is Strange

Director: Ira Sachs
Starring: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei
Release: August 22nd, 2014

What a current and meaningful love story.  Too often we watch movies with no depth, no realism, no impact on our lives.  But here's a film that has something to say and looks like it will say it with clarity.  I'm interested to see John Lithgow in this role, and I always love Marisa Tomei, so I'm in.

Movie Review - The Giver

Director: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep
Year: 2014

I first read The Giver when I was around 11 years old.  Since then, I've probably read it four more times.  In my book, that makes it one of the greats.  I won't say it's the most well-written novel in history, though Lois Lowry does a fine job, but it's a story that sticks with you & stands out as a stroke of genius.  What makes it so wonderful and so rereadable is that it changes each time you check it out.  Whatever age you are, whatever experiences you've had, wherever you are in life right now; these things affect how you view the story, what you take as the moral, and which way you interpret the ending.  It's a very subjective book, one that is worth discussing, and I guess one that can be envisioned many different ways.  This film version of the story wouldn't have been the way that I saw it, didn't give me the same feeling that the novel delivered, and ultimately seemed like someone else's vision.  But the plot speaks for itself, and I'm not sure anyone could actually butcher it.

In the future, difference has been eliminated.  After years of war & hunger, humans grew tired of always fighting over their distinctions, eventually deciding that sameness offered a more peaceful world.  The same weather all the time, the same color skin, the same houses, bikes, clothes, number of children.  People are all the same now, with nothing to covet, with only the occupations chosen for them by the Elders to set them apart.  Every young adult, when they graduate, is given a job suited to their personality, and Jonas is anxious to find out his.  But when he's told that he is the new Receiver of Memory, his life changes forever.  He learns from the Giver that life wasn't always this way, that war & danger used to exist, that love & dancing did also, that the world used to be a chaotic & beautiful place that was both unpredictable & lovely.  Jonas receives the memories of the past, memories that are kept from the rest of the community in order to keep them happy in their current lives and safe from the pain of the past.  But being the only person who remembers guns, music, color, blood; Jonas can't help but feeling completely alone.  If only he could share these memories with every one else, help them to learn from old mistakes, lead them down the correct path, perhaps the beauty of the old world could return, leaving the ugliness behind forever.

I expected this movie to  stray a lot further from the original text than it actually did.  When I first saw the trailer, I was sure that they had abandoned the story, had turned the plot into a Twilight love story, had gone in completely the opposite direction that I would have chosen.  I still don't love the vision or the path that they went down for this film, but I have to give them a little credit; they didn't destroy the essence of the book.  The story was the same, the idea was the same, it was just all tweened up.  It was like they felt compelled to copy Divergent or risk not making any money.  As a critic and an audience member, I don't care whether it's a success, I just want to like it.  And so, no, this isn't where I would have taken this plot.  I wouldn't have made it modern, technologically advanced, ultra hip.  I wouldn't have made the love interest the focal point of Jonas' character.  And I wouldn't have made the parents and the Elders so cheesy.  I would have kept it simple, relied on the text to carry the movie, and probably not made a single buck.

Again, it wasn't horrible.  You could tell that they were trying to stick to the book, especially with the characters.  Thwaites as Jonas was at least attempting to come off as the scared boy from the novel, trying his best to be both vulnerable and brave.  His girl Fiona was OK too; she never went over-the-top with her dramatic scenes.  But Jeff Bridges was definitely the saving grace.  He's already one of my favorite actors, and had he not been in this film I'd be much less likely to try to stay positive.  He made the Giver feel human, which is an interesting topic for discussion by itself, whether or not he was meant to be at all.  Some of the side characters were awful, including Katie Holmes, Cameron Monaghan, and especially Taylor Swift.  She looked & acted terribly, completely breaking down the fourth wall.  I guess she was just another attempt to get the kids on board, to make some money at the box office, even at the expense of the quality of the movie.  I guess that's what bothered me the most; the film didn't abandon the story that I love, but they did cheaper it, giving me a crappy version when what I wanted was simply a cinematic retelling.  If you're a fan, try to keep your expectations low.  If you love Katniss more than life itself, than maybe this is perfect for you.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Movie Trailer - The Longest Week

Director: Peter Glanz
Starring: Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, Billy Crudup
Release: September 5th, 2014

I feel like, ever since Jason Bateman got big, he's lost all sense of script choice.  He'll do pretty much anything and if that's not selling out I don't know what is.  The trailers for his films always look pretty good, feature some emotion & a few other name actors, but never end up delivering much to sink your teeth into.  And maybe that's it, maybe he's good but not biteable.

Sports - 2014 Fantasy Football

With a lot of Fantasy Football Drafts taking place this weekend, people are truly ready for some football.  This weekend's games will tell us a lot about each team and about each player's fantasy outlook, as they are basically dress rehearsals for the upcoming season.  So get your cheat sheets ready, rank your players, and prepare to draft!  Here are Olie's Fantasy Predictions, based on my top secret and highly coveted Super Spreadsheets.  Let the games begin!

  • Peyton Manning #1 - Your league might not draft quarterbacks early, but Peyton ought to be the first one taken, whatever round you choose to pull the trigger in.  He had a season for the records last year, and all signs point toward a repeat.  His total TD numbers will come down a bit, but he will still lead all QBs in fantasy points.  Let him lead you to victory.
  • Top Tier - There's a big difference between the Tier 1 & Tier 2 QBs this year.  Peyton, Brees, Rodgers; those guys are solid must-pick-earlies.  But after that, there's a dropoff and a lesser need to grab your guy right away.  Brady, Romo, Stafford, Luck, even Foles; these signal-callers are on the same level, a platform much lower than the Top Three and not much higher than the boys below.
  • Cutler - If you miss out on the Top Three and if you choose to wait while the Tier 2 guys get scooped up, Jay Cutler might just be your man.  He should be available for a long while and could end up as the bargain of the draft.  He's poised to have a excellent year, throw 30 TDs, and surprise a lot of people with his fantasy relevance.
  • Runner runner - On my list, I've got the athletic QBs way down & grouped together.  Cam, RG3, DangeRuss, Kaep; all these guys will score TDs in the high 20s, but won't lead you to a championship single-handedly.  Unless your league gives more points for rushing touchdowns than it does for passing, I wouldn't draft someone from this group as my starter.
  • Losers - It's pretty easy to spot the QBs that shouldn't be on your roster; they play on bad teams.  Sounds stupidly simple, and it is.  The Raiders, Jaguars, Browns, Texans, Bucs, Bills, Rams, Titans, Giants; these teams aren't winning a ton of games this year and their QBs won't score a ton of points, so do yourself a favor and pick someone else.
  • Charles - Jamaal went insane last year, scoring 19 total TDs.  Unheard of, and not something he's even come close to doing before.  The most he's ever scored in a season until last year was 8, which he did two years running.  That's more his number, and even if you think he has a great year that's no more than 10 or 12.  Don't pick him expecting magic.
  • Da Bears - Don't sleep on Chicago this year.  More specifically, don't sleep on Matt Forte.  He had a career year last year, but has surprisingly excellent stats in previous years as well.  He's 28, perfectly healthy, a very important cog in Chicago's high-octane offense, and catches the ball superbly out of the backfield.  He could match Cutler as an incredible draft bargain.
  • He's back! - Having had Arian Foster on my roster last year, I understand your frustration with the once fantasy stud.  After posting 18, 12, and then 17 TDs, he gave us 2 last season.  Not good.  But there's some reason to be hopeful.  He's back healthy, he's still the #1, Ben Tate is gone, and they'll be relying heavily on him to lead this team.  Gary Kubiak is elsewhere, and that gives me some doubts, but I believe Foster has a bounce-back year.
  • Has-been heaven - Stay clear of the names of the past.  Some RBs just aren't as relevant as they were only 1 or 2 years back, so don't get caught up in the fame.  Spiller, Rice, Ridley, Stephen Jackson, Chris Johnson, Trent Richardson; they've all been near the top of the list at one time or other, but now they're no more than 2nd or 3rd RBs.
  • DMC & MJD - I've been burned so many times by Darren McFadden and/or Maurice Jones-Drew that I've completely lost count.  Now these guys are on the same team and it finally seems OK to say just avoid them altogether.  Either of them could have a nice season; they're both still very talented.  But the Raiders aren't going anywhere and neither will your fantasy team if you rely on this duo.
  • Megatron - Calvin Johnson was banged up a lot last year and still scored 12 TDs.  The year before that he played all sixteen games and only scored 5.  Go figure.  If you wanna take a gamble on someone, I geuss Megatron is as safe a bet as any, as he always seems to be relevant and able to score points in some capacity.  Don't be scared to take him as the #1 WR.
  • Tier 2 - But also understand that he's not entirely in a world all his own.  I have Calvin as the top WR on my board, but there are some others who aren't far behind.  D. Thomas, Dez, B. Marsh, A.J., Julio; these are all premier receivers who can single-handedly win you fantasy games.  If you can't get Megatron, don't worry, there are others almost just as good.
  • Mile High Salute - Last year Peyton's WRs were D. Thomas, Welker, and Decker.  That worked out pretty nicely.  This year, Decker is gone and Emmanuel Sanders replaces him.  Feel confident in drafting any of Peyon's Three, with Sanders at the bottom but not forgotten.  Manning is going to throw TDs; it might as well be to your player.
  • What's cookin' - If anyone has had a draft-boosting training camp & preseason it's been Brandin Cooks.  He seems to already have a connection with Brees in New Orleans and could see instant fantasy stats.  I'm not saying pick him as your #1 WR, but don't forget about him in the later rounds when you're looking for talent; he could lead Saints WRs in TDs.
  • Moving down - Don't get too excited about some of the new names in new places; they weren't upgrades.  Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Golden Tate, James Jones; these guys are good but they're not elite options, despite the excitement of a new location.  The're #3 or #4 guys, no more than that, so don't overspend.


  • All alone - Jimmy Graham is the one and only TE you need to even think about in early rounds.  Guys like Orange Julius & Gronk (if he's healthy) will have nice seasons too, but no one will even come close to scoring 12ish TDs and getting 12ish hundred yards. 
  • Raven - I think Dennis Pitta could have a big year with Baltimore.  He's got the talent, he just needs to stay healthy.  This season he has Gary Kubiak as his OC, and Kub believes in the basics.  Pitta could be a part of a much-improved offense, see a lot of over-the-middle deep routes, and get a ton of attention in the red zone.
  • Hidden gems - As you make your way down the list of fantasy relevant TEs, there's not too much to get excited about.  After the first few superstars you have a bunch of mediocrity.  But there are a couple buy-low options; Charles Clay, Zach Ertz, and Martellus Bennett.  Those guys won't blow your mind, but they will provide you with cheap TDs.
  • Rookie - If you're looking to have some fun, pick rookie TE Eric Ebron.  The Lions will score a good many points this year and some could float Ebron's way.  If Megatron is double-covered in the endzone, Stafford might like a big athletic beast to catch a few TDs.  Now, there's some risk, he's an unproven rook after all, but it might be worth a shot.
  • Avoid the Chargers - Antonio Gates used to be fantasy gold, but those days are gone.  His trainee-in-waiting is Ladarius Green, who has some talent to keep an eye on.  But for now, both will battle for touches, both will score a few, but neither will be a wonderful pick.
  • Old Reliable - Look no further than the veterans for those unromantic but necessary fantasy points via kicker.  Prater & Gostkowski have been mainstays and there's no reason that should change this year.  Other vets like Dawson, Crosby, Bryant; these older guys can still kick it and should be drafted with confidence.
  • Too many TDs - Kickers like Graham (NO), Gould (Chi), and Henery (Phi) would be more highly ranked than they are if their teams would just stop scoring touchdowns!  As it is, they'll get a ton of extra points, but not as many field goals as you'd imagine, which is bad.  This makes that middling fantasy starters, not worth picking until very very late.
  • Freesey - With David Akers gone, Nate Freese steps up.  The Lions score points in bunches, but just how well Freese will do on your fantasy squad is anyone's guess.  Just like with Ebron, if you're feeling lucky roll the dice later on this kicker, surprise your league, and maybe ride his leg all the way to a championship.
  • Sea Bass - He's had a great career, but Sebastian Janokowski's day in the sun is over.  The Raiders are just a bad team, and they don't get near the endzone often enough to draft their kicker.  He'll still get a few FGs, but he might have the least extra points of any kicker this year.
  • Don't overpay - There are no kickers that blow everyone else away.  There are also none that will sink you.  I'm not saying draft Caleb Sturgis as your starting kicker, but don't overpay for one of the top guys either.  Kickers can wait; some free agent might end up leading the league.
  • Da Bears - Two years ago Chicago scored 10 defensive TDs.  Last year they were pathetic.  So which year do they emulate this season?  My guess in the latter.  I think they've officially transitioned into being an offensive team, letting Cutler win games instead of their LBs.  I don't even have the Bears on my board, and you shouldn't either.
  • Sleeper hold - If you're looking for a sleeper defense, look no further than Arizona.  They might not be the first group that comes to mind when you think about smash-mouth football, but this defense will score you some points.  If you miss out on the big boys (San Fran, Seattle, Carolina) you could do much worse than the Cardinals.
  • Altitude attitude - Denver should have a much-improved defensive squad this year.  With a lot of new names but with the same DC, these guys should be solid, if not incredibly stingy.  Again, not a defense I'd jump out and take in the early rounds, but one to keep an eye on as the draft rolls along and the big boys disappear.
  • NFC East - Some defenses shouldn't even be drafted as backups, and most of them seem to be in the same division.  Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas; these Ds should be avoided at all cost.  Makes you wonder about Eli and his fantasy potential, with six games vs bad defenses, but even that might not be enough to get him drafted, at least not as a starter.
  • Draft early - Unlike kickers, there is a big difference between the top defenses and the bottom ones.  Don't be hesitant to take the team you want earlier than others do, or to jump on the bandwagon when defenses start to be selected.  Get one of the big dogs early and you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Movie Trailer - Mad Max: Fury Road

Director: George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
Release: May 15th, 2015

I was always a huge fan of the Mad Max trilogy, loved the trippy post-apocalyptic world in which he lived.  And so I'm glad they brought back the original director for this newest installment.  This trailer has the look of the old films; the burnt land, the crazy cars, the wild get-ups, the explosions.  As long as Hardy & Theron don't screw it up, I think this movie works & might even win big.

Movie Review - Trance

Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel
Year: 2013

Danny Boyle has made a major name for himself over the last twenty years.  He started out very English & always casting Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary), went a little wild & violent (The Beach, 28 Days Later...), and then turned dramatic (Millions, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours).  He's solidified himself as a strong director, always turning out quality, always attracting great actors, and Trance is no different.  It's labelled as a crime/mystery/thriller, but one with a psychedelic edge.  It boasts three excellent actors, but no Hollywood superheroes.  It's an intriguing movie all around, a story that caught my attention with visuals that were sure to please.  It's hard to say now whether I feel disappointed that this film wasn't amazing or pleased that it was a solid piece of entertainment, because once again Boyle delivered, it just wasn't perfection.

It's a classic setup; crime gone wrong leads to awkward conversations with dangerous people.  Simon was just an employee at an auction house until his gambling problems got out of control.  Then he became an employee at an auction house who could easily get his hands on priceless art.  But he needed some help, he was no criminal, and that's where Franck came in.  Franck and his gang of thugs knew what to do, how to run the heist, how to utilize Simon, and the robbery went smoothly.  That is, up until the painting went missing somewhere between the gallery and the hideout.  Now Simon, who can't remember whether or not he stole the painting because of a blow to the head, is in hot water.  Only a hypnotherapist can help jog his memory, but that means trusting one more person in a circle of very untrustworthy characters.  Will they find the painting, or will Simon's faulty memory be the downfall of them all?

My only problem with this plot is that it relied to heavily on my suspension of disbelief.  I was on board at the beginning, curious as to where all the clues were leading, and than hard pressed to accept the bogus tales that kept popping up to explain how all this chaos came to be.  It was just a little too much to swallow; a simpler plot would have sufficed and still kept my attention.  Or maybe it was that too much was revealed all at once near the end, with hardly any clues along the way to prepare the audience for the last act.  I'm not one of those people who are always trying to figure it out before the director tells us, but I would have liked to have had some guidance before everything was turned on its head.  The actors could have helped me out a bit, but their performances were a little muddled.  Not that I blame them, so was the plot, but I expected a bit more.  McAvoy was fine, Cassel was one note, and Dawson was terribly robotic.  I wanted an exciting caper or a trippy mind-blow; what I got was a tiny bit of both wrapped up in an unbelievable storyline.  Boyle is a good director and he didn't fail here; he just didn't nail it, didn't edit enough, and missed a nice opportunity.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Movie Trailer - Tusk

Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment
Release: September 19th, 2014

Jesus Christ, what does he want to do with him?!  I love horror and this looks like an impeccably made comedy/horror that will haunt your dreams.  And if you've seen Red State you know that Kevin Smith mixed with Michael Parks is a thing of twisted genius.  I'm willing to bet this film turns out to be exponentially better than Zack and Miri Make a Porno, just saying.

Movie Review - The World's End

Director: Edgar Wright
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman
Year: 2013

Why are the British funnier than other humans?  And why does their incessant beer-drinking not seem trashy and unhealthy?  If a Brit didn't say something humorous while downing a pint I'd be concerned.  And it's this standard comedic setup that we've all come to expect from Simon Pegg & the boys.  He & director Edgar Wright wrote the scripts for Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and now The World's End, Pegg of course starring as well.  Add in Nick Frost, another of the team, and you've got irreverent English comedy that you can predict from start to finish.  I don't think that's a bad thing actually, I don't mind having some knowledge and comfort when the plot starts off, letting me sit back and enjoy the style of humor I've come to expect.  The gang delivers here once again, pulling off another insane romp that makes little sense but is wildly amusing.

A group of five buddies from a small town in England have some unfinished business.  Twenty years ago they began a famous pub crawl, drinking 12 pints at 12 bars.  Only, they never finished it.  To Gary King, it was the best night of his life, but also an incredible failure that he's always wanted to remedy.  So he gets the boys back together, dragging them away from their boring adult careers, and convinces them to return home for one more chance at completing the fabled Golden Mile.  There is, however, one small problem.  Their old stomping grounds have gone through some changes recently, specifically the taking over of bodies by a robotic alien force.  Say what?!  It's a bit of a shocker, but Gary is not about to let these blue-blooded weirdos stop him from completing his goal, and he will drink his final pint at The World's End if it kills him.

Ridiculous doesn't begin to explain it.  The movie starts out regularly enough, very British, very fast paced, very funny, all what you would expect.  And then things get strange.  The alien element turns the plot into an action movie, humans vs robots, with chopped off limbs galore.  It's an odd transition, but the humor continues throughout and they try to weave the putting-the-past-behind-you story with the sci-fi plot in a way that's not too out there.  I enjoyed the first half of the film more than the second, but at least that first half got me invested enough in the characters to want to know what would happen to them later on.  I doubt the style of comedy is for everyone, but if you enjoy this team's other movies I'm sure this one will do it for you too.  I'd recommend you stay away if you don't love heads being ripped off, sex-with-your-sister jokes, and Brits getting hammered.  Otherwise, go for it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Movie Trailer - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Release: November 21st, 2014

I have doubts.  I mean, I read the books, they were OK.  I saw the first movie, it was enjoyable.  I saw the second one, it was a little stronger.  But I'm worried that once the dark plot of the revolution takes over the storyline, things will start to crumble.  I don't think the franchise is solid enough to turn into a sci-fi/action flick and stop from being cheap & dramatic.  I guess we'll see, cause I'm definitely gonna watch.

Movie Review - Boyhood

Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette
Year: 2014

Talk about a life's work.  Richard Linklater spent 12 years creating this film.  Now, that's not 12 years keeping an idea alive, waiting for a technology to come along, or hassling producers.  That's 12 years making the movie.  He started filming a seven-year-old in 2002, kept filming him as he grew up, and just released the final product.  Now, again just to clarify, that's the same boy over a 12 year span, the same side characters, the same area of the country.  It's an amazing concept, a brand-new way of producing a story, a feat that's almost difficult to wrap your mind around.  And in no way is this a biography, unless you consider it Linklater's tale of his own growing up.  Boyhood is a drama on a grand scale, an epic with no frills, a plot with unparalleled scope, one hell of a movie.

Meet Mason.  He's a Texas boy, son of a single mom, brother of a snotty older sister, creative but distracted at school; not much different than you or me.  His dad hasn't been around for a few years, but when the family and the estranged father all find themselves in the same city, Mason and his sister begin a relationship with a man they barely know.  Their mother has problems of her own, marrying a string of losers that would rather drink than spend quality time with their new family unit, trying to get her degree while still working to support her kids.  And all the while Mason grows up; changing with the times, meeting new friends, making mistakes, experimenting with drugs & haircuts, living the standard American life while trying to be different; again, not too abnormal.  We follow Mason over the course of 12 years, from childhood to college, from boyhood to independence, through the changes that will shape his life forever.

First, we have to talk about the history that was made here.  To create a movie in this way, to take 12 years of your life (and the lives of all the actors involved of course) to tell this story is insane.  It's not done, you just get different people to play the kid at different ages and you tell Ethan Hawke you only need him for a couple months.  But that's not what Linklater did here and that's why this film is genius.  What the director did was create something that can never be remade, that can never be called unoriginal, that will define his legacy.  And, really, didn't he already do that with his triology of love stories (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight)?  He already made his mark, wowing us with his work, showing us his talent, and creating his magnum opus.  But oh well, he'll just do it again, make a second epic masterpiece, no big deal.  If he does it again in the future, if he makes another movie or series of movies that stand alone the way these films do, I will send a apology letter to Steven Spielberg and begin calling Richard Linklater the best director in Hollywood.

But he couldn't have done it alone.  He didn't act in the movie, he didn't show us his face, he didn't pour out what makes him human onto the screen and let us all judge away.  He gave us a partial story of his childhood, a partial everyman tale, and let others do the talking.  And man did they speak loudly.  Ellar Coltrane was made for this role, and partly because he's not amazing.  Let me defend that by saying he was amazing in this movie; he was a cool kid, a believable teem, a troubled soul.  But what worked was his lack of experience, his real life on camera, his ability to be himself instead of trying to act.  It worked because that's what the film required.  Now, Ethan Hawke on the other hand, he acted his ass off.  This is by far the best we've ever seen him.  He was perfection.  He was the uncomfortable dad, the desperate friend, the unlikely hero; if he is not nominated for a Best Actor Oscar I will be very upset.  The whole package deserves a ton of awards, if only for bringing something new to the world, or more specifically, for taking something so common and showing it to us in a way we don't often take the time to see.  If one movie is a game-changer this year, Boyhood is it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Friday, August 15, 2014

Movie Trailer - Monsters: Dark Continent

Director: Tom Green
Starring: Joe Dempsie, Sofia Boutella, Johnny Harris
Release: November 28th, 2014

I watched the original Monsters a few years ago and I really dug it.  It was odd, original, surprising, and pretty cool.  This one looks completely different.  It looks less like a sequel and more like a spinoff, a desperate attempt to make some money off an old idea. 

Movie Review - Oliver & Company

Director: George Scribner
Starring: Joey Lawrence, Billy Joel, Dom DeLuise
Year: 1989

I remember the McDonald's toys of my childhood as being the only connection I ever had to Oliver & Company.  I never watched the movie as a kid, never grew to love the music, and so didn't pass it on to my children like I've done with so many other Disney classics.  I wouldn't even know that much about the story if it weren't for the Dickens novel that it's loosely based on.  And come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever actually read the whole thing.  I was "exposed" to it at some point, but my knowledge of the plot & characters comes from the the musical and the 1968 adaptation thereof.  That's how I want my Oliver shown; fabulously.  And wow is that not the way it's shown here.

Poor Oliver the cat, all alone in the Big Apple, not a friend in the world, starving and bedraggled.  That is, until he meets Dodger, the crafty dog who's both street smart and one smooth cookie.  The dog & cat become buddies and Dodger takes Oliver under his wing.  Well, the little kitty follows him home, but it amounts to the same thing.  Soon, Oliver is part of the gang, a member of a pack of thieves who are trying to help out their human Fagin, who's in a mess of money trouble.  One day, while on the job, Oliver meets Jenny, a little rich girl who's all alone.  They go home together to start a happy life, but the gang "rescues" Oliver, and when Fagin realizes there's money to be had for ransoming the cat, he just can't help himself.  Oliver wants to be Dodger's friend, but he also wants Jenny's love, poor mixed up cat, and he's definitely in way over his head.

So, as far as the original story is concerned, you've got Oliver, Dodger, & Fagin, but that's about as far as the connection goes.  It's not really an animal's take of Dickens, more's the pity, but rather an animated movie that uses the story as slight inspiration.  Not exactly what I wanted, but alright, I can deal as long as the movie is cool.  But it wasn't.  First off, it's extremely boring.  Things happen, sure, but it's so shallow that you can't possibly invest yourself into the story or characters, leaving every event feeling empty.  Secondly, the voices were badly done.  Joey Lawrence as Oliver was fine, throwaway, but Billy Joel as Dodger was pretty bad.  Toss in Bette Midler as a poodle and you've got one hot mess.  The music and the artwork were a homage to New York City, which I appreciated, but that's about the only thing I did.  The songs themselves were forgettable, the characters were underdeveloped, the plot was dumb, and I, at many points, almost fell asleep.  Keep to collecting the old Happy Meal toys, but stay away from actually watching the movie.

My rating: ☆ ☆

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Movie Trailer - Birdman

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone
Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough
Release: October 17th, 2014

This looks a bit weird.  I didn't know Inarritu really did weird, I thought he just did dark; Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful.  I like the washed-up celebrity theme; Keaton was Batman once, after all.  And I love Ed Norton, so I think I'm in.