It's another Meat-Free Monday recipe (but you can always add crumbled bacon to this dish if you want to--my husband always does!)
2 large onions, chopped
2 tsp canola oil
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups frozen corn
2 cups cubed peeled potatoes
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 to 3 tsp minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1/4 tsp salt
Cheddar Cornmeal Dumplings:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
In a large saucepan, saute onions in oil until tender. Add the broth, corn, potatoes, cream, chipotle pepper and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 3-5 minutes.
For dumplings, in a small bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk and cheese just until moistened. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto simmering chowder. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes (don't life the cover!). Serve with crumbled bacon, if desired.
Gyros typically star lamb meat but this is a great alternative made with ground beef!
1 pound lean ground beef
1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
6 green onions, chopped
1 can (2-1/4 oz) sliced ripe black olives, drained
2 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning, divided
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cup (8 oz) plain yogurt (you can use fat-free)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (you can use reduced-fat)
6 pita breads (6 in.), halved
12 lettuce leaves
1 cup (4 oz) crumbled feta cheese
In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink. Add the spinach, onions, olives and 1 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning; heat through. Stir in tomato; set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise and remaining lemon-pepper seasoning. Line pita halves with lettuce; fill with beef mixture and top each with feta cheese. Serve with yogurt sauce on the side.
There's alot of geeky buzz about the upcoming Batman & Superman movie, and here's the latest dish.
Ben Affleck will star as Batman in the Man of Steel sequel. Zack Snyder will return to direct Affleck and Henry Cavill in the still-untitled film, which will be the first time Batman and Superman have shared the big screen.
It is already slated to open worldwide on July 17, 2015. Says Snyder: "Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry's Superman. He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can't wait to work with him."
1 - I'm a Ben Affleck fan.
2. I don't have many expectations for sequels
3. I haven't given up on the Superhero movie genre, although I'm weary.
4. I love movies.
That's reason enough for me to give this film a fighting Bat-Chance. But the fervor for a film that comes out in Summer of 2015. I can't get on board with that yet. Pow!
Eileen Brennan isn't the first name you think of when you think great Hollywood celebrities, but at least in my mind, she always caught my eye.
She died this week at the age of 80. I always found her roles to stick out in the films she was in. Her most notable role was the tough talking Drill Sergeant in 1980's Private Benjamin, for which she received a Oscar Nomination. You'll also remember her from The Sting and playing Mrs. Peacock in the 1986 movie version of Clue. RIP.
Here she is doing her rendition of La Vie en Rose in Neil Simon's, The Cheap Detective.
It's always good advice to stay sharp and keep your eyes peeled. As one character says in World War Z, you never know, the most inconsequential things can be the most important.
To that guy, I say "thanks a lot!" It made me spend most of my time watching World War Z, looking for specific details that would bring light to the plot.
Set in modern times, former United Nations' employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is faced with the task of finding a solution to a worldwide zombie outbreak. What's worse is that he's not dealing with slow creeping hordes of walkers as in the show The Walking Dead. Nope, he's dealing with speedy, nimble, hungry, leaping rage filled zombes as featured in the 28 Days Later series. Make sure you lace those running shoes up.
World War Z is smartly played out with a tension that sustains the nearly 2 hour running time. It's not bloody, brain eating wall to wall zombie action, but rather a easy blend of drama and action with a soft end.
What I really like is that those who survive in this movie do so because they are survivors who pay attention to thier surrounding. They act and react to it, just like how one would survive in nature. Brains always beats brawn.
I read that Director Mark Foster observed ant populations in determining the movement and flow of his creatures. The image above relays that thought.
Look close to see Matthew Fox in his latest role and keep an eye on Mirelle Enos who plays the wife of our hero. Her lead role in AMC's The Killing is captivating and this film just makes me want to see more of her work.
Also note in the trailer, the family's game of 20 Questions could easily describe the pending zombie outbreak. See, I was paying too close attention to the details.
I often find that the movies I really love tend to revolve around music. If it isn't the main subject, music plays a large role. I am a fan of both cinema and music. Two great tastes that taste great together, I say.
The new documentary The History Of The Eagles is a must see for audiophiles, music lovers and even fringe fans of The Eagles.
It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and then on Showtime in February. Showtime doesn't seem to have it in their On Demand section yet, so search the listings for it. it will be released for sale on April 30th on DVD.
The film is split into two sections; Part 1 & 2. Part 1 covers the creation of the band, their rise to success in the 1970's and the breakup in 1980. Part 2 covers the reunion from 1994 and on. The History Of The Eagles provides intimate and rare archival footage including some never before seen home movie footage.
The behind the scenes footage of the band is like eating candy.
I found the head-on medium shots of Glen Frey and Don Henley a little offsetting. The doc revolves around current interview pieces with Frey and Henley and it's almost as if they are directing from in front of the camera. That's not a big surprise, because after watching, I now believe the Frey and Henley have the biggest egos in the universe.
You don't think of these two as like a team such as Lennon/McCartney or John/Taupin, but a good case could be made that they deserve that type of credit.
Even the biggest Eagles fan will walk away with some new info about the band from this doc. Without spoiling some of the fantastic nuggets of Eagles trivia that you get I will say these are the brilliant bits of info I pulled from it.
Bob Seger was Glen Frey's mentor in the late 60s in Detroit. You can really hear Frey really trying to punch the backup vocals in 1969's "Ramblin' Gambling Man."
Don Henley and Glen Frey met in Southern Californina in the early 70s while on the same record label, but in different bands. They immediatley got along because both of their fathers worked in the automotive industry and had a love of classic cars. In fact, Frey had a 1955 Chevy that he and Henley tooled around in, which he called "Gladys." The Eagles recorded Tom Waite's song Ol' 55 on the On The Border album.
i won't give any more away, but you will find out the origin of the name "The Eagles." You'll find out how Glen Frey summed up the trinity of rock and roll in one sentence. You'll also see the rare footage and audio of Glen Frey literally threatening Don Felder with fisticuffs, on stage in 1980, a key moment leading to the breakup. This movie is pure rock and roll.
In the midst of the first quarter film releases stands a gem of a film that is endearing and romantic...and includes zombies.
Warm Bodies is your basic teenage love story. Zombie boy meets girl, and spends the length of the film wooing her despite the odds. The odds are high, considering what we know about the zombie-human relationship dynamic. I was curious about this movie because the process of how a zombie might turn back into a human is really undiscovered country.
We don't know why our zombie hero R (Nicholas Hoult) became the way he is, or why he begins to change. He has a running dialogue in his head and seems to know that he needs to eat brains, but seems to yearn for something better. He hasn't given up completly on his humanity like the scarier and creepier Bonies (zombies that have lost all humanity?) who seem to be the bullies of the zombie population.
In this zombie scenario, zombies who eat human brains somehow gain the memories of their victims. How Highlander of them! On one brain eating mission, R encounters Julie (Teresa Palmer) and eats the brains of Julie's boyfriend. Seeing the beauty that Julie's former boyfriend saw, R falls into love with Julie in true Romeo & Juliet style.
Feuding families. Balcony scenes. Forbidden love. It's all there, but not only do you see the genesis of blossoming love, there is a sweet message about healing humanity.
The plot takes it's time to develop, but it fits situationally and I felt like I spent a worthwhile 90 minutes with this one.
Credit goes to Comedian Rob Corddry who play's R's best zombie friend M. It was more of a dramatic role for him, but he ate it up...like so many human brains.
Once again, Director Kathryn Bigelow has brought us an extremely intense movie watching experience.
Zero Dark Thirty is a film based on the CIA's real life, sometimes moment-by-moment hunt from Osama Bin Laden. The intensity is turned up to ten right from the opening scene showing us a dark screen with 911 call soundbites from the victims of the World Trade Center towers.
Jessica Chastain plays Maya, a CIA newbie who develops something of a bloodlust for capturing Bin Laden. The story begins with some explicit and controversial scenes depicting the torture off suspects with the intent of getting information to capture terrorists.
That information leads to a lengthy investiation by Maya, who believes she's found the main courrier of Bin Laden, with hopes it will lead her to the leader of al-Qaida. The final act of the film details the elite team of American soldiers who raid a compound in Abbotabad, Afghanistan believing its where Bin Laden is hiding out. They are methodical, exacting and deadly.
The true test of the movie, is that we know how it all ends. Still, the development to get there kept my eyes solidly glued to the screen. Surely a film like this makes you reflect your own thoughts about the treatment of our fellow human beings, patrtoisim, bloodlust and whether ends justify the means. That's what great film should do, and this is a great film.
It was also refreshing to see that this thriller of a story is based on the strength and tenacity of a strong female lead.
It's literally the last day of the year, so let's fit one more discussion about film in.
I felt as if 2012 was not a great year for film. There was a LOT of trash. A LOT of uninteresting sequels. A LOT of superheros who quite frankly were not all that super in my opinion.
There were a few diamonds in the rough though, and I wanted to share them with you. Here's my Top 10 Movies of 2012 with a note why.
#10 - Prometheus: The supposed Alien prequel was disappointing in the way that it was very vague as to what was actually going on. I wasn't all that impressed on my first screening, until my mind started asking questions about how this futuristic sci-fi flick was woven together. The more I thought about it, the more i liked it. (Sign of a good movie)
#9 - Goon: Some might say this was a foul mouthed, comically violent film that only a hockey fan could appreciate. Well. I am that hockey fan. This film marks the best performace I've ver seen from the typically low-brow Sean Williams Scott. It has heart.
#8 - Marley: I am a sucker for films about music. I love the music of Bob Marley, so this was a natural fit.
#7 - Bernie: Jack Black gets honors for doing that magic film trick, where the character transforms from the person you expect into an all new character. (another sign of a good movie) A plucky Shirley MacLaine helped this funny, quirky and mostly true tale stick out amongst the rest.
#6 - Sleepwalk With Me: Comedian Mike Birbiglia brought this psuedo-documentary to life about his own trials and tribulations about sleepwalking. He's a funny man and he makes a funny movie.
#5 - The Cabin In The Woods: Watching this one about a group of unsuspecting teens retreating to a remote cabin was like eating candy for this and just about any sci-fi/horror film fan. So many layers of witty, smart and gory goodness.
#4 - Looper: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis tie together the best use of science fiction in 2012.
#3 - Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper plays a recently released patient dealing with his own mental issues, while coming to terms with the consequences of his actions. Jennifer Lawrence continues to grow as an actress with this performance. Cooper is likeable once again following his crude sequel to The Hangover.
#2 - Skyfall: Much like 2008's The Dark Knight was a brilliant action-drama-thriller, which happened to include superheroes, Skyfall is a masterful action-thriller that just happens to be a James Bond movie too.
#1 - Moonrise Kingdom: I fell in love with this quirky Wes Anderson film early in the year and this tale of young love on the run simply set the bar too high for anyone to top.
Still on the list to see are: Les Miserable, Zero Dark Thirty and The Impossible.
Honorable mention: Life of Pi, Django Unchained and Total Recall (2012) which only gets a mention because i watched it in a theater in Harrogate, UK where the local folk were so kind, they offered to share their popcorn, candy and soda with me. Quite proper!
Box-office numbers show that Gerard Butler's latest didn't stand a chance against big figures 'Breaking Dawn- Part 2' and 'Lincoln.' By Ryan J. Downey Daniel Craig in "Skyfall" Photo: Sony/ Columbia Pictures
I am somewhat skeptical ther days to accept a tease at face value from one of Hollywood's biggest directors. Especially for a Superman movie.
Christopher Reeve's Superman movies were a good building base of what my present day love for movies turned out to be. I loved watching them, and even stuck around through Superman 4, when the series was retreaded and worn out.
I was quite disappointed by the 2006 Superman Returns but something make me curious about Christopher Nolan's "Man of Steel" that comes out next year. Nolan has good street cred, and can add a nice dark nature to our superheroes.
Guess we'll find out if I get fooled again.
After only seven movies, Christopher Nolan has elevated himself to Hollywood royality. Actually, he probably did it after five movies, but there’s no doubt he’s on a short list of the best in the business. That makes not only his opinions important, but his projects doubly so. He’s currently promoting the home release of his [...]
The greatest thing that can be said about The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 2 is that it's over. No more movies, no more books, no more Bella's dirty looks.
Once again we are subject to poor acting, and weak story lines that circle around the romantic notion of getting what you cannot have. This one is unique though, because Bella (Kristin Stewart) is no longer a human yearning for the forbidden love of Edward (Robert Pattinson.) Her newfound vampings have put her at the center of a scandal in the vampire world, which lead to a showdown over the legitimacy of her half-human half-vampire child.
That amount of riducilousness is only matched by Bella's dialogue shouted to Jacob: "Nessie!? You named my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?"
Now lets not be competely negative. We do get a couple treats. For example, Dakota Fanning is limited to just one word of dialogue and Michael Sheen lets out a vampire cackle that will almost guarantee that I won't ever take him seriously as an actor ever again.
Truth be told, I didn't mind watching this Twilight, because I knew it would be the last. It must have tapped a nostalgiac vein in me.
Alas, I was completely disappointed with the resolution of the film. It made the blood drain from my face, as if a vamp was taking one final drink.
Glad we are done here. Best of luck to this crew of actors in finding other work that does not cast them as brooding supernatural creatures.
Who Will Like This Film:
All Twilight fans looking for closure
Any significant others of Twilight fans who were dragged to the other Twilight Films, because its finally over
A solid argument could be made that this is the greatest James Bond film ever made. I like to think they are all pretty entertaining, so I'll just say this.
Skyfall is a really good action-spy-thriller, that just happens to be a Bond movie too.
Daniel Craig once again makes a human being out of James Bond. He is no longer just the super suave, internationally known, super intelligent ladies man. He's also a human, who has parents, a childhood, bleeds when cut and has feelings.
I still have a bit of difficulty adjusting to the new style, but I still like it.
Javier Bardem appropriately earns the title supervillian with his role as Silva. The bad guys are always better when you like them, and as dastardly as Silva is, you still feel for him.
My sole criticism of the film is that it repeatedly grinds on the theme of old vs new. Ad nauseum. I get it. James Bond needs to build a new audience and appeal to a younger demographic. You don't need to hit me over the head with it.
Go see this movie in the theater.
Who will like Skyfall:
Any/All James Bond Fans including the Bond Super-Nerds
Grown ups looking for a solid evening of entertainment
Hungry Komodo dragons
Who won't like Skyfall
Kids under 13 - long run time, significant character development
In somewhat of a surprise move, Disney has announced that they've purchased GEORGE LUCAS' production company, Lucasfilm, for $4.05 BILLION. Even more surprisingly, Disney says a SEVENTH "Star Wars" movie is in the works . . . and will be released in 2015. It's being referred to as "Star Wars, Episode Seven", so it would follow the events of "Return of the Jedi".
This will be the beginning of a THIRD trilogy, which will include two more movies . . . and potentially more. A Disney suit says, quote, "Our long-term plan is to release a new 'Star Wars' feature film every two to three years.
George Lucas will serve as a "creative consultant" on the new "Star Wars" movies, but he won't be writing or directing them. In a statement, he said, quote, "It's now time for me to pass 'Star Wars' on to a new generation of filmmakers."
I'm already yawning at the prospect....get ready for more Star Wars characters doing the YMCA.
if you've never been to this event, let me tell you, it's pretty cool.
I went to a Brew and View at the Majestic Theatre last year of Anchorman, and it was a blast. Die hard movie fans get together, have a brew and watch their favorite movie on the big screen. This time, they're showing The Big Lebowski (Top 3 favorite movie of all time for me) on November 15th. Only 5 bucks to get in and it's a blast.
What’s the most solid sci-fi/gangster thriller of the year, with a bit of a silly name? That would be Looper.
Looper takes place in the not too distant future, where Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) plays mafia assassin, with a twist. In this scenario, time travel is a reality and his future mob boss eliminates his victims, by sending them back in time, where his hitman, aka a “Looper,” eliminates him. If you think about it, it’s actually a very efficient process.
Except for this. From time to time, a Looper is sent the future version of themselves. (Think Terminator) Joe is sent Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis. This is a very tricky sci-fi game to pull off. You could get mired in the details of how time travel works, but instead, Looper focuses on the characters, and does one of the best things a time travel movie can do. It gives us the opportunity to ask our future selves questions, and in turn our future self can guide us through potential mistakes we might make.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
The film drifts into some pretty dark places, seriously dark, but tries to balance them out with humor. I’ll admit it was distracting seeing Joseph Gordon Levitt with face prosthetics on. The effort to make him more like Bruce Willis was necessary, but it pulled me out of the story from time to time.
Looper is smart and tricky. Time travel stories can get dizzying with multiple timeline scenarios, but at least in my head, Looper resolves them without giving you a science headache.
Finally, an Adam Sandler movie that I can tolerate. It’s been about 10 years since something of substance, and while this isn’t a great movie, it is watchable.
Sandler plays Count Dracula in this animated feature. A typical helicopter parent, Drac has a daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez,) who he tries to protect from humans. He does this by building a grand hotel, hidden deep and far away from the human element. Call it a human-free zone for monsters to vacation in peace.
Mavis though, yearns to see the world, and learns from Hostel-hopping Human traveler, Jonathan (Andy Samberg) that it’s a big world out there. Most of the film is dealing with Dracula trying to dissuade his daughter that there is nothing to see out there.
It’s a good example of a movie that makes you say “meh.” But at least I didn’t want to bang my head against the wall for watching it.
There are some comic elements and the friendship that brews between Dracula and his mortal enemy Jonathan is sweet. At the same time, their relationship development drags on, giving this movie a little too long of a running time.
To sum up, Hotel Transylvania is monsters dealing with human relationship problems. If that sounds a bit like Monsters Inc., that’s because it is. Sandler and Samberg just don’t do it as good as Billy Crystal and John Goodman.
After a steady influx of campaign year related humor from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, I expected a good dose of political satire in the new election year spoof The Campaign. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis deliver on their election promise of delightfully crude humor, but like most politicians, I would have liked to see more from them.
The story follows South Carolina Congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) a good politician, but not a great human being. After running unopposed for several terms, a rich and evil set of CEO brothers decide they need a puppet in the office to do thier bidding. Their names ironically, are the Motch Brothers, most likely a play off the Koch Brothers from Wisconsin’s recent history.
In any case they want to run local weirdo Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) up against Brady, and the political gloves come off.
The back and forth trash talking lives mostly in the blue comedy realm, but it’s the fun part of this movie. For example, while both grown men are rushing to kiss a baby, one of the candidates punches the baby in the face. Later, a infamous animal gets the same treatment. Hate to say I laughed at it, but it was the film’s highlight.
A stick out character was Dylan McDermott who plays Marty’s campaign manager. His timing is outstanding, especially when he shows up unexpectedly in a scene with food in his mouth.
The mud slinging and back-stabbing eventually reaches a critical mass, but instead of pursuing the comedy to the end, The Campaign enters into a moral place. It’s not preachy, but there is a clear message about the dangers of money in politics. I didn’t mind the running theme of campaign finance reform, but it came on too heavy in the end.
If anything, me and my buddies now have a couple good one liners to launch back and forth.
I would like to say that my thoughts are with the victims and families of those affected in Aurora, Colorado.
I’m still not sure what motivates an individual to commit such heinous crimes, but I do know the difference between the fiction we see on screen and the reality that we live in.
Film is supposed to be an escape. We watch and suspend our reality for the sake of storytelling and entertainment. Done properly, film is art with a cathartic effect, and help us shape the way we look at the world.
We are each meant to interpret the information we see. My hope is we use that information to make the world a better place for all of us.
There are a lot of moving parts in the third chapter of Director Christopher Nolan’s take on the Batman franchise. I found they fit together well, although I saw several repetitive film ideas come into play.
The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after The Batman (Christian Bale) takes the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes. Now, a ruthless thug named Bane has ambitions to destroy Gotham City with a nuclear weapon. Batman has to come out of retirement to fight the baddies again.
Bane (Tom Hardy) is an especially well played bad guy because of seemingly present sense of wanton destruction. Because of a partial mask, you only see a portion of his face. The distraction only increased my fear of him as the film went on.
There are at least five subplots running alongside teach other: 1. Will Batman return. 2. Will Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) do the right thing? 3. Who is Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) 4. What’s with the nuclear power thingy. 5. Why is Alfred crying so much. They go on and on.
Paying attention pays off for this one. Paying attention to Anne Hathaway really pays off.
I enjoy all the darkness from Nolan. Not just the story, but the setting, mood and lighting are all dark. A brilliant use of strobe effect in the dark I especially liked as Batman advances on a bad guy in the sewers under the city. It’s well done action.
The symbolic theme of leadership and responsibility pop back up again. Revealed as Batman, Bruce Wayne has to explain to Officer Blake his reasons for becoming a caped crusader. It’s been a while. The symbol of justice, the any-man nature of the mask, the hope for our future. It’s great superhero material., but it also adds to the really long 2h 45min run time.
If any of these plot points sound familiar, that’s because they are in every movie ever made. Will the hero return? Will those sitting on the fence choose the right side? Are things darkest before the light? You know the answers. It’s just whether you’re surprised when they happen.
For The Dark Knight Rises. I was surprised 75% of the time. While I don’t think this is the greater film of the trilogy, I will say I was left wanting more.
It’s only been 10 years since Sam Rami delivered Tobey Macguire as the Marvel action hero Spiderman. The world moves fast these days, so maybe that’s why we have a reboot of that 2002 story, this quick.
Does this version of Spiderman improve upon the trilogy from the 2000s? In some ways, it does with better character development, action that you can follow and pretty decent acting performances. In other ways, this Spiderman fell like a web of repetition.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is an emo high school teenager, in search of clues about his parent’s death. Ike most teenagers, their overriding theme, and the theme of the movie is self-discovery. That leads him to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans.) This is where Spider-man’s origin story is retold and altered to fit the modern day setting. Parker courts Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) as Spider-man moves closer to a showdown with Dr. Connor’s alter ego, The Lizard.
The relationship between Peter and Gwen is what drives the quality of this movie. Garfield and Stone are pretty decent actors who have believable chemistry. The rest of their backstory is useless. Not for one second did I believe that either were high school students, and it was enough of a problem that it distracted me from the story. Come on! Gwen is a high school student, who is also a lead representative of a bio-genetics firm? Garfield has youthful tendencies, but too advanced intellectually. (Apologies to teens of today)
Much like the introduction of Daniel Craig as the latest James Bond, Garfield is a grittier version of Spider-man. Rough around the edges and nervy, with a youthful carelessness. Throw in a Footloose-like solo barn dance scene with a skateboard and you’ve got something perfectly marketed to the youth of today.
Dennis Leary also plays Gwen's father, New York Police Captain Stacy. He was actually my favorite character. His Leary-like frustrations carried the otherwise useless plotline of Spider-Man being chased by the Police as a vigilante.
I do hold all superheroes to a higher moral standard. The Amazing Spider-Man shows us how the young Spidey may be on the road to righteousness, but he’s not there yet. For that, I was disappointed. Since we’re in fantasy land already, I also expect my superheroes to have super powers. This Spider-Man was more like a regular guy who’s really good at parkour.
This movie is also another example of poor use of 3D technology. One more critical note: if Peter Parker/Spider-Man relies so much on a cell phone is this one, why does he use a camera that has film? Go digital already. Most of the movie is CGI anyway.
I didn’t think I was going to like taking a well known historical figure and surrounding him with an absurdly fictitious story, but I did. Based on the book of the same name, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sinks its teeth into the story of our 16th President, taking a few liberties here and there.
To view this film like a horror movie would be a mistake. It’s not scary. It doesn’t have too dark of a tone. It’s absurd, but there is something that kept me watching. AL:VH does succeed in telling what is already a good story that we know from our history books and adds new details and timelines. It also turns Lincoln into an axe swinging badass, with mixed martial arts skills. Hold on, it gets worse.
From a young age, Lincoln seeks revenge on a vampire that killed his mother. He finds the aid of a self-hating vampire who teaches him how to properly dispatch the living dead. Honest Abe also finds some trusted friends along the way to help him, all while aspiring to greatness and the whole presidential thing on the side.
Abraham Lincoln is played by Benjamin Walker, who may be more famous at this point for being the son in law of Meryl Streep. His name is secondary to Producer Tim Burton. He and Director Timur Bekmambetov have created action sequences that are unlike anything else I’ve seen lately.
While the historical liberties were acceptable, I didn’t like how vampires in this film broke the traditional rules of vampirism. For some reason these guys can walk around in daylight and die at the mere touch of something silver. Summation: these vampires suck.
I suppose though, it’s fun to take a deeper look inside the lives of our historical figures. We know what they did to change the world, but what did their daily lives look like. Filling in those details is what makes this entertainment. Who knows? Rutherford B. Hayes could have been killing zombies in his spare time.
Now I have a sequel to pitch. My history prof is weeping this day.
I think that Prometheus is the type of movie that sci-fi junkies will love and debate for a long time to come. There are giant ideas thrown out there. The problem is that we are left with more questions than answers.
Prometheus takes place about 80 years in the future. A team of scientists discover a star chart of sorts on earth, and believe it’s a sign to come and find the makers of humankind. They find something gigantic and amazing in scope and in discovery.
They find beings (called Engineers) that seem to match our DNA. But did they actually make humans? They seem like us, minus a tan and 50 years of fast food exposure. They also find that it's probably a good idea to take weapons with you on an alien planet. I found the surgery machine that operates like the coin operated claw game at the arcade to be my favorite discovery.
We eventually find out that Prometheus appears to be the prequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise, which is fine. They’re not reinventing the story and adding floppy eared creatures that sound like they’re from Jamaica. Prometheus only adds depth to the mythos.
What I think was missing was the fright factor. 1979’s Alien had it right. A scary thing attaches to your face. Later it jumps out of the shadows to eat you. The potential threat to humankind was there in Prometheus. That audience terror was lacking.
The film does allow the mind to wonder about what all of these encounters mean. That's mostly because there's not a lot of explanation of them. It's just story driven by the human desire to ask questions.
Careful, spoilers ahead:
To get extra nerdy and critical, here’s what I choose to pick apart.
1. Why would the Engineers create humans, only to want to destroy them? Seems like waste of time.
2. Android technology in the original 1979 Alien seemed sketchy. That film took place in 2122. Prometheus takes place around 2090. The androids here seem to be operating fine, even contemplating complex human emotions like freedom. Did we take a step backwards in their tech?
3. Where was the DVR? While two crew members have to fend for themselves, the captain takes an, ahem, “break” with Charlize Theron. While they meet a horrible fate, with video cameras entact, the captain returns and wonders what happened to the two guys. Well…check the tape!
While hordes of acid-reflux inducing questions are asked, few answers are given. That left me with a bit of an empty feeling, like I just watched a setup for the next Prometheus film.
It's OK to tell a story from beginning to end in one film.
Amongst the summer blockbusters, sequels and prequels we’re getting this year. Men In Black 3 rises a notch above the rest. There’s a lot of mediocrity in the movie houses, and Will Smith delivers a suited up, suitable performance.
Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Smith) are back to another intergalactic go round. This time with a sharp toothed baddie named Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement.) Imprisoned on a secret moon prison for aliens by K, Boris breaks out to seek his revenge by traveling back in time to kill K in 1969. How very Terminator of him.
J must also head back to the 60’s to stop the retroactive killing. There he meets a younger Agent K (Josh Brolin) and start on a whimsical path of straight guy vs. wacky guy character development. Along the way, we are treated to the host of gooey, scary and hidden aliens that walk unnoticed amongst us.
Director Barry Sonnefeld, who also called shots on the previous MIB films doesn’t spend much time playing up the time change. While in the past Agent J notices that things are a little off and is subject to some tame racism but the points are not dwelled upon. The biggest kicker about time frames, actually comes in the present setting of the film. While Agent J knocks on the door of a stranger and takes a drink from a child’s sippy cup, the little one asks her mother why the president is drinking her chocolate milk?
While at times it seemed like Smith bounced back and forth from an energetic 20-something and the more dignified 43 year old he is today, he still was entertaining. Brolin must have been studying Tommy Lee Jones films, because he seamlessly pulls off the grumpy deadpan persona. That may be the film’s crowning achievement.
What’s nice about the MIB franchise is they do a nice balance job of sci-fi wizardry and human capacity. It’s rare, but three films into the franchise and the fun is still there.
In a world of board games turned into poor alien invasion movies, mixed with less than perfect off-color satire about dictatorships, there is a movie well worth seeing this weekend; Bernie.
In a story based on true events, Bernie stars Jack Black as Bernie Tiede. Set in the 90’s, he’s a Texas small town funeral director who seems to have a perfect halo over his head. Bernie is friends with everyone, always willing to help and an all around good guy. So good, he befriends Marjorie (Shirley McClaine,) the one old lady in town that everyone hates. He treats her with the utmost respect and honor until her negative persuasions influence him to do something bad.
Bernie is a real life dark comedy that plays out beautifully because its characters are fascinating to watch. Nailing the Texas persona on the head, the entire cast make this a treat as they recall the events leading up to Bernie turning a gun on his new best friend. Matthew McConaughey plays District Attorney Danny Buck, the man trying to convince everyone that Bernie has a dark side.
As the story plays out, it was refreshing to see unknowns driving the plot forward. Black, McClaine and McConaughey all have enough quirky senses that their performances each shine brightly, but I think the real treat is the characters they are surrounded with. If you can find comedy in the Texas drawl, you won’t stop smiling.
Also, you’re not hit over the head, but rather ease into the low-key story, which again, is a nice change from battleship invading aliens. Deservingly mellowed credit goes to Director Richard Linklater, who also delivered on Dazed and Confused and the similarly paced Before Sunrise/After Sunset combo.
Though fans of Jack Black will see hints of him about to break into his sillier modes, he plays the straight man to a perfect T. Black Gold. Texas Tea.
I guarantee this film would have been received to roaring applause if it were shown at the Wisconsin Film Festival. Indie lovers will adore it.
For goofy superhero fun, The Avengers is not a bad ride at all, but I still prefer Director Joss Whedon’s other work from this year “Cabin In The Woods.”
The Avengers is the summation (but by no means the end of the franchise) of several movies based on Marvel comic book superheroes. Faced with the certain destruction of earth, by the outcast Viking god Loki (Tom Hiddleston,) Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) brashly assembles a motley crew of fighters to battle the oncoming threat.
While at first their egos and talents don’t mix, they learn through strife their combined unit is much stronger than the evil facing them.
Robert Downey Jr; Mark Ruffalo; Chris Evans; Scarlett Johansson; Chris Hemsworth and Jeremy Renner are respectively Ironman; The Hulk; Captain America; Black Widow; Thor and Hawkeye. We’ve seen all the characters separately in films to varying degrees of success except for master archer Hawkeye and super spy Black Widow.
The first act drags. Vocal yawns could be heard while Nick Fury spends much time setting up the conflict and garnering his superteam. The all out battle to follow is a respectable reward for the exposition and rising action.
It’s easy to fall victim to superhero cliché, and while The Avengers does in order to appeal to the masses, there is still pleasure to be taken from the stellar eye candy special effects.
If not for the comic relief of The Hulk, this would have been a much lesser film. Captain America handing Hulk the simple command to “smash” makes up for just about all the missteps.
Here’s another quick way of looking at The Avengers franchise. If I were to rank the films in this series so far, it would go like this:
Ironman 2 (2010)
The Avengers (2012)
Captain America (2011)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The Hulk (2003)
Stick around through the end credits for the culinary payoff. Avengers need to eat too.
By far, The Cabin In The Woods has been my favorite movie watching experience in 2012. It plays with the horror genre, but makes a greater effort to please the fans.
Written by sci-fi fan favorite Joss Whedon and Cloverfield screenwriter Drew Goddard, TCITW is not the atypical gore fest. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of gore, just in an unexpected style. That’s the thing this movie really has going for it. The unexpected elements are a treat, but you won’t find me making any spoilers here.
That means the summation of the plot will be quite short. Five archetype college friends; the jock, the stoner, the bookworm, the sexy girl and the modest girl all head to a cabin (in the woods) for a weekend of partying. Little do they know, they don’t end up with the type of weekend they had in store.
Two of my favorite actors today. (Madison’s own) Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins have parallel roles with the college kids and are largely responsible for the much welcome comic relief.
Horror genre clichés are amusingly played upon and paying close attention to the dialogue made me giddy. The plot is rollercoaster. You might see what’s ahead, but the experience of it playing out is what’s great.
I think the movies that keep you guessing are always the most entertaining. While this isn’t high brow by any means, I think it’s as good or better than just about anything else 2012 cinema has brought us.
OK…one spoiler. Thanking a zombie hand for doing your dirty work is not only good manners, it’s the right thing to do.
Sidenote: The only reason that TCITW doesn't get Four solid Buckets of Popcorn is becase I didn't get to see it with my horrorific freind Steve. He is not the horror, but that's the movies he loves. That half bucket is for you brother.
Considering some of the current A-listers in the cast of Wrath Of The Titans, one can only assume that this was a payday project. This is your very typical action-adventure trash and there isn’t very much fun to be had.
The follow up to the 2010 remake of Clash Of The Titans brings back the usual suspects. Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Ralph Feinnes repeat as Grecians/Gods Perseus, Zeus and Hades respectively. It also brings back the monotonous feeling that it’s predecessor had.
This time around, our now settled down hero Perseus is drawn back into the game by his old friends. Sounds like every other action you’ve ever seen yet? Hades aligns forces with some other baddies, to steal Zeus’ power and awaken a monster. Perseus has to fight his way through a team of Cyclops, a minotaur, and various other fire creatures to save Zeus.
Outside of the visual effects and sword waving, there’s not much that the characters actually do. Worthington repeatedly shows his dirty and bloodied war face while holding his emotions locked inside the best he can. The dialogue is drab. The story is weak. Why would the father of two Greek gods be a lava throwing fire creature?
This feeble movie was made purely for the profit. Clash Of The Titans (2010) almost quadrupled its $125 million dollar budget at the box office, which pretty much guaranteed a sequel was going to follow. Being a movie that relied heavily on special effects, it also pretty much guaranteed that the soul of the sequel would be missing.
While watching this one, I pondered the question if we have spoiled ourselves with special effects. I knew some of the CGI I was watching was massive and impressive, yet it did nothing to move me.
Seeing it in 2D, maybe this is the type of movie that is well fit in the 3D format? There sure isn’t much else driving this film, so why not delight in the low-brow thrill of a movie fireball heading right for your head? I don’t see much else to take from it.
Did I just watch a documentary on American Idol, where instead of voting the losers off, they just kill them? Possibly, but Idol was never as entertaining.
The Hunger Games is set in a post-war dystopian future, where the United States is now a country called Panem, and split into districts instead of state, two commoners from each district are chosen to savagely fight to the death for the entertainment of the ruling class. It’s a form of punishment to keep the common people in line, which the upper class have spun, now calling it a national tradition.
These chosen children, range in age from their late teens to a disturbingly young age. This is perhaps the darkest element of this dark film. Watching the upper class celebrate the fact that they are sending kids out to the slaughter makes it pretty easy to cheer for their downfall.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is the heroine, who has to live up to her potential. The one
thing that really drives this movie is Jennifer Lawrence. She’s a young actress, but you can tell there is something behind her eyes and in her face. Her honesty on-camera makes you believe her. She’s the opposite of a blank slate, even if she hasn’t realized what her potential is yet. The future is bright for her.
The supporting cast is surprisingly strong. Woody Harelson plays Hamish, an alcoholic former Hunger Games winner that mentors the fresh meat. Lenny Kravitz surprises with a passionate performance, despite the gold eyeliner. Stanley Tucci is the Hunger Game emcee and his fake teeth were basically a character to themselves.
The Hunger Games falls into the new franchise-category of movies that include Harry Potter and Twilight. It’s also pretty hard not to make comparisons to the aforementioned similar films. There is a lead character destined for greatness. There is a love triangle forming. There is a greater evil hovering over the lives of the characters.
The film is not without its faults. There was part of me that wanted to cast off this movie series as just another brick in the wall, but there is an impressive level of achievement here, which cannot be denied.
In this frenzied and seemingly unstoppable world of movie remakes, I am calling a new rule. All remakes now must have enough whim to make fun of the fact that they are remakes. Without this self deprecating humor, remakes, reboots and reimaginings are useless wastes of time.
2009’s Star Trek reboot managed to throw a bit into the mix and therefore was a success. The film version of 21 Jump Street does it too.
The slim-fasted Jonah Hill stars alongside Channing Tatum as police officers in an undercover unit featuring young looking and acting officers, allowing them to pose as high schoolers. Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) assignment is to track down the dealers and suppliers of a new drug that’s popular with teens.
While their experience of re-learning high school etiquette is amusing, some of the real laughter comes from when the film is mocking itself. A speech to Hill & Jenko from their Deputy Chief (Nick Offerman) about rehashing old ideas may be one of the funnier comic bits I’ll see this year.
What makes the character’s high school experience quite entertaining is that you feel their experience from a teenager’s perspective. Just about every single adult in the film could care less about themselves, their situation or how any of the teens feels. That comic disconnect carries a lot of weight.
There are countless subtle references to 80’s action films that again amuse, but don’t necessarily make the film. Ice Cube, who in his younger days notoriously rapped “F*** Tha Police,” now serves as their stereotypical angry Police Chief. Again amusing, but not fall down funny.
Fans of the original TV show won’t find much that looks too familiar, sans a couple special appearances that you need to keep your eyes peeled for. Throwing little bones like that to your dedicated audience base goes a long way. Go see this movie.
If not for the predictable and unnecessarily long ending, which includes a sad attempt as creating it’s own R-Rated “you had me at hello” tag line, I might have really liked Friends With Kids.
The movie is the brainchild of beautifully adorable indie actress Jennifer Westfeldt, who wrote, directed and stars as the lead female. (She’s also notably the long term girlfriend of Jon Hamm, who is also in the film.) The story involves a late 30’s couple with a platonic friendship between Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Westfeldt) who decide they want a child. They don’t want the attachment of marriage to weigh down their relationship, seeing how it’s changed their two pairs of friends for better and worse (Hamm & Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph & Chris O’Dowd.)
Jason and Julie’s strength in friendship and their adult attitude about the situation they’ve chosen for themselves is quite impressive. I really can’t say I know a couple that might be able to pull off their platonic-parenting status, but maybe that’s because the idea seems to be something only the guys in the movie understand. They get the companionship and the family but they also get to sleep with other people.
With the New York setting and the open conversations about the relationship, you can’t help but feel in Woody Allen influence. It was quite entertaining, until they dive into the pool of predictable romance-comedies.
Still, Friends With Kids deserves more credit. The ensemble cast is very strong and believable. The story and tension between the characters is true to life. I liked Scott with the lead role. He’s thought out and engaged in the “now” of the film.
Without being preachy, the film also makes arguments, pro and con about the alternative family situation that’s developed. To my dismay, it ends making a rather traditional decision. That third act is nearly painful to watch. Considering how unusual the relationship between Jason & Julie is, it doesn’t seem believable that they start acting like people do at the end of a typical rom-com.
I didn’t appreciate that and frankly felt a little cheated. It was like getting a present wrapped in a giant box, only to find the gift is actually the size of a coin and not that valuable.
It doesn’t quite live up to my childhood memory of my favorite Dr. Seuss book, but the Hollywood version of The Lorax isn’t an updated fail.
The reason this family friendly movie doesn’t fail is because it passed my kid-friendly test in the theater. Basically, when you watch the film, it’s whether you hear kids getting restless. It was silent for the showing I attended, which means it kept kids engaged.
The story of The Lorax, Once-ler, Truffula trees, Swanny Swans and the thneeds that we all need is familiar with some add ons. The main character Ted (Zac Efron) is a young boy trying to win the affections of a girl who wants to see a tree. (The things guys will do to get the girl.) The rest of the cast is as colorful as a handful of candy. Danny DeVito, Betty White & Ed Helms all deliver likeable performances. Helm’s musical numbers stand out as favorites.
The introduction of Mr. O’Hare (Rob Riggle) as a greed hungry corporate power monger who sells clean air to the residents of their cordoned off home town was extraneous. Maybe they needed a villain beyond the Once-ler for everyone to hate, but I felt it muddied the plot.
I caught the film in 2D, although it’s also being shown in the 3D format. You can tell what scenes are meant to pop out at you, but I felt the vibrant colors and animation stood out plenty in the base format.
Loving the book, I also enjoy the message of The Lorax, which is basically that we should care about each other. That, and the dangers of unchecked corporate greed in a capitalist society. It also doesn’t hit you over the head with the message. It’s a nice family treat.
In the land of raunchy comedies, Wanderlust roams somewhere in the middle of the pack, but with a steady flow of medium sized jokes, it can still entertain.
Produced under the Judd Apatow house, Wanderlust stars Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston as a newly unemployed New York couple. Forced to move to Atlanta and stay with a rude brother in law, they instead decide to join a hippie commune.
If not for the obvious direction of the plot, Wanderlust may have been a better film. It’s not a bad movie, just medium funny.
The fish out of water routine manages to stay fresh thanks to a cast of oddballs living at the commune including Alan Alda and the now grown-up teenager from Six Feet Under, Lauren Ambrose. The jokes flow through the outsiders response to the free love, extreme openness and quirky habits of the tribe, but none really draw the burst out laughter that the similarly raunchy Bridesmaids delivered in 2011.
The humor is in the playing off stereotypical things you think a hippie commune might do. The characters act silly while hallucinating on drugs. The newbies get real uncomfortable with the free love sexual dynamic and watching people squirm while their personal space is constantly invaded is just fun. You can also appreciate the satire on yuppie culture.
Considering the cast was mostly made from the alum of the comic troupe The State, later turned Reno911!, you can expect the same level of alternative comedy.
Sidenote: Wanderlust means a strong impulse to travel. These characters are more in search of themselves. Bad title
If you’re really going to take the kids to an adventure movie, journey back to the box office and buy two tickets to the whale movie “Big Miracle.” It will be far more worth your time.
I simply do not enjoy watching disjointed kids movies that make incredibly ridiculous jumps of logic, while trying to maintain their credibility with the youth by spouting out trendy catch phrases of the day.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is the equally pathetic follow up to 2008’s Journey To The Center Of The Earth. Josh Hutcherson is the leftover from the first film, and is joined by Michael Caine, Luis Guzman, Dwayne Johnson and Vanessa Hudgens. I would imagine none of them will be listing this film on their resume.
Sean (Hutcherson) discovers a secret message from his grandfather (Caine) and convinces his stepfather (Johnson) to fly him to an island in the South Pacific on a school day. The stepfather-son relationship is stereotypically strained and Mom decides it’s an OK idea to help them bond.
Once there, they meet up with a willing, but low-rent tour guide (Guzman) and his daughter (Hudgens) who take them on a three-hour tour (sing it!) in search of the lost island.
They find a hidden place of beauty, only to discover they are in danger and need to flee. That’s a pretty crappy vacation indeed.
It’s annoying to me when characters who are clearly supposed to be human are allowed superhuman powers. The fantasy of this kid’s movie is supposed to be the magic they encounter and it’s wonder. Jump-starting a submarine with a giant electric eel is magic. The Rock singing a soothing song while playing a ukulele is not magic. At least carrying around the ukulele pays off somehow.
Journey 2 may all be entertaining for tweens, with all the elephants the size of small dogs and bumble bees the size of horses. The overabundance of poop jokes, bad puns and general mediocrity will be enough to allow Mom or Dad to take a brief nap during the film. Just ask the guy who dozed off sitting a few seats away from me.
Save this as a rental for the kids. Press play and leave the room. There is nothing useful for anyone over the age of 13 here.
Its said that youth is wasted on the young. Just think how bad it might be if they had superpowers too.
Chronicle is a finely tuned example of the found footage film genre. In it, three teenage boys, Andrew, Matt & Steve, come upon a mysterious hole in the ground, inside which is an even more mysterious object. They enter the hole as your typical teens. They exit with the power of telekinesis. The squirrelly-emo one of the three is documenting the events with his video cam.
This is like handing teenage boys $1,000,00 cash and telling them to have fun.
The second act, where our teens discover how to harness their new-found power is brilliant. It’s exactly how you expect three guys to act. At first they skip stones with their mind. Then while playing at the table, they figure out how to block a fork from stabbing their hand. Then they fly, all while manically giggling about how cool it is.
A nice design element of the film is the subtext of how these guys don’t seem quite mature enough to handle their power. Then, you think of what could go wrong. Then, things go wrong. The third act mayhem is typical and less interesting.
While this downward spiral is palpable, Chronicle works because you believe how these guys are living in the moment.
I was pleasantly surprised how well the film gels. I was tired with found footage style the moment The Blair Witch Project came out. This breathed some new life into it.
Call me paranoid, but I love a good survival story. What would I do in the situation? How would I handle it differently? Exactly how long could I survive after my iPhone battery drains?
Liam Neeson’s new film The Grey is a chilled action story, filled with pending doom, survival of the fittest and wild wolves that carry a grudge. Ottaway (Neeson) and a crew of grungy oil workers are aboard a plane that goes down in the frozen middle of nowhere, Alaska. The survivors even reference the 1993 movie Alive and fend for their survival. A pack of hungry wolves, upset that a plane lands in their turf, make for a particularly bad three days.
The Grey has a plot very similar to a number of other movies (Predator, Anaconda, even Jaws) where a creature starts picking off members of a group, one by one. The thing that makes this stand out is Neeson’s believability in a survival situation. In one dramatic and heavy scene, Neeson shouts to the heavens for help. Not like Captain Kirk shouting at Kahn. More like a man’s final desperate attempt to spare his life. It’s still weighing on me as I write this. I still don’t know how Neeson turned from an eloquent actor to an action hero, but it works.
Still, Ottway is kind of a lousy guy. He’s hired as a sharpshooter to kill wolves at an oil refinery. In Alaska, we can assume that most people are there to get away from everyone else. Ottway has a interesting backstory, but come on. Your job is to shoot wolves who are just looking for food? Can’t you just put up a fence?
At first, you feel sympathy for the wolves. They are just animals surviving. Then you start to wonder how you might defend yourself from a pack of wolves. Then you fear them, basically because you want to keep on living.
Interestingly enough, the well-placed dark turn towards the end of the film helps out a theory of mine on this movie. With just a little bit of editing, the creatures stalking this group could have just as well been supernatural. You really only see small moments of wolves and when they do attack, the camera work is so blurry that you can’t really tell what is going on.
Why not just make the attacking creatures teenage vampires? They would have cleaned up at the box office.
It's a simple chicken supper that's prepared all in one dish, perfect for Monday!
1 large onion, chopped
1 to 2 tbsps chopped seeded jalapeno
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1-1/4 cups chicken broth
1 can (10oz) diced tomatoes and green chilis, undrained
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each pepper and ground cumin
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
In a large skillet, saute onion and jalapeno in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Stir in rice.
Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and cumin; place over rice mixture. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes on each side (or until meat thermometer reads 170).
Remove from heat. Sprinkle with cheese; cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
I would personally like to thank whoever chose to place the relatively unknown former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano in a top rate thriller with a host of other A-List actors. The formula worked quite well. I believe director Steven Soderbergh had something to do with it.
Haywire is a somewhat milky story, made better with fantastic acting and even better action. Mallory Kane (Carano) is some sort of a government/spy contractor, hired to pull off the most difficult of missions. In this case she is part of a mission to rescue a foreign hostage in Barcelona, when something goes wrong.
Carano is strongly supported by the likes of Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton and to a lesser extent Channing Tatum. They give Carano the credibility she needs, they also key up what would have otherwise been a B-thriller. I always question how a 20 something can be a trained, deadly and worldly superspy.
Yet, Mallory Kane is something like a predator in the wild. She is amazingly athletic and pulls off fighting stunts that echo of Bruce Lee. Carano plays her with wit, quickness and a humanity that makes her the most approachable trained killer you’ve ever met. Think the female version of Jason Bourne.
I’m not sure what the fixation of super bad female heroines in film is, but I would easily watch another sample of Mallory Kane over a Laura Croft, Alice, Catwoman, Jean Grey, She-ra, Powderpuff Girl or Kimpossible anyday. OK, maybe I know what the fixation is. I suppose Kane fits right in with the class that includes Lisbeth Salander, which helps this film rate much better than the average modern thriller.
Just some Cliff’s Notes here about the past year of movies.
Over the holidays, I caught up with a couple movies I haven’t had the chances to review, plus I am updating my Best of 2011 list. My new Top 10 won’t necessarily be the everybody’s Top Movies of 2011, but rather the ones I felt connected to. Hopefully that will be of some benefit to you, because some will soon be coming out On Demand, or for purchase/rental.
The Artist: A beautifully filmed homage to film before talking came around. It’s silent, black and white and is like nothing else I saw this past year. It’s also my pick for Best Oscar winner.
War Horse: Not a fan. A sweeping cinematographic drama about the life of a horse, with the backdrop of World War I. Could a horse stop trench warfare between the English and the Germans? I don’t think so.
Tree Of Life: Finally caught it On Demand. A rather existential story on the subject of life, nature and being human. It was brilliant, but maybe too broad for the average viewer.
The Muppets:Jason Segel deserves credit for this revival. The new songs tasted sweet as I relived some nice childhood memories, but I prefer more Muppets, less humans in my Muppet movies.
The Best of 2011
(That is to say, the movies that had the biggest impact on me)
#10 - Melancholia – A happy tale of the complete destruction of the earth. For better or worse, I can’t get Kirsten Dunst’s latest out of my head.
#9 - Super 8 - It’s simply the ET of the new generation.
#8 - Tucker & Dale vs Evil – This low budget, under the radar spoof of slasher flicks was too fun to ignore.
#7 - The Descendants – George Clooney makes you remember that good people can still make good decisions. I missed a lot of this one because it was set in Hawaii and shot a several locations that I was at in September. I was daydreaming too much.
#6 – Beginners – A beautiful story about coming to terms with the life you have. Also, there’s a talking dog.
#5 - My Week With Marilyn – Michelle Williams pulls off the trick where you don’t see the actress and only her character. She did it the best this year.
#4 - Tree Of Life – The universe in a nutshell. Is that even possible?
#3 - 50/50 – This Joseph Gordon Levitt funny film about getting cancer perhaps drew the most emotion from me.
#2 - Midnight In Paris – A superb work from Woody Allen about passion for Paris. I was day dreaming again about the setting, but at least I paid close attention to the plot.
#1 - The Artist – It is like nothing else I saw in 2011. It answers the question: Can you watch 1h40 long film where no one talks? Yes. Art comes in many beautiful forms.
I have a general rule of the arts. I love seeing great work, but I always prefer seeing something new. The American version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is great work, but it was nothing new.
The noir adaptation follows the original foreign film and the novel of the same name almost to a T. Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a disgraced journalist who agrees to take on a research project, searching for a rich family’s missing sibling. He recruits the aid of emo superhacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) and they put the pieces of this thriller drama together to unveil an even darker story.
The cast is superb. I saw this with a friend who didn’t even like Daniel Craig, until this performance. Rooney Mara seamlessly weaves herself into Lisbeth, with just as much intensity as the original Swedish film. The supporting cast of Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard and Robin Wright are inspired. Craig’s steely-eyed delivery balances Mara’s stonefaced energy.
If you haven’t seen the foreign original, the Americanized version will serve as good entertainment. If you have, this film is nothing new other than revisiting the story. That said, I still found the murder mystery to be riveting and entertaining.
There are no technical fouls to call here, other than repetition. I do take issue with the final 20 minutes of the story. Considering the film’s length, I don’t think resolution details needed to be so far drawn out. I would have ben satisfied with a simpler wrap up.
One of the better compliments I can pay Director David Fincher is that the extremely long 2h40 run time does move by swiftly. Just as in The Social Network, he makes great use of tension and character development to keep you engaged.
Don’t buy a soda before going in to see it. Also, this may have been one of the more disturbing uses of an Enya song that i's ever seen.
For what it lacks in storyline, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol more than makes up for it in bravado, which means this is a generally cool action movie.
This is the 4th film into the franchise, which is now putting forth its best effort to make Tom Cruise into his own version of James Bond. The general idea is that Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is being framed for bombing the Kremlin.
The president disavows Hunt and his team, so they need to rely on their own sources to find out who has done them wrong. Turns out the bad guy is something of a James Bond-esque villain, who wants nothing more than all-out nuclear war to allow humanity to start again.
The movie opens with an impressive jailbreak that, in real time, takes place during the length of the Dean Martin song “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head.” Yes, people are kicked in the head while it plays.
The MI4 travelogue continues to Dubai, where Hunt tries to pull a switcheroo on the baddie trying to obtain launch codes for the previously mentioned nuclear weapons. This is the big payoff as they film scenes in the Burj Khalifa, a hotel, now the world’s tallest building.
I caught the film in IMAX and some of the camerawork from outside the hotel is nothing less than phenomenal. There is a very good chance you’ll feel some type of dizziness looking down. It’s very much worth the extra bucks for IMAX. Yes, Tom Cruise did the stunt work outside of the building. Yes, he is a larger man that you and I.
Hunt’s new team consist of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg,) the field green techie who provides much of the comic relief. William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is another new agent that seems to be faster than Hunt, but not as experienced.
It’s silly to nit pick action movie plots. This one has weaknesses. It moves slow in places, it makes a lot of presumptions on details and centers on the almighty Tom Cruise a little too much. All the mistakes are forgivable as long as the filmmakers don’t start feeling like this was Oscar worthy.
A fun fact: in Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise is the same age Wilford Brimley was when he made Cocoon. He’s an easy target to make fun of, but even with the egomania, this movie was still fun.
For fans of the TV show Lost, you can feel the touch that Producer JJ Abrams places on the film. You even get a few minutes of Josh Holloway, being just a cool as he was on TV.
Hugo is a kids movie that toasts early film, while pulling off a magical trick of embracing new media. This is one of the few tolerable uses of 3D technology.
Based on the 2007 illustrated kids novel “The Invention Of Hugo Cabret,” Martin Scorsese directs the life story of filmmaker Georges Méliès, known as the inventor of special effects. Yes, this is a 3D movie about special effects. I’m drowning in the irony.
Set in 1930’s Paris, Hugo is a young mechanically inclined boy who lives in the storybook walls of a train station, setting its clocks, while he searches for clues about his deceased father. While keeping one step ahead of the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen,) he believes those clues, once put together will help him understand his purpose. His search though, ends up crossing paths with the always brilliant Ben Kingsley, who plays Méliès. Both are searching for something.
The first half includes some impressive CGI work, seamlessly melded with live action, as Hugo races to find answers. The second half of the film is a treat for movie lovers focusing on preserving and showing Méliès’ work. Scorsese has long been a champion of preserving old film, so this movie serves a double purpose for him. Well done sir.
Hugo offers up fantastic nuggets of film storytelling. In a scene with Isabelle (Chloe Grace Morentz) he explains how his life’s knowledge has told him that machines don’t come with extra parts. Hugo says he looks at the world like a machine, so if he’s in the world, he knows that he has purpose. He’s not an extra part. Who doesn’t want to feel like they fit in?
Although masked in a kids movie format, Hugo is a giant homage to cinema. Even if you didn’t take an introduction to film class, you’re still able to walk away with that feeling that cinephiles, like myself, hold dear.
Melancholia is a great display of Kirsten Dunst’s acting prowess and a magical use of artistic camera work , but maybe bring some Prozac along for this one.
The film opens with a several minutes of dramatic sweeping scenes that look like they’re straight off of the wall of an art gallery. They foreshadow the dark tale to come. Then, the story falls into two acts. Both are balanced out with a nice sci-fi element of a planet named Melancholia, which is on a collision course with earth.
The first involves Justine (Dunst) on her wedding day. The opening shot is of her limo that is stuck and can’t quite get around a corner, symbolic of how things are about to go. The car trouble makes her late for the reception, which fuels anger amongst her dysfunctional family, which leads to Justine revealing how deep her depression goes. Justine already has a strained relationship with her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and is the only reason Justine makes it through the day. The tragically sad results of her failed day weigh heavy on the viewer as the film pushes into the second act.
In the second act, we witness some beautiful moments of humanity where Claire cares for Justine during her depressive phase. At the same time, we find out that Melancholia might be getting a little too close for comfort. While Justine recovers, the apocalyptic possibility begins to turn Claire on end. Then the roles reverse. Justine is the only character to accept her fate, while Claire does all she can to fight it, while falling to pieces.
One can’t help but wonder why Justine doesn’t seek any help, professional or medical to deal with her sagging depression, but then at the same time, you wonder why even bother if the world is about to end? What is the point of many of the things we do, when they don’t matter in the end. These questions haunt the entire film.
It was genius of director Lars Von Trier to slowly reduce the number of people onscreen during the film to just the few central characters in the end. The movie is set on Claire’s husbands exclusive golf club resort home. You might assume to see some type of collapse of society with the chance of the end of the world. Given their remote location, you don’t see it, except on Claire’s face.
Bottom line is that Melancholia is a beautiful moving piece of art, assuming you can stand the trip to the dark side.
I won't say I am slipping into a depression about this, but it feels like it's been months since I've been to the movie theater. In reality, it's been 8 days.
Between Thanksgiving, family events, shopping and playing catchup from short work weeks, I haven't had a chance to review a movie lately. Some of what I've seen is playing catchup from the 2011 releases.
Here's what I've seen in the past two weeks, but not reported on yet.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn
Beginners (On Demand)
Tucker and Dale vs Evil
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest
Here's what's still on my To-See list before the Oscars:
Tree Of Life
Martha Marcy May Marlene
It’s a good trip down memory lane to remember the honeymoon phase of your relationship, when you wanted nothing more than to be next to the one you love. Like Crazy is a sweet romantic drama that takes an intimate look as the high and lowlights of new love and how we deal with the space between.
In it, American student Jacob (Anton Yelchin) meets British student Anna (Felicity Jones) and the pair fall in the type of love where you feel like you just can’t get close enough to the other person. Anna feels so passionate she stays with Jacob in America after her student visa expires, setting into motion a lengthy series of problems that physically separate the pair.
While she is denied access to the US, Jacob and Anna feel the effects of a long distance relationship and drift apart. Both make a romantic promise to be patient, but when reality sets in, it is a heartbreak to see it fall apart considering the romantic setup we witnessed.
It’s both their fault because they’re new to the game. Anna is more in love with Jacob, but he puts forth an effort to make it work. The question is how much does he really care? Both make mistakes with affairs, but it’s when they’re on the break. The layers of complications only fog their emotion, but not your empathy.
There’s also the question over access. Anna can’t come to the US, but Jacob can go to England. The thing that’s holding him back is his furniture design business. It’s a weak reason to keep them apart. He loses that battle.
The ending is intentionally left open for interpretation. Will the romantic or the pragmatic side win? That feeling of desire you get from being away from your lover is a hard habit to break, and why would you want to? Curiously, your reaction to this movie should give some insight as to how you approach relationships.
The new love between Anna and Jacob is also raw and fresh. That’s because one of the best thing this movie has going for it, is it’s young actors. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones both show a maturity that should keep them on the path towards greatness. I’m already looking forward to their next role.
Looking through glassy eyes, itâs hard to find focus, even if your intentions were to have a good time. Itâs the same story for Johnny Deppâs toast to Hunter S. Thompson in The Rum Diary. The heart is in the right place, but this one stumbles around a little too much.
The film is based on the long lost novel of the same name that Thompson wrote in the 1960âs, but didnât publish until 1998. Depp supposedly found the material amongst Thompsonâs things and has since been key in getting the film produced.
The story involves journalist Paul Kemp (Depp) who takes a job at the San Juan Star in Puerto Rico. His sleazy editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) immediately sets the tone of the film by asking Kemp if heâs drunk and how much he drinks. Kemp replies in a Thompson-esque voice âThe high end of social.â
From there, Kemp is wooed by Sanderson, (Aaron Eckhart) a developer who has plans to get rich by developing the lush island. Itâs Sandersonâs attempt to control the media in his favor.
The film is somewhat autobiographical because Thompson did apply at the San Juan Star, but didnât get the job. Itâs completely autobiographical in regards to how Depp, for a second time, entertains by channeling Thompson. Itâs a treat to hear the witty dialogue come rolling off his mumbling tongue.
Another standout is Sandersonâs fiancee', played by the luscious Amber Heard. Her character Chenault is like a beautiful tidal wave. Sheâs literally the girl that talks you into speed racing the brand new car youâve just been given by daddy.
If there was a main point, itâs how Kemp tries to use his righteous journalistic integrity to save the people of Puerto Rico from a greedy American developer. Still this is more of a rum fueled exercise in functional alcoholism. I feel like they touched on everything that Thompson was, but didnât deliver that gonzo element.
Packed with plenty of gotcha moments, Paranormal Activity 3 will make you jump several times. The problem is, we already know the formula and that takes a lot of the frightful edge away.
Set in 1988, we again get a home video obsessed guy who must catch on VHS, the things in his home that are going bump in the night. The added twist of the backstory of the original Katie from Paranormal Activity 1 is a wasted point.
To set up the scary faux-documentary, weâre to believe that were looking back on real archival footage. Dennis, a wedding videographer, has moved in with hot 80âs mom Julie. They live a happy life with Julieâs two daughters Katie and Kristi. One night, Dennis accidentally catches Kristiâs imaginary friend Toby on camera and becomes infatuated. Things escalate poorly for the family.
With just a few exceptions, I almost never recommend the 3rd chapter in a film franchise. That rule is still in effect here. I will admit to jumping several times. Thatâs the point of watching a movie like this.
In fact, based on this movie, PA1 makes much less sense. SPOILER AHEAD: In this film, young Katie from 1988 befriends the mysterious demon. Are we to assume that her demon friend is the same one that possesses Katie from 2009? The older Katie is more a victim of her boyfriendâs misguided actions. Did the demon and Katieâs relationship mean nothing all those years?
There was something fun I took away from this film. It was in the technical use of a surveillance style point of view, where the camera pans back and forth. I am a lover of puzzles where you have to figure out the difference between two pictures. In this case, the viewerâs perspective pans to the left, so look for the thing that sticks out in the frame. Pan to the right, then back to the left and see whatâs spookily changed. I am a film technique lover, so I actually enjoyed this.
Still, would you go see a movie based on someoneâs thrill that the camera panned back & forth? I donât think so. Thatâs something for movie nerds like me.
The bottom line is, you will be scared with PA3, even if itâs for the lack of creativity.
Itâs not like the world was begging for a remake of the 1982 John Carpenter film, but in the world of sci-fi horror, itâs not a grave mistake to bring this pronoun of a story back.
The Thing (2011) is set in 1982. Confused yet? Graduate student Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is recruited by a Norwegian scientist for her necropsy skills to a base in the Antarctic. There she and a team of about a dozen recover an alien creature thatâs been frozen in the ice. It comes back to life and possesses the power to morph into itâs victim to conceal itâs own identity. Itâs a similar plotline to the 1982 version with some detail changes.
Note: The 1982 John Carpenter was a remake of a 1951 movie The Thing From Another World, which was also based on a short story.
There are a few fright factors that work in this movie. The toothy creature is quite gruesome and disgusting, but in a fun scary movie way. Since it also has the ability to hide itself within the group of survivors, paranoia drives the suspense.
One semi-intense moment involves a tooth check of the humans to determine if anyone has been body snatched. The imperfectness of the life and death test ratchets up the intensity mid way through and was enough to keep my interest going.Â Thereâs also a nice dark ending to look forward to.
Where The Thing doesnât work, is how it all plays out. This is a run of the mill, scary things jump from the shadows movie. The little soldiers fall one by one, building up to a final showdown. The redeeming factor is that creepy aliens are sci-fi gold and itâs fun to watch these kind of scary movies.
Logically speaking, you could easily shred the movie. Why would the alien reveal itself one person at a time? Why would the alien have teeth like the Sarlacc Pit? Why does an Antarctic base have military grade flame throwers? Thatâs all beside the point.
This is more about a good run-for-your-life gore festival. So, was the remake necessary? No. Is it mindless escapism? Yes. More please.