Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: Thor: The Dark World

If you could see my desk at work, you’d understand my lack of motivation. I can’t show it to you because of a confidentiality agreement and I don’t post gore porn on this blog. Anyways, I saw Thor 2 last Friday…

How do I review a film when I don’t have strong feelings for it either way? I was entertained for the almost two hours my ever more flattened ass was crammed into the seats of the theater, but then we left the venue and honestly my mind has not returned to Thor: The Dark World until just now. I am not saying it was bad. I’m not saying it was good. It was everything I have come to expect from a Marvel Comics film. And there it is…

Insanely ridiculous plot, with serious climatic events, complemented by (numerous) comedic filler lines. It’s what we expect. And Thor 2 was exactly what I expected it to be. Sure, I thought some people would die and they didn’t. I didn’t see every little plot point coming, because I am not psychic and didn’t read spoilers, but nothing here surprised me. Nothing in Thor took me out of the theater and dropped me into an Asgardian adventure.

The effects were great. The action was some of the best in a Marvel movie to date. The acting was marvel movie acting. No Oscars here, but an acceptable level of average without too much cringe. It was a fun, if plot hole filled, romp continuing where the original Thor and Avengers left off. It even had some nice cameos.

So why can’t I shake the feeling I was disappointed by Thor 2? Hell, I’m pretty sure it was better than Thor 1. But nothing in Thor: The Dark World captured me like past Marvel films (Original Thor included). I had the same problem with Iron Man 3 and I am crossing my fingers the next Captain America doesn’t suffer the same fate.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Golden Taunt

I was watching Monday Night Football this week instead of the World Series. There were a few reasons for this. First, I probably wouldn't care if the two teams in the World Series both came down with horrible bouts of diarrhea, the likes of which the world has never seen, and the whole thing had to be called off for fear of starting the next Black Plague. Nothing against St. Louis or Boston, I’m sure they are fine cities, but haven’t they won enough already?

Second, rarely do you get to see so many WVU players on Prime time NFL football at the same time. Third, the Rams gave out free hot dogs to anyone willing to come see them lose instead of the Cardinals. Not that I could receive a free hot dog from a thousand miles away, but I appreciate the gesture. So I’m watching the game when Golden Tate, the Notre Dame product, not only saves a would-be interception, but manages to make the catch and score a touchdown. Great play. Too bad he spent the next thirty yards it took him to reach the end-zone taunting the other team.


What happened to sportsmanship? Congratulations Tate, you caught a ball with your hands and ran across a line of paint. Give this guy a noble prize (I shouldn't say that too loud, they’ll give them to anyone these days). I don’t poo poo all celebrations in sport. There are real, legitimate reasons for celebrating. For instance, when the Pittsburgh Pirates clinched a post-season berth for the first time since 1992 (along with their first winning season since 1992) they had a good reason to celebrate. But they chose to do so in a reasonable fashion; in their locker room as a team celebrating a great win. Not by pointing at the Cubs players and taunting them for another losing season and for having by far the worst stadium in MLB (how the hell old Yankee Stadium was torn down but Wrigley is still standing baffles).

I am picking on Tate. To be fair, in every professional sport (and college, and High School and little league and fantasy league and squash matches) you see this kind of behavior and it’s just sad. But we just let them go on doing it. We let them act this way by buying tickets and T-shirts and spending our precious time watching them run around on grass fields instead of going out and running around on grass fields. Are our lives so sad and meaningless that we must not only attach ourselves to these teams, live and die by their wins and losses, but look the other way when they act like spoiled children? I am aware he was chastised by his coach and the fans gave it to him on Twitter. But mark my words, when he catches his next touchdown, everyone will forget that he is a giant bag of dicks while they celebrate and watch him do the Triple Lindy as a touchdown dance.

You shake the hand of the person you defeated and thank them for their effort. You act as if you have been there before. You take time to realize just how lucky you are to be in the NFL, making millions to play a game.

It makes me question why I watch at all. Am I contributing to the problem just by tuning in?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: Carrie

Hobo Dan: The Wife had to convince me to see this. I generally do not go out of my way to see horror films. It’s not that I dislike horror films, but the general mindless hacking and slashing that takes place is lost upon me. The very fact that there are “rules” to horror films makes them so totally predictable. Have sex? You’re going to die. Born a minority? You’re going to die. Scoff at the notion of bad things happening in the dark/old house/woods? You’re going to die.

I've never see the original Carrie or any of the multitudes of remakes. I know the story though, just like people who've never seen Star Wars already know who Luke’s father is. Pop culture has a way of being soiled. So what can I say about the story? I mean its Carrie, what are you really looking for here? High school kids are dicks. High school kids need to learn to test for telekinetic powers before ridiculing other kids. Side Note: in the last several months I have seen TV shows and movies involving high school gym classes. They all have pools where they hold class on occasion. Where do these people go to school? Even Hogwarts doesn't have a pool.

The acting in Carrie is superb. On a casting note, I truly appreciate when Hollywood casts actors to play high school kids that look like they are actually in high school. Not that I want to piss of Grease fans, but that group of actors couldn't pass if it was about the ten year reunion. Anyways, Chloe Moretz was just fantastic as the sheltered title character. Now that I think of it, I don’t believe I've ever seen her not being great. Julianne Moore was convincingly demented as the Mother. The supporting cast was completely competent at what they were asked to do and again, looked the part of high school kids/teachers.

If you've seen the old Carrie’s, there isn't going to be much new for you here. If you've never seen Carrie, but like myself you know all about it, there isn't much new for you either. If those two sentences don’t cover you, then did you just get the internet and why did you choose to come here first?

The Wife: Having seen the old Carrie numerous times, I've come to appreciate the cheese and dated nature of the late 70’s film. Normally I’m not real big into re-makes, but once it was announced that Chloe Grace Moretz would be portraying Carrie in the new film, I was intrigued. I love her as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass and was excited to see how she would handle the iconic role of troubled, telekinetic Carrie.

Hobo Dan shockingly has never seen the original Carrie or previous remake, but as most non-hermit humans would, he already knows the story of the prom night gone horribly wrong. With the Halloween season here, I convinced him that Carrie would be an appropriate movie to see. He usually isn't big on horror films, but of course Carrie isn't the typical slasher/gory flick you get from your run of the mill scary movies like the Saw franchise.

As a child the character of Carrie never frightened me but her mother sure as heck did. At age 28, I found this to still be true. Julianne Moore played Carrie’s strict and let’s face it down right cray cray mom perfectly. I didn't think she could freak me out like the original actress, but Moore really lived up to the role! Moretz was fantastic as Carrie and it was nice to see her expand her range outside the likes of Hit Girl and the foil to Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock. She made me feel even more sympathy for Carrie than Sissy Spacek did in the original film. Both actresses were great, but each delivered a unique performance to the role.

I could really tell I was watching a well-done re-make when I found myself wishing and hoping that Carrie would have her dream prom night rather than the nightmare that I KNEW was going to happen. I credit that to Moretz. Overall this is a good movie. Not award worthy or anything, but a solid film.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: Gravity

So I am a space nerd. I mean I read space.com daily and weekly am surfing Wikipedia for explanations about physics concepts I have no business reading. I owned and watched the documentary Moon Shot over thirty times as an eleven year old. I shed tears when Alan Shepard died. Star Trek is a thing for me (don't mention Into Darkness). I want nothing more than for the US Government to hand NASA the keys to the Treasury so we can go to Mars, like, tomorrow. Why has no one built a real Millennium Falcon? What are we doing with our lives? If I was given the chance to go to space, I would take it. So obviously I should like Gravity, right? Not so fast.

First, and I'll keep this as spoiler free as possible,  if this movie is real life, Sandra Bullock is dead after the first exciting incident. Period. Then things only get crazier. I'm sorry, and I know it's a movie, but if you're going to promote your film for its scientific accuracy, then I can be all hands aboard the neck-beard ship. Don't get me wrong, the action makes for compelling drama and absolutely amazing visuals, but it could not happen.

But those visuals. Here they got it right. I have never been to space. I also generally hate floaty/shaky cameras, but in Gravity, they are used to make you feel like you're floating along side the actors and it works perfectly. The Wife commented several times how much she needed to vomit. Sidebar, when I go to space, she plans to stay home. And as much as it pains me to say, the 3D effects were also some of the best I have seen, despite the headache I suffered after. But the center piece to all this was the earth. Always there, always visible, always gorgeous. I could not tell if/when they used CGI versus real photography from satellites and that is about the biggest complement I can give.

The acting is meh. It's Sandra Bullock and George Clooney doing their thing. Par, passable, believable, not stunning or Oscar worthy. Also, under those spacesuits they wear a Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment, not a tank top and tight bun-huggers. Sorry, did I nerd out again? Anyways, the story is thoughtful and packs some decent impact and character development (even if very compressed). But honestly the analogy at the end is overtly obvious and once again screws with the science aspect of the film (I'll comment below on what this is, so not to spoil it here).

Gravity is a good film, not a great one. It's kind of like a supermodel who passed two years of college before dropping out; she has some brains, but it's still probably best if she leans on her looks to get through life.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Black Hole

Wait, is it October?

I feel like I just came out of a coma. A coma I was perfectly conscious for. I am fully aware of how completely I ignored everything and one since April. Not that I don’t have a damned good excuse, but I do apologize. It’s called the Black Hole. It’s caused by work. I’m not saying I have cleared the event horizon, but I am working at full engine capacity to warp out of this funk.

It came to me this past weekend. The Wife and I went to Morgantown, West Virginia with friends and family for the WVU game against Texas Tech. We tailgated and cheered and booed and witnessed a fight (more on that below) and I realized how disconnected I have become since being promoted in April. I haven’t written, or socialized or anything; it’s been stressful. So I’d like to apologize for being stressed out and mean and elusive and for letting Dump the Blog decay. I can’t promise I won’t still be that way from time to time, but I will try hard not to.

Now that’s out of the way, let me tell you about Morgantown. Not Morgantown, West Virginia; Morgantown the person. Morgantown is the daughter of some random dude sitting in the row ahead of me at the WVU game this weekend. He named his daughter Morgantown! I guess she got off lucky; he could be an Oregon fan. This gentleman had copious amount of enthusiasm (alcohol) for the home team. Unfortunately, he believed everyone else that didn’t have as much passion (meth addiction) as he was actively rooting for the other team. This lead to verbal insults and finally, some very choice sign language directed at the rows behind us.

Now I have seen a lot of creative ways to flip people off. I mean a lot! But I have never seen someone tattoo the image of a hand giving the middle finger on their right calf muscle. It seems like a really awkward spot. Once he had exhausted his actual hands in the exercise of vulgarity, he turned, bent over and lifted his pant leg to reveal the tattoo (all while using his wife’s head to balance himself on the bleacher). This was the final insult, apparently, that sparked the target of these attacks and Morgantown’s father to start rolling down the bleachers of section 220. The fight didn’t last long; rolling quickly down five rows of metal bench seats is the number one cause of short fights. We laughed, took pictures and flipped one another calf birds the rest of the afternoon. It was lovely.

So Dump is back, kind of. I want to know what you want me to write about. Comments please. Also, I’d like to thank a certain cousin-in-law-in-law(?) for harassing me about the blog and making me feel super guilty about all this time off.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Process

As I dive back into the world of Relay and begin the slow process of bringing these characters back to life, I have to stop and think about what makes me write in the first place. Writing is not easy. In fact for most people writing is hard work. It is certainly hard work for me. So why do I fill my free time with it?

I believe it starts with my desire to tell a story. Ever since I can remember I have enjoyed entertaining people. Somewhere along the line I became terribly introverted, so writing was only natural. I cannot stand in front of people and speak, sing, dance or tell jokes. If I had to do any of this, I’d probably melt under the intense scrutiny. Often I’ll make an off handed comment, play it back in my head and cringe at how utterly stupid it must have sounded, and that’s when speaking to two or three people. So writing works because it’s not in person and I have the chance to edit myself and tell myself how stupid I sound. I’ve been writing stories for as long as I’ve been able to write. I want to say something and be heard. I think we all do. The problem is figuring out what it is you want to say in the first place.

It’s easy to say “I am afraid of getting old and dying.” But that’s not compelling. Everyone is conscious on one level or another that life has an end. How we express ourselves about it is what I’m talking about; working through the anxiety to find some meaning to it all. That’s why I write these dumb little stories. I am searching. I’m talking to myself. My brain is slowly digesting the world, searching for a reason in all this madness. It just poops out as stories.


P.S. – Sorry for the lack of April posting, we’ve been sick/busy. Seeing 42 this weekend, will report on Monday.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Movies of April 2013

April is full of a bunch of movies that, if I were rich and didn't need a job, I'd probably go see in theaters because I just like to see movies. But I don't live in that fantasy land of gum drops and rainbows. I live in the green hued Matrix where you are forced to sit down, shut up and do your work or the men in suits will come get you. I generally put Level 2's this months as, I'd see but don't have time or am too poor. You can sort it out I guess.

Don't forget the process I follow to find these little gems of film making. I go to IMDB, find the list of films for a given month and watch the trailers for said films. Then start writing. If I leave anything off this list then it is absolutely not worth my time. Remember, I use my totally made up Hype Rating System (HRS) to discern how much I want to see or not see these movies. Level 1: I plan to see this movie in theaters and so should you! Level 2: I'll probably wait until post theatrical release to see this film (Netflix, Blu-Ray, osmosis). Level 3: This movie will give you an STD. Level 4: I don't want to see it, but the Wife is making me; nothing I can do about it, I signed a contract.

April 5

Evil Dead - Level 3
Where is Bruce Campbell? Okay, I'm going to tear up my nerd-cred card now, I never saw the original Evil Dead films! Put down the pitch forks. I really don't know what to make of this movie. Did we need to remake the Evil Dead? I guess everything gets a remake these days; but we still can't get The Dark Tower made once! I assume from the trailer that they have obviously removed the campyness of the originals. It looks bloody, which I guess some people are into, but not me. Blood for bloods sake is just not appealing at all to me. I'll pass because I hate horror movies, remember?

Trance - Level 2
Young Professor X likes to steal art, too bad he got hit on the head and can't remember where he hid his most recent heist. Maybe a hypnotist can help? Looks like a decent heist/action/lost my memory mind f**k movie. It just doesn't scream "See me now!" I’ll wait till Netflix unless any of you know a good hypnotist that can beam it into my head sooner.

The Company You Keep - Level 2
Robert Redford is too old to jump that fence. Realism broken movie. You cannot go back. He is far to old to jump that fence. I cannot get over it. Oh, hi Shia LaBeouf, you still not dead for ruining Indian Jones? I should give you another chance, but you keep being you and I just don't want you. I see Even Stevens, I see smart ass kid in several other movies. You are a smart ass in every movie Shia and I cannot tolerate it. I cannot. You could probably believably jump that fence though...

Jurassic Park 3D - Level 1
Shut up and take my three extra dollars! Seriously, I am here writing this blog about movies because of Jurassic Park. One of the greatest films ever. Do not speak ill of this movie. You can say whatever you want about the sequels, but the original is an untouchable classic of our modern age and I will jump at every opportunity to see it in theaters, no matter what gimmick they add or price they ask.

The Brass Teapot - Level 2
A poor married couple finds a teapot, a brass teapot even, that spits out money every time they hurt themselves. Then the Jewish mafia comes looking for the teapot, so they have to run from them, while at the same time coming to terms with the corruption than comes from having money gush from the teapot as blood gushes from them. Kind of odd looking, quirky, just up my ally. It will never get within two hours of our theater, but see it if you get the chance and let me know how it turns out!

6 Souls - Level 2
Now here is a horror movie I can get on board with. The trailer wasn't filled with blood or shrieking women in their underwear. There is something very wrong with this guy and the doctor (Julianne Moore) just wants to find out what. No one expects that he is actually a serial killer who is consuming the souls of his victims.

April 12

Oblivion - Level 2
For all the crazy surrounding Tom Cruise, he does actually make some pretty good science fiction movies. I mean, Minority Report was awesome! Also, when I have the need for speed or am looking for a few good men or have an impossible mission to accomplish; I call Tom. I'd like to see Oblivion in theaters, but 42 is taking priority, a double feature maybe?

42 - Level 1
Baseball may just be the best sport to make movies about. And what better story than that of Jackie Robinson? The trailer touts this is the tale of a true American Hero and I tend to agree. Looks like a fine cast and we all know the story. Looking forward to this one.

Scary Movie 5 - Level 3
So what we have here is a parody horror franchise (Scary Movie) making fun of a satire horror franchise (Scream) that was making fun of traditional horror franchises. I’m just going to go ahead and jump on down to Limbo to await the climax of this cluster. After five movies, I think the joke may be getting a bit old. What happened to the idea of an actual comedy horror movie with clever and subversive laughs instead of obvious slap stick/bathroom humor?

To the Wonder - Level 2
I get serious Oscar vibes from this one, and it's not just because I like Javier Bardem. Aside from an all star cast including Bardem, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, the trailer made it look very much like a thoughtful, introspective look at love that I'm sure will garner some attention next February.

April 19

The Lords of Salem - Level 2
So Evil Dead just dropped to the third best Horror movie this month, if you judge by trailers, which is the whole point of this blog post... Anyways, I like the idea of taking the Salem witch trails lore and making it into a quasi secret society for the devil kind of thing. Interesting. Also, written and directed by Rob Zombie for those who care.

April 26

Pain & Gain - Level 3
I did not watch the trailer for this film. I was going to. I even had it loading up. But then my mind pleaded with me not to spoil the fantastic plot synopsis it had written based totally based off the poster and title. Yes, I judged this book by its cover. In my version, FBI Agents Johan Pain and Bartholomew Gain (played by The Rock and Marky Mark respectively) must go deep undercover as inmates into a federal prison to uncover the truth behind the world largest illegal steroid ring. To gain the trust of the inmates, they must complete in painful secret bench press competitions against other inmates. They hear rumors of an ultra-competitive tournament and know that winning it is the key to uncovering the truth. After a long, homoerotic workout montage, they are able to enter the contest and end up in the finals facing one another. I won’t spoil the end. Guest staring Lance Armstrong.

The Big Wedding - Level 4
I just get the feeling The Wife is going to make me watch this. Well, it looks to have too much old people sex. Nothing against old people, but you know what I mean. Everything is fine, they are kissing and it all "Isn't that nice they are still so passionate after all these years!" Then suddenly Diane Keaton has her shirt off and Robert De Niro is all squinty and I can't tell if he's having a stroke or needs an eye exam. It's just a mess.

Mud - Level 2
LOL at Matthew McConaughey playing a character named Mud using his normal accent. "Muuud." LOL. I'm so ready for Star Trek all I can think about is Harry Mud. +10 points for those of you that know of whom I speak. I'd watch this, but children actors seem to play heavy rolls and I am very untolerant of most child actors. Maybe if Matthew was a few years older...

At Any Price - Level 2
You know, I see so many quotes flash by in the trailer telling me I should see this movie and how it's great. But then Zac Efron keeps running around with his shirt off racing cars and doing older women and I think "No." First, because Zac is spelled with a damned "H". ZacH! Second, okay I don't have a second. Looks alright, may even be good, but by April 26 I'll be so close to Star Trek into Darkness I can taste it and won't have time for ZacH or his chiseled, hairless chest. I can only my descriptions of ZacH's chest has not swayed this to Level 4 territory...

And so you have been told of the films of April. Now, go out and purchase new pants, because May is on the horizon. Are you not excited? Must I remind you of: Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, The Hangover Part III and The Great Gatsby?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Admission

Hobo Dan: Friday night after work, rank enthusiasm for the weekend ahead, I accessed my omnipotent mobile phone thingy, located the Fandango app and queried it for information about show times for Admission; the new Tina Fey/Paul Rudd talkie. The search came up empty for times at our local theater. Not to be denied, I made camp at a proper mouse and keyboard terminal and used the powers of Google to expose this misinformation from the dastardly phone. Much to my dismay, the local cinema was not showing Admission. After a brief period of extraordinary rage, resulting the in the total destruction of my mellow attitude, I sat back and played video games until slipping into an eye strain induced coma.

But I’m in the forgiving mood today. After seeing Admission, it’s very clear to me why our local, rural theater didn’t get it. I blame the trailers (or lack thereof) as much as anything for my anger. I enjoyed the film, but rural town Ohio is not the target market for this film. I see that now.

Admission is a well-acted drama/comedy about an Admissions officer at Princeton who had a child in college that she gave up for adoption. I won’t get into the plot anymore than that, but you can imagine where it is going. By the way, are the Ivy League schools really that snooty about themselves? I could get into a rant about the pretentions of our modern educational system and how at the best of times it tries to fit round pegs into square holes; and at the worst of times wholesale ruins the educational future of a child who learns differently, but this film kind of did that for me. I enjoyed that bit.

I enjoyed a lot of bits in Admission. It was entertaining and thoughtful throughout. Judging by the sparse crowd the big city drew, most people must have been more inclined to see intellectual voids like Olympus Has Fallen or a third viewing of Identity Thief this weekend. But that’s okay. To each his own I guess. Ignorance is bliss even.

TL;DR version. I imagine there is a group of you readers who know me and my tastes well enough to make your viewing choice about Admission merely on the following statement: I was fully entertained by Admission throughout.

The Wife: A movie with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd? Sure, why not. After Oz the Great and Powerful, Admission was the only other movie that I anticipated seeing this month. After last year’s The Hunger Games release, which made March 2012 a great movie month, March 2013 has been slim pickings! So imagine my dismay when our local theatre of choice was not showing Admission. It took an Oscar nomination for them to get Silver Linings Playbook, but I will give them that because in smaller cities a lot of the Oscar-caliber movies don’t usually hit theatres until much later after their release. However, I was pretty surprised to see that a movie with popular comedians wasn’t being released everywhere. After seeing the movie, however, I now see why it was not at our theatre since it was more of a “Dramady.” Movies like Admission sadly don’t always have a market in rural areas.

Admission hasn’t done great at the box office and that’s a real shame because it was a good movie. I blame that on the marketing. The trailers depicted Admission to be more in line with comedies, rather than what the movie actually was. Sometimes poor marketing can make or a break a movie (Hello, does anyone remember John Carter last year? Didn’t think so.). Was Admission funny? Yes, but it was more of an intelligent comedy that was actually quite thought provoking and did manage to take on a serious tone at times.

As Hobo Dan mentioned above, Admission revolves around an Ivy League admissions counselor at Princeton (Fey). Her seemingly simple, routine life gets shaken up when she finds out that her son, who she gave up for adoption years ago, could possibly be applying to Princeton. Admission also sheds light on the American higher education system, which I found interesting. It seems more and more society wants everything to be black and white and group individuals into boxes. As someone who has always refused to be identified by simply checking a box, I enjoyed this aspect of Admission. Life is not black and white and neither is our education system. Everyone is different and many people learn differently. This conversation is for a whole other blog topic though, so I will move on and conclude that I really enjoyed Admission. It was a thought provoking film. However, if you go in expecting non-stop laughs you probably will be disappointed. One more thing before I wrap this up: for all my fellow 30 Rock lovers, Admission shows us that in an alternate universe Liz Lemon and Wesley Snipes totally did settle for each other!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Morning Update

No movies were seen this weekend (unless you count the ESPN’s 30 for 30 “You don’t Know Bo” on Netflix) because the Wife spent the weekend sick and I spent it cleaning up after her sick. It’s sad really. We were supposed to go run a 4 mile race followed by St. Patrick’s Day festivities including me dressing up like Raphael from the Ninja Turtles. Green is green, don’t judge. Instead it was a weekend of going to bed early, eating soup and me watching far too much of a Star Craft II tournament via MLG (Major League Gaming; yes it’s a thing and I like it!).

Do you know how hard it is to blog on a consistent basis? Imagine right now it’s Monday morning and here I sit, trying to compose relevant, coherent words for your future reading enjoyment. I’m still not entirely convinced this is real. Maybe I am still dreaming. I did eat spicy food for dinner last night. I mean, the local radio station just announced they are switching formats from modern hits to classic 80’s hits. Two things about that; One, this means there are zero radios stations in our immediate area playing modern hits. Two, I am sad that things from the 80’s are considered old enough for classic status. Bonus thing Three, was the demand for 80’s hits so high they decided to switch formats? I mean, 60’s-70’s sure I get, but the 80’s? I must still be asleep…

I guess this is an outline for upcoming events on this here blog. I am currently on a two month streak of dumping about monthly movies, so yay! April looks only slightly better than March was. May is still too far away. I also announced last week via this link that I am currently working on Season Two of Relay! All two readers can rejoice. Soon-ish we will be doing a new Best Picture Blog about the most recent winner: Argo. I think soon I am going to sit down and lay out to you in simple terms why I think the current model of TV shows coming out on a weekly basis should die by fire! Fine, I’ll admit, I’ve run out of Supernatural on Netflix and I want more. But in this modern age, does anyone really want to wait until 8 PM on a given night to watch their show? I’d rather watch an episode or five in a row at my convenience. Don’t you mention DVR to me; that’s a scheme by the cable company to get more of your money!

I know you’re hoping I am almost done ranting. Yes, almost. One more thing though, is it just me or did it snow all day Sunday, yet there was more snow on the ground in the morning than when I went to bed? What’s up with that?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

The Wife: Movie Monday is back in full force with our review of Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi. The film, which stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz, is a prequel of sorts to the iconic classic, The Wizard of Oz. Along with being visually stunning, the story was actually very well done. I was excited for this movie and knew it would look beautiful, but I must admit that I was skeptical if the plot would actually be good. I ended up really enjoying ‘Oz’ and would probably pay theatre price to see it again!

Just like the well-known 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz, ‘Oz’ starts off in black and white film style in Kansas. Viewers are given a look at struggling, lady-manipulating magician Oz, portrayed by James Franco. He is working a traveling circus gig, which seems to be the norm for him. Of course, he is revealed to be a fraud, and after he is caught in one of his many womanizing schemes, he flees the circus via hot air balloon. Much like the original Wizard of Oz scenario, Oz is caught in a windstorm. After swirling and whirling about, the screen suddenly shifts from black and white to a beautiful, bright array of color as the hot air balloon lands. Oz is mesmerized by his new surroundings and soon meets a young woman, who reveals that she is a witch and calls herself “Theodora the good.” Theodora, played by Mila Kunis (who I totally have a girl crush on), explains to Oz that he is in well, a place called Oz. She also believes that his arrival means that the prophecy of a great and powerful wizard coming to Oz is true. Putting his womanizing charm to good use, Oz quickly romances Theodora. However, she takes his advances as declarations of love, much to Oz’s discomfort.

From here, the story unfolds as Oz encounters Theodora’s not-so-friendly sister, Evanora. Oz also meets an adorable flying monkey, Finley. After saving the creature’s life, Finley declares his full servitude to Oz. In addition, Oz finds another ally and adorable companion in China Girl. He later meets another witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams), whom Evanora and Theodora have deemed a “bad witch.” The story progresses as Oz learns the true nature of who is good and who is evil.

Overall, I really enjoyed ‘Oz.’ I found Franco to be the weakest actor, but he did a decent job. Not spectacular, but decent. Let’s face it, Freaks and Geeks was his best role ever and really, he just seems like he tries too hard when he isn’t in his typical stoner-type roles. Weisz did a great job playing the manipulative Evanora. Williams also delivered a solid performance as Glinda. Girl crush aside, I think Mila Kunis was fantastic in this movie. Theodora was also one of my favorite character progressions. While it kind of reminded me of Anakin’s transition to Darth Vader a la Star Wars, I still enjoyed seeing how sweet, na├»ve Theodora eventually became what we know as the “Wicked Witch of the West” from The Wizard of Oz. Seriously, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! Kunis did a great job portraying a hurt woman gone bad, and I thought she did a pretty good job of nailing the iconic cackle of the 1939 Wicked Witch of the West! My favorite character was the cute CGI flying monkey, Finley. I also absolutely loved the CGI China Girl. Not only were they adorable, but I think they really added to the story and were necessary characters.

As a huge fan of the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz, I truly enjoyed the references to that film within ‘Oz,’ including the cowardly lion and scarecrow. Also, as I mentioned previously, Oz the Great and Powerful is a very visually appealing movie. Since it is so gorgeous, it makes me even happier that the actual plot of the movie is great. Sometimes a visually stunning movie lacks substance. This certainly is not the case for ‘Oz.’ In my opinion, this is a theatre must-see, especially if you are a fan of The Wizard of Oz.

Hobo Dan: Before I say anything else, let me make an observation. This film was in 3D. I grumbled as we paid three extra dollars. I grumbled as I took the glasses out of their plastic wrapper. I reminded the Wife to put on the 3D glasses, not her sun glasses. I grumbled as the trailers rolled by with minimal 3D effects to bear and the normal muted color palette I’ve come to despise. Then Oz, the Great and Powerful started and I saw some real 3D for once and in color! There were actual vibrant colors in a 3D movie! They weren't muted at all! I still would rather have seen it in traditional format, and I still believe 3D is a blight on the film industry as well as a Hollywood money making scheme, but they at least were able to make Oz not look like total ass in 3D, so I’ll pat Disney on the head for that one.

The technical achievement of this film should not be overlooked. At times I had trouble deciding if James Franco was a real person or not. Every CGI character was full of emotion and life. I loved them. Franco, the title character, could have died; no big deal. But if they’d even hinted at killing off that little China Girl, I would have walked out and started a Molotov cocktail riot in the street. So here is my quandary. Were the CGI characters so good they overshadowed the real actors, or were James Franco and company as bland as they seemed?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Oz the Great and Powerful much more than I thought I would. It was a satisfying film start to finish. There is nothing wrong with some good old entertainment. My problems are all in the real life actors. James Franco was hit or miss. When he was being “himself”, an aloof conman, I bought it. When he had to leave that comfort zone he’s built up over years of stoner films, I was less impressed. Then again, no one went to see Oz looking for Oscar winning acting. A little effort is all I’m asking for. For example, Tony Cox, who played Knuck, was basically a PG version of his character from Bad Santa. Don’t get me wrong, he was funny, but a back talking munchkin with an attitude seemed very out of place in the Land of Oz.

On the other hand you had CGI character after character that brought real life and entertainment to Oz. The voice actors in particular nailed their parts. The animations were clean and sharp and rival anything Pixar has done. That’s a very big complement when you consider Pixar films are 100 percent CGI and in Oz, these CGI characters where standing alongside real actors. In 1999, when Episode I came out, George Lucas touted a certain Gungan character for being totally CGI, yet able to stand toe to toe with real actors. It didn’t go over so well. Well today I believe Oz has shown it is possible with the right animations and voice actors for a totally animated character to completely out act their real life counterparts.

If you like The Wizard of Oz, you’re going to like this. It’s a solid film that entertains throughout with amazing effects and absolutely unforgettable CGI characters.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Movies of March 2013

Another month, another bunch of bad movies to rip apart. Seriously is it May yet? I want my Star Trek! Anyways, March is slim pickings as usual.

Don't forget the process I follow to find these little gems of film making. I go to IMDB, find the list of films for a given month and watch the trailers for said films. Then start writing. If I leave anything off this list then it is absolutely not worth my time. Remember, I use my totally made up Hype Rating System (HRS) to discern how much I want to see or not see these movies. Level 1: I plan to see this movie in theaters and so should you! Level 2: I'll probably wait until post theatrical release to see this film (Netflix, Blu-Ray, osmosis). Level 3: I will never see this movie, not even for a cookie. Level 4: I don't want to see it, but the Wife is making me; nothing I can do about it, I signed a contract.

March 1:

Stoker - Level 2
Uncle Charlie looks like a f***ing werido! Also, why is this movie called Stoker? Don't get me wrong, I fully anticipated this to be another movie about vampires and was pleasantly surprised to find it's only about a mysterious quasi-incestuous uncle... that came out wrong.

21 and Over - Level 3
Scenario: kids go out to multiple parties to get drunk. Hollywood movie producers believe kids who like to go out to multiple parties and get drunk will want to see a movie about kids who go out to multiple parties and get drunk. Result: the producers make a lot of money because the sensibilities of people these days are disappointing.

The Last Exorcism Part II - Level 3
They really got my hopes up with The Last Exorcism. I mean, it was the last one right? You can't just call something "The Last..." if it's not the end right? You don't just tell someone "this is the last cookie", unless it's actually the last cookie! You may hear rumor from other readers here (The Wife) that I hate horror movies. I'll leave it up to you to determine the truth of that statement. I'll just be standing over here, in the crowded auditorium as the opening titles flash across the screen shouting "False Advertising!"

Jack the Giant Slayer - Level 2
Is this seriously a Jack and the Bean Stock movie or am I misinformed? Oh, well. I'm seriously on the rope about this one. On one hand it looks visually impressive. The giants look appropriately gigantic and filthy. While the standard fantasy set pieces are all in place and looking polished; I can't shake the feeling this will be 2013's John Carter (all beauty and no brains). Then again, I actually enjoyed John Carter for what it was.

Phantom - Level 2
Agent Mulder gets on a Submarine! Yay! I feel the tense submarine military drama is a little played out. I can only watch so many movies where 90% of the set location is in the confined space of a submarine. David Duchovny acting all Agent Mulder does get me going... But this only gets a level 2 because it claims to be based on real events; I am History nerd.

March 8:

Oz the Great and Powerful - Level 1
I have to see something this month! A month without movies is like that one time I ran without underware; all full of tension because one wrong move and things could get all... twisted. Anyways, when I first saw James Franco was in this movie, I was all, wut? Then I realized he is the perfect actor for a film where you escape the boredom of normal life by flying a hot air balloon into a tornado to travel to a colorful land full of witch's, munchkins, green cities and flying monkeys. Really all I want from Franco at this point, now that he has all the money in the world, is for him to put down the joint and get working on season two of Freaks and Geeks. That won't happen, because telling James to stop the pot is like telling me to stop the sarcasm. Oz will do I guess.

Dead Man Down - Level 3
I'm starting to get really bored with Colin Farrell. I mean you saw Fright Night right? He can smell your fear and now he's coming to get you! He suffers from the Clooney effect; he is the same person in every movie ever. The problem is he isn't nearly as likeable as George Clooney. This looks blah anyways. Also staring the chick from the original Dragon Tattoo movies and Prometheus, if that somehow would sway you.

March 15:

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - Level 3
I often wonder why Steve Carell left The Office. One has to assume he meant to go on to bigger and better things. One would apparently be wrong, because Mr. Carell is now staring in this movie along side Jim Carry (another WTF happened actor). I just don't see how this will be funny. It has predictable written all over it. Also, is Alan Arkin in everything these days?

Upside Down - Level 2
Okay, you got me, I love bad science fiction. It makes me smile. But seriously, this is a bit much. What you're saying is these two planets are so close together in their orbits, that you can jump, yes jump, from one to the other and survive? No, bull crap. There is no way two celestial bodies of that similar of mass could orbit like that. I can suspend my disbelief for a lot of crap; artificial gravity, food replication, everything from the movie Armageddon, but this is just stupid and I won't have it. Well, I won't have it until Netflix, where I can mock in mercilessly from the comfort of my couch.

March 22:

Olympus Has Fallen - Level 2
I don't know what to say at this point. Action movie that blows up Washington D.C. as terrorists take the President hostage. Never seen that before. Even Morgan Freeman can't save this doomed action movie.

Admission - Level 1
Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star in a comedy about something? I'm in.

Spring Breakers - Level 3
You know what really grinds my gears? I'm watching the trailer for this film and everything is looking real normal. Some girls are desperate to on spring break, so they decide to get some fake guns and hold up a store or two. But they are nervous, so one says, to instill confidence in the others "Just pretend like it's a video game." Now I know the popular topic these days is how video games cause all this violence in the world. Video games are the problem, according to the news and to the government. I mean it is common knowledge that the Nazis were addicted to Donkey Kong. So it's only natural for Hollywood to go a head and toss video games under the bus as well by continuing the stereotype, because we all know Hollywood only makes good clean films about puppies and candy.

March 29:

G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Level 3
Oh man. You really want to hear what I have to say about this? Okay. You asked for it. I cannot begin to describe to you how dumb the first G.I. Joe movie was. I'm pretty sure it slipped me into a coma and stole my kidney when I watched it. Then I hear they are making a sequel. No, please have mercy on us! I hear they delayed this Retaliation almost a full year to make it 3D. Oh, I just dropped the bad word! 3D, you cantankerous, money sucking little whore; I knew it was only a matter of time before you raised your greasy head in 2013! I told you to get your stuff and go! So not only is G.I. Joe: Retaliation the sequel to an unforgivably bad "film", but they delayed its inevitable release to add 3D! No! No! Nooooooo! What would it take for me to see this movie? Nickolas Cage dressed as George Washington, wielding Excalibur in one hand and a diamond laden Super-Soaker full of moonshine in the other, riding an translucent velociraptor through the gates of Hell to slay a mighty hell-dragon. Call me when they add that to the movie and we'll talk.

The Host - Level 2
Just when you thought it was safe to go to the movies again, Stephanie Meyer writes another book and sells the rights to make it into a movie. Back to the shadows! Okay, fine I won't judge this based on my extreme dislike for Twilight. I'll just bash it because it really looks like just another teenage romance movie set in a science fiction/fantasy setting; love at first sight and all that other abusive relationship jazz. I give it Level 2 because I won't waste money at the theater for it, but I saw the first Twilight and I'll eventually see this because rule number one of any war is to know thine enemy.

The Place Beyond the Pines - Level 2
This looks pretty good. Bradley Cooper earned some dramatic credit with Silver Linings Playbook and he seems to be putting it to good use. Then we have Mr. Ryan Gosling. He is not so good. Just being honest, ever since I saw Drive, his acting makes me want to punch walls. That said, I am willing to give him one more chance, plus my crystal balls say this may end up in Best Picture Nominee territory come next February, which means The Wife will make me see it.

Tyler Perry's Temptation - Level 3
Anyone else really hope there is a twist at the end where Tyler Perry jumps out in drag? Me neither.

Starbuck - Level 2
This movie has nothing to do with Battlestar Galactica (old or new version) or coffee. What it does have to do with is a guy who donates to a sperm bank resulting in him fathering a ton of kids (533) who turn around and sue him. That sucks. Also, it's in French, but with English narration in the trailer, it's all very confusing.

Another month down. You have been warned...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Banner Saga: Factions - First Impressions

The Banner Saga: Factions is the online multiplayer component to the upcoming Strategy RPG (SRPG): The Banner Saga. Developed by Stoic, a fairly new indie developer comprised of some former Bioware devs, The Banner Saga was Kickstarted very successfully last year and is now on track to make a full release later this year. The Factions multiplayer portion of the game was released yesterday on Steam and is free to play for PC and Mac.

First thing I did when I got home yesterday was jump on Steam and get this sucker downloading. I have been craving a good Strategy RPG for a while now. It doesn’t help that everyone and their brother seems to be enjoying the crap out of the new Fire Emblem while I sit comatose in the corner lacking a 3DS entirely. But Stoic and The Banner Saga have come to save my poor ass. The single player campaign for The Banner Saga will cost money, and that is what I’m really looking forward to, but this online component is free and will do for now.

I had a very small amount of time to play the game, but what I did play touched me in all the special places. First, the art is stunning. It looks very much like a cartoon about Vikings with horns growing out of their heads, that I can play! How can that be bad? Everything is animated in this way, even the menu screens that usually get no mention in first impressions unless they are super awful. But they are great. The fluidity in which these animations run together is astonishing. I love a good art style in games more than good graphics in games and The Banner Saga delivers big time in this regard.

Factions starts out with a short cinematic and the Tutorial. The tutorial covers all the basics of combat and character customization. It’s pretty standard fare here. You have some units and as they fight, they gain renown for you. You use renown as general currency for things like recruiting new units and powering up your units when they can be promoted. The system has its own quirks, but anyone with a little SRPG background will be right at home as soon as the tutorial is done.

Once you finish the tutorial, you are free to customize your units and engage in battle with other players online either by Match Maker, or set up a private game with a friend. You’ll gain renown from these battles to use to further upgrade your units and recruit more. I played a few random games and found the overall system for matchmaking works reasonable well. It takes very little time to be paired with an opponent and in my limited time, it seemed to match people according to the power of their units. I cannot speak to how things are for more experienced players, but I never felt at a huge disadvantage for being new (The game came out yesterday for us peasants, but the Kickstarter backers have been playing for a week). My only gripe was the servers seemed to be a little unstable with some frequent drops. This is to be expected from day one of any multiplayer game however. It also helped that a dev from Stoic was chatting with people in the games chat channels apologizing for the hiccups.

With every free to play game, there is a store. I didn’t get too into it last night, but the basic fare seems to be cosmetic items and renown boosters. I have heard some people say you can buy straight power as well. I cannot verify these claims but that does invoke the dreaded pay to win mantra. I think the match maker probably sorts those people into the appropriate areas, so it may not be too big a problem.

The Banner Saga: Factions is free people. It has a full tutorial and free online multiplayer. It looks great and plays great. There is no reason for a fan of Strategy RPGs to not take a look. The Banner Saga single player campaign is due out later this year.

Throw a comment down below if you’d like to meet up for a battle or five.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let’s Talk About The Oscars!

The Wife: The 85th Academy Awards will take place this evening. The Academy Awards, commonly referred to as “The Oscars,” serve as the most prestigious event of the film industry. Some may see award shows as a chance to just promote Hollywood snobbery, but I disagree. The Oscars are a time where art is celebrated. The event also showcases films that may not necessarily be “mainstream,” and with the Academy publicity more people can enjoy these great movies. If not for Academy buzz, I don’t think I would have even known that last year’s Best Picture winner, The Artist, existed, and The Artist has become one of my favorite movies! Click here to read our Best Picture Project review of The Artist.

As a movie buff, I absolutely love watching The Oscars. I enjoy seeing some of my favorite films of the year be recognized. It’s also nice to see the behind the scenes work that goes into the film industry be praised. The pageantry of the event is also captivating. I admit that my TV will be glued to E! most of the day to watch the live red carpet interviews and to see what everyone is wearing!

So, let’s get right down to it. I won’t share my entire Oscar ballot with you, but I can discuss the coveted award for this evening, Best Picture! Below, I will list all nominees, my take on each film, who I want to win and finally, which movie I think will capture the Academy Award! Be sure to check here later this week for a blog on the actual winners and the best/worst dressed of the evening!

The Nominees:

Amour: Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to view this film, pre-Oscars. So, sadly, I have no commentary to offer. It is on my list to watch at some point. Unless we are in for a surprise, I don’t think Amour will win Best Picture.

Argo: Talk about INTENSE! I felt completely un-relaxed while watching Argo, which is a film based on the rescue of six US hostages from Tehran, Iran during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. Directed by the oh so hot and talented, Ben Affleck, who also played the lead character, CIA operative Tony Mendez, Argo really delivered in terms of entertainment and intensity. From my understanding, Argo did take many liberties of the actual events of the rescue, such as the dramatic airport scene, but hey, it’s a movie. I don’t go to the movies for a full on history lesson. For a film that I knew the outcome of, I still found myself nervous and completely on the edge of my seat while watching Argo. I was uneasy and very much invested in the story. It’s hard to make a movie suspenseful when we already know the outcome. Affleck may not be the best actor I’ve ever seen, but he is a great director, and Argo proved that. I can’t believe the Academy snubbed him by not giving him a nomination in the Best Director category. In conclusion, Argo was a well-done movie. Like I said, it was intense. I feel like I actually sweat during the movie since it was so nerve-racking at points! For a movie to get me that emotionally involved is the mark of a good film. Personally, Argo was not my favorite of this year’s Best Picture nominees, but I think in comparison with the way previous award shows have gone and due to buzz, Argo will be this year’s Best Picture Winner! It will be a deserved victory as well. Side note: If Argo wins tonight I believe this will be the first time a film has won Best Picture without a Best Director nomination since Driving Miss Daisy!

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Another movie that is on my list that I have not yet scene. This is currently waiting in my Netflix mail-in queue. I just have to hurry up and mail in a movie I’ve held on to for far too long. Oops. Unless we are in for an upset, I do not think this film will win Best Picture.

Django Unchained: Do you ever go to movie not expecting much but then finding yourself completely blown away by how good it was? Well, that describes my Django Unchained experience! I am a fan of some of Tarantino’s work, especially Pulp Fiction. I was expecting to be semi-entertained by Django, and honestly I found myself questioning why this movie was even nominated for Best Picture. However, I ended up absolutely loving Django Unchained. It was a great story, very entertaining, well acted, and the musical score was incredible! It did have that Tarantino touch to it, and if you aren’t familiar with Tarantino’s work you really should check out some of his older movies like Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. Django Unchained was quite funny as well. I didn’t expect to laugh that much before seeing the movie. Throughout the funny and bizarre moments, the movie does have an underlining serious tone that is harshly evident in many scenes. Just because it had some funny lines and the “Tarantino touch,” doesn’t mean that the viewer wasn’t left reeling from the horribleness that was the slave trade. Overall, I think Django Unchained really deserved its nomination. Christoph Waltz was fantastic in Django Unchained and deserved his Supporting Actor nomination as well. While I think Tommy Lee Jones could take that one for his work in Lincoln, I would cheer if Waltz ended up winning. I don’t think Django Unchained will win Best Picture, but it’s easily one of my favorites from this year’s nominees!

Les Miserables: As I type this blog post, I am currently listening to Anne Hathaway’s amazing rendition of the iconic song, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables! As a lover of musical theatre, I was blown away by Les Miserables. I was familiar with both the story and songs before seeing Les Mis, but had never had a chance to see the live stage performance. Musicals can be hard to bring to the big screen, but Les Miserables delivered. It was powerful, beautifully acted and I really FELT for the characters. The singing was not perfect. I’ve heard far better musical scores from Les Mis, but the imperfections made the film all the more powerful. Through the slight imperfections, you really could feel the characters’ emotions in each scene. The story, which really touches on the human condition, really moved me. Redemption, love, sadness, happiness, peace…I got all of that from Les Miserables. All of the actors did a fantastic job. I was skeptical at first when I saw that Anne Hathaway was portraying Fantine, but she BLEW ME AWAY. She was incredible and I have to say if she doesn’t win her Supporting Actress award tonight, I will be a bit peeved. Hugh Jackman was amazing as well. Unfortunately he picked a bad year to give the performance of his life because I just don’t see him beating out Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln) for Best Actor. Personally, Les Miserables is my pick for movie of the year. I would vote it as my Best Picture, but like I’ve said for other films, it will take an upset for this one to win. I do look for it to pick up other awards tonight though!

Life of Pi: Sadly this was on my list of movies to see this fall, but the holidays are so busy that I didn’t make it to the theatre for Life of Pi. I’ve heard it was a great movie from many people. As soon as it comes out on Blu-Ray, I intend to watch it. I did unfortunately get the ending spoiled for me thanks to someone on Facebook. Oops. However, I am still intrigued. As I’ve said several times, it’s going to take an upset to beat Argo, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Life of Pi does from all the positive reviews surrounding this movie

Lincoln: If you know me, you know I am huge history buff. Heck I even have a history degree to coincide with my communications and English degrees. (Ok, so I am a nerd and enjoyed school…don’t judge!) So naturally, I was super excited to see Lincoln. I have been fascinated by Lincoln’s presidency since I did my award winning social studies fair project on The Gettysburg Address in fourth grade. Like Argo, Lincoln does take liberties with the historical content. And like Argo, Lincoln is still a MOVIE, so if you want a pure history lesson read a book. Spielberg once again delivered with Lincoln. For a movie about the voting of an amendment, which many people would see as “boring,” Lincoln was really anything but. At times, I did find the movie to be a bit slow-paced, but that didn’t deter my enjoyment. Daniel Day Lewis was incredible as Lincoln. He looked the part and while I’ve obviously never seen honest Abe in real life, Lewis made me felt like he WAS Lincoln. His performance of Lincoln almost looked too easy, which is the mark of a good actor. However, it was Tommy Lee Jones that stole the show for me in this movie! Jones was fantastic and I’d be happy if he won Best Supporting Actor. With Lincoln, I think Lewis will pick up his third award for Best Actor. I also believe that if Argo doesn’t win that Lincoln has the best chance to pull the upset and win Best Picture.

Silver Linings Playbook: After several failed attempts to see this movie, I finally got to see Silver Linings Playbook last month and loved it! It was funny, emotional and just an overall great movie experience. Hollywood usually never “gets it right” when they touch on the issue of mental illness, but Silver Linings Playbook really captured the essence and rawness of the disease. Most people think someone mentally ill is just “crazy” thanks to past Hollywood stereotypes, but Silver Linings Playbook proved this incorrect. Bradley Cooper, who I’ve really only seen in comedies like The Hangover, was great. Unfortunately like Hugh Jackman, he picked the wrong year to have the performance of his life since I don’t see him winning Best Actor over Lewis. Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, looks to be the favorite to win Best Actress, and it will be a well-deserved victory if she captures the award! Lawrence was absolutely fantastic in Silver Linings Playbook. She was so good and so natural in her character that she almost stole the show for me. I love Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games, but I am thrilled she took on the Silver Linings Playbook role to really showcase her acting chops and prove that she’s just not a bland, “teeny bopper” actress. In conclusion, Silver Linings Playbook is one of my favorite films from this list. I’d love it to win the big Best Picture award. While it most likely won’t, it should pick up other prizes tonight!

Zero Dark Thirty: Like Argo, Zero Dark Thirty was very intense. It didn’t have me on edge like Argo, but that’s because the pacing of Zero Dark Thirty was very different. It was slower paced, but the film’s conclusion really delivered and hit me emotionally. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know that Zero Dark Thirty is a story of the post-911 search and capture of Osama Bin Laden. I was a junior in high school when the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks took place, so watching Zero Dark Thirty made me realize how much I had grown up and changed during the long time period that it took us to capture Bin Laden. I had never really thought of it like that before. It was almost as if I was reliving the past ten years. Watching the torture scenes in Zero Dark Thirty was very very VERY hard for me. I personally don’t agree with torture, so it was upsetting to watch. However, the torture scenes were necessary for the rawness and realness that Zero Dark Thirty delivered. Like with both Argo and Lincoln, of course this movie wasn’t totally historically accurate, but it was still a good movie. Jessica Chastain did a phenomenal job and her last scene (after they got Bin Laden) was extremely powerful for me. It was exactly how I felt when I saw that he was dead. It wasn’t celebratory. It was a sad, emotional moment. It reminded me of everything that was lost (deaths, etc.) to catch this one man. Chastain nailed that scene and I could see her challenging Jennifer Lawrence for the Best Actress award. While I give the edge to Argo in terms of my personal preference, Zero Dark Thirty hit me more emotionally. I believe that’s because the events it was based on effected me more since it took place during my lifetime. If not for the torture scenes (which seems like many Hollywood insiders aren’t pleased with), I could see Zero Dark Thirty being the dark horse to win Best Picture. It still has a chance to pull an upset, but I think Argo has it beat.

So there you have it, this year’s Oscar nominees! Be sure to check the blog this week for a post-Oscars report on the winners, fashion and any surprises the event might deliver! Hobo Dan and I also will have a full review on this year’s Best Picture Winner as soon as possible!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Best Picture Project 13, The Artist

Best Picture Project is back with the most recent winner:

The Artist, 2011

Hobo Dan: I watched The Artist after it won best picture. I had a lot of perceived notions about why it won and what made it appeal to the Oscar selection committee. They were mostly right, a silent film set in Hollywood. The film industry loves to romance about itself in film by making movies about movies. But as the film went on, I began to see something else.

I began to realize that without saying a single word, I felt true emotion for the characters. I laughed at the delivery of comedic lines I could not hear. I felt genuine sympathy for the plight of the central character. And that dog! Where was his supporting actor nod? Because they did not use title cards for most of the speech in the film, I found myself actively trying to read lips to get as must as possible. I was forced to watch the actors closely. Which lead me to realize that Jean Dujardin, the lead actor, deserves every bit of that Best Actor Oscar. He earned it.

I have honestly never watched a silent film before The Artist. I was not sure I’d be able to handle the quiet. It was refreshing. You had to pay real attention to the actor’s faces and movements. It was wonderfully done. I initially thought this was the artsy choice that Academy made because they like to snooty, but I must agree, out of all the nominees for 2011, The Artist is the best one. It may not be my favorite film from 2011, but it is the best.

The Wife: Thanks to the beauty that is Netflix, I was FINALLY able to watch last year’s Best Picture winner, The Artist. As soon as I caught wind of this movie (before it won so many Oscars), I was intrigued and wanted to see it. When I saw last year’s Best Picture nominees, without having seen The Artist, I called it as the winner. My reasoning was that well, let’s face it, the film premise appeals to the Academy. A silent picture made in 2011? Check! Not to mention it is a movie about making movies and Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back. These factors combined with the fact that it was so different from the other nominees, like The Help, Moneyball and The Descendants, to name a few, really made The Artist stand out as the clear winner.

While I did want to see The Artist, I admit I was a tad skeptical of it. I wasn’t sure if I’d really like it and consider it my Best Picture winner. Fortunately for me, I ended up absolutely loving The Artist. I enjoyed it so much that it has definitely made my list of all-time favorite movies. Prior to watching The Artist, I was concerned if I would really be able to focus and grasp the story of a silent picture. When actually the silent aspect of the film ended up enabling me to understand and be captured by the story even more so than a standard modern movie with dialogue. I really felt the emotions the actors projected. I found myself laughing hysterically at times as well as nearly tearing up during certain scenes. I both sympathized and rooted for the protagonist, played by Jean Dujardin. Dujardin’s best actor win for The Artist was certainly well deserved! Seriously though why did no one think to give the dog a supporting actor nod? The dog was pretty much my favorite character!

Not only did I enjoy the story of The Artist, but I loved the way it was executed on screen. It was a beautiful movie with fantastic acting that really made you feel with each scene. The Artist has inspired me to check out some older silent pictures. So now to answer the question: is The Artist worth its Best Picture win and the hype? Absolutely! I encourage everyone to watch this movie. Don’t be afraid of the quiet, embrace it!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine’s Day Dump

The Wife: Happy National Greeting Card Day y’all! Seriously, Happy Valentine’s Day to all of our faithful Dump readers as well as those of you checking out the blog for the first time. Even though Valentine’s Day is a silly holiday that you don’t even get a paid day off for, I admit, it can be pretty fun. Sure it’s an excuse for florists, the greeting card industry and chocolate companies to bring in loads of money. It’s also probably the only time of year people clamor to buy those disgusting heart message candies that taste like chalk. Yet, Valentine’s Day is enjoyable if you just embrace it. And I have to say that I look forward to receiving my traditional Valentine’s Day heart shaped box of chocolates from the husband this year!

So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, with the help of Hobo Dan, I’ve created a top ten list of must-see Valentine’s Day movies. Don’t be fooled into thinking these are all romantic sap. Personally I prefer more comedy based movies to watch on Valentine’s Day. We’ve designed this semi-conventional but largely UNCONVENTIONAL list with a variety of tastes in mind. Feel free to share your Valentine’s Day movie choices in the comments below!

1. When Harry Met Sally – This movie is a personal favorite of mine. It’s also one that Hobo Dan loves as well. While romantic comedies aren’t necessarily “his thing,” he enjoys When Harry Met Sally. Billy Crystal (Harry) and Meg Ryan (Sally) are perfect in this movie and the story of their characters’ journey from dislike, to friends and eventually lovers is compelling, funny and quite realistic. I know When Harry Met Sally isn’t the first romantic comedy ever made, but it really did set a standard. Many movies have tried to use the premise of this movie and failed miserably. When Harry Met Sally just works!

2. Love Actually – Ok, we can group this as a Christmas movie since that’s the holiday it revolves around, but hello, look at the title. Love Actually is one of my favorite movies ever. Hobo Dan also insisted that it be included in this list. This movie can work for everyone on Valentine’s Day. It explores the different types of love in a humorous manner. It shows romantic love, unrequited love, blossoming new love, and my personal favorite, the platonic love of friendship! Walking Dead fans should check this out just to see Rick speak in his native British tongue!

3. Star Wars – Why not have yourself a Star Wars marathon this Valentine’s Day? In a relationship, single or just because. Ladies, by suggesting a Star Wars marathon, you are sure to become wife or girlfriend of the year. Star Wars has action but a touch of romance. Not to mention perhaps the most epically awesome “love quote” in history! “I love you!” “I know.” Like a boss.

4. Rocky – The first time Hobo Dan ever watched Rocky with me was on Valentine’s Day our senior year of college. While I consider this a Thanksgiving movie (it is!), Rocky is a perfectly acceptable movie for your Valentine’s Day. The love of Rocky and ADRRIAAANNN is epic. Not to mention, the love of sport! For even more fun, watch Rocky III and enjoy the bromance of Rocky and the incredible Apollo Creed! This movie will also encourage you to work out after Valentine’s Day, which is good since you will likely need to burn those heart shaped candies off.

5. Captain America/Thor/Iron Man – Any of these super hero movies can make your Valentine’s Day enjoyable. I grouped them all together, but you can pick your favorite or just watch all three. They are action packed, fun and throw in enough romance to qualify as a Valentine’s Day movie!

6. How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days – I just can’t not include this. I absolutely love this movie. It’s romantic, but hilarious too. I love the soundtrack as well! Sure it has a cheesy element to it, but it’s fun. I remember seeing this with friends on a Valentine’s Day when I was single back in the day. Like I said, it’s just FUN!

7. Brave – Disney Pixar’s most recent release, Brave, could easily be part of your family Valentine’s Day tradition! While no romantic story is present, this adorable movie shows the love between a mother and daughter. The love of family is very important! Brave also proves that you don’t need someone to make you happy. Merida is seriously the coolest Disney princess! If you have kids, this movie is especially perfect!


8. Harry Potter – Seriously you didn’t think I would include Star Wars and not the Harry Potter franchise did you? Any day is good for a Harry Potter marathon so why not make it part of your Valentine’s Day?! Harry Potter encompasses romantic love and more importantly, the love of friendship!

9. Annie Hall – Woody Allen must make this list somehow! Annie Hall, one of the few romantic comedies to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, is a fun movie that can be enjoyed on Valentine’s Day. It’s hilarious and while it is an older movie, the comedic situations really aren’t dated. Not to mention, this one has a REALISTIC ending and can show you that romantic stories aren’t necessarily Hollywood perfect!

10. Psycho – Ok so you just hate Valentine’s Day. This one is for you. If you want to forget the day all together, just watch one of Hitchcock’s finest horror films, Psycho. It is a really good movie, and hey maybe it can make you feel a bit better about some of your crazy ex’s? It’s a win.

There you go! I have to give a special BONUS nod to The Notebook, which just missed the list. I love The Notebook and even own a copy of it, but if I’m being honest, I would watch all of the above movies before it. If you love a pure romance movie like The Notebook for your Valentine’s Day though, then more power to you. We hope you enjoyed our conventional, yet primarily unconventional list of Valentine’s Day movies. Happy Valentine’s Day or just Happy Thursday, whatever you prefer!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Review: Identity Thief

The Wife: After seeing several “serious” movies recently, sometimes a little stupidity and humor is necessary. Also, since there isn’t much to do on a Friday night in our town, the movie, Identity Thief, seemed like an appropriate choice. Not to mention, I typically enjoy Jason Bateman’s movies. I will first off say that this was everything I thought it would be: decently funny with a semi-entertaining, yet completely unrealistic plot. However, my movie experience as a whole was quite unpleasant due to a few select movie patrons.

BEGIN RANT/When I pay to see a movie at the theatre, I expect to enjoy the “big screen” experience as I watch said film, whether it be a musical, thriller, comedy or whatever. I find it incredibly RUDE when people talk loudly during a movie. During Identity Thief, we had the unfortunate pleasure of being stuck directly behind a person who not only talked, but literally shouted throughout the entire movie. It was very distracting to say the least. Lately, the main “talkers” we’ve encountered at the theatre have typically been adults too. If rowdy teens know how to keep quiet during a movie, adults should certainly be capable of this as well. I just don’t get how people can be SO RUDE. It seems that several movies we’ve seen as of late have had several “talking offenders.” I am a talker. I will talk to anyone, but I know how to zip it and respect others when I go to the movie theatre!/END RANT

Regardless of the LOUD person, I tried to pay attention as best I could, even though at times I literally had to STRAIN my ears to hear what the characters were saying. Fortunately, Identity Thief isn’t a deep film, so that helped. The movie stars Bateman as Sandy and Melissa McCarthy, who I will always remember as Sookie from Gilmore Girls although she is best known for Bridesmaids, as Diana. Sandy is seen as a mild mannered family man and financially conservative type. Flash to Diana, who is wild, upbeat, and makes her living by scheming and stealing identities. Of course, she ends up stealing Sandy’s identity, which leads us to the plot of the movie (obviously). While the entire premise of how McCarthy’s character stole identities and how law enforcement dealt with the issue is highly unrealistic and inaccurate, it did make for some humorous hijinks. With his identity stolen and his new job on the line, Sandy decides that the only way to rectify the situation is to travel across the country, catch the person who stole his identity and bring them to the authorities. He easily catches Diana, which leads to a crazy road trip with the characters. In predictable fashion, Sandy and Diana seemingly bond during the road trip, however this of course comes with clashing personalities, oh and the fact that SHE IS A CRIMINAL. Haha! Of course, in true Hollywood fashion, the movie makes you end up feeling sorry for Diana’s character. I won’t spoil the ending for you, and while it was predictable, I enjoyed how they wrapped up the story.

Taking the unrealistic aspect out of it, Identity Thief did deliver in the laugh factor. It was funnier than the previews made it out to be, which was a nice surprise. While I did like the movie and find it humorous, it really isn’t a memorable type of comedy, like The Hangover. Unless you are super bored and don’t have incessant talkers at your movie theatre, I’d save this one for Netflix.

Hobo Dan: What can I say about Identity Thief? Stupid title. Identity Theft. There, fixed that for you over paid Hollywood writers. I was entertained by this film in the most rudimentary way possible. Meaning; when a man is kicked in the balls, I laugh. The enormous distraction sitting directly in front of me gyrating to the hip hop music; chortling at the simplistic slap stick humor; loudly protesting at the use of the ‘F’ word in a rated ‘R’ movie; taking up three seats when the rest of us were crammed in like the poorest upper-class passengers on the last life boat off the Titanic; didn’t, to put it mildly, help my enjoyment of this run of the mill comedy will a lower case ‘c’.

There is predictable, like The Hangover 2, then there is a mile of crap, followed by another mile of eighty’s comedies that are just funny enough that we remember laughing at them even though we haven’t actually watched them in years, then you’ll find Identity Thief. It was rude and crude, and I like rude and crude, but it was presented in a way that just made it pathetic, like the fat guy who orders two Big Macs and a Diet Coke or Lance Armstrong. It seems like the writers wanted it to be some edgy modern reflection of our world were black and white morals are slowly greying together, but then, just after first draft was finished, the producer fired those writers and replaced them with his twelve year old ginger son who is obsessed with fart jokes. And there wasn't even a single fart joke! Fail movie, fail.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Movies of February 2013

So here I am trying to get back into the swing of blogging because it makes me happy on a strange, deadline ridden level. I was doing four movie preview posts a year (and was failing horribly); so why not up that to one a month? Seems like a fine plan. Actually it's because of a certain a red headed reader that complains because I sometimes leave out movies he wanted to hear me bitch about for some reason. So here we are. A movie preview post all about the month of February. The process I follow is to go to the IMDB, find the list of films for a given month and watch the trailers for said films. Then start writing. If I leave anything off this list then it is absolutely not worth my time.

Remember, I use my totally made up Hype Rating System (HRS) to discern how much I want to see or not see these movies. Level 1: I plan to see this movie in theaters and so should you! Level 2: I'll probably wait until post theatrical release to see this film (Netflix, Blu-Ray, osmosis). Level 3: I will never see this movie, not even if you asked me really nice like. Level 4: I don't want to see it, but the Wife is making me; nothing I can do about it, I signed a contract.

February 1:

Warm Bodies - Level 4
Okay, so we found the cure for being a zombie. Love. Apparently all it takes is one mildly attractive blond chick with a shot gun to kick start your zombie heart back into being a human and bang, cured. While the story is way stupid and the zombie fad is so 2011, I'd probably sit down and watch this when/if it hits Netflix because it looks funny and John Malkovich is awesome. Note: after writing this, the Wife watched the trailer and informed me we will be seeing this in theaters (Da Fuk?) making this a Level 4, somehow.

Bullet to the Head - Level 3
In light of recent events, I will be censoring my hype for this movie by creating a mad lib of the following paragraph for the Wife to fill out: I wish Sylvester Stallone would put a frog through his own shiny head and stop making these pretty pieces of cute movies that all kick giant donkey dogs. No one wants to see his old cat shooting at trees anymore. You're old! Go act as some sort of crappy person would. Complain about the pink weather! Just stop making these purple movies to prove how big your chair is! Sweet car of New York City!

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia - Level 3
The description reads: "A young family moves into an historic home in Georgia..." and I stopped right there. The name of this movie is The Haunting in Connecticut 2. But it is in Georgia? I don't... understand. Did the Connecticut ghost take a road trip? And where the hell is that movie? The Haunting in Connecticut 3: Road Trip starring Tom Green and a snake!

Stand Up Guys - Level 2
You can't go too wrong with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. Throw in Alan Arkin and you have a pretty decent looking old mob guy buddy comedy. At least it seems like a comedy/drama, but trailers are so misleading these days. Is this funny, is it serious? Is it both, but which one is it more? I'll find out via Netflix.

Sound City - Level 2
Documentaries are awesome! Sadly, living in the middle of nowhere means you can't even get Les Mis at your theater on opening day. So this will never get within miles of me. That said, I don't have too much time to watch documentaries in a theater anyways, but a cold winters night with and a documentary about music directed by Dave Grohl on my couch, yes please.

February 8:

Identity Thief - Level 4
I am already tired of this trailer, and that woman (Melissa McCarthy). I have not even seen her in a movie and yet I know she will annoy the utter living crap out of me. This seems like a buddy, road trip movie with a twist. The twist being one of the buddies has stolen the identity of the other and they are not buddies at all. I somehow feel they will end up being great friends in the end. That must be my predictable Hollywood shovel-ware movie sense tingling. Sadly, February is sparse with movies the wife and I want to see, bumping this to Level 4 for me.

Side Effects - Level 3
Wife sees Channing Tatum and Jude Law flash across the movie screen and she sits up; attention obtained trailer. Then it starts talking about  the side effects of medicine and the hypochondriac in her comes out. For once it pays off, scratch one less time I have to suffer through a Channing Tatum movie in my lifetime. But holy crap is that Rooney Mara? She looks different not all, dragon tattooed...

February 15:

A Good Day to Die Hard - Level 4?
Stupid, dumb, mindless action. Old dude still trying to prove he is a bad ass. A good day to die hard indeed. This comes out so close to Valentines day that I am preparing to deem it an official Valentines day movie just like the original Die Hard is without a doubt a Christmas movie. I wouldn't normally see this in theaters because I like actual substance and story in movies, but when Valentines day rolls around and your wife says "Lets see Die Hard!" instead of "Lets see random smoochy, kissy movie!" you hand her the Wife of the Year award and go see f***ing Die Hard!

Beautiful Creatures - Level 3
According to the trailer this comes out on the 13th, because that makes it cooler or something. What would probably make this Witch's coming of age story better is if they threw out the script, fired the writer and burned the original book source material and started over with a tale about two very beautiful squires trapped in a dangerous tree full of poison nuts and crazy owls. I bolded the Level 3 grade for this movie up top to help get my point across. Do not see: angst filled teen drama ahead!

Safe Haven - Level 3
Robin? Wait for it... Gosh girl first the Avengers and now this? Is scotch and Barney not enough anymore? Must you go wondering around doing movie roll after movie roll? And Mr. Nicholas Sparks. Good Sir! I say, how many damned books have you written? Surly you now have enough money to unburden us mortal men who must suffer through your horribly predictable film adaptations. I mean, these trailers... Girl and boy meet, hate one another at first, then fall in love, then conflict, ???? and profit. So easy a cloned, genetically altered Neanderthal could do it... Ha, topical scientific jokes.

Escape from Planet Earth - Level 2
This looks like a fun animated movie. Really it does. If I had kids I'd definitely take them to see this. A good subliminal lesson in governmental paranoia never hurt a kid either.

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III - Level ?
Had no idea what this was. Watched trailer. Still have no idea what this is. Judge for yourself:


(Also, IMDB has about three release dates for this so, I don't know when it's coming out)

February 22:

Snitch- Level 3
Apparently this movie is NOT about a has been, alcoholic Seeker who has to fight adversity and sober up to get one last shot at winning the Quidditch World Cup and his girl back. I am disappoint. I have to be honest, until Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson wins an Oscar award for Best Actor/Supporting Actor, I will laugh and think to myself "Do you smell it?" every single time I see him pop up in a movie trailer. Always and forever.

Dark Skies - Level 3
So there are aliens, and the guy from the State Farm Insurance commercials knows all about them, and says you're screwed. They are going to get you, and probe you and make you listen to Beiber. Seems like a pretty straight forward alien abduction movie. I bet they are saved at the last moment by some inexplicable plot twist.

So there, the movies of February. You have been warned.