Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol - C+

In theaters. Rated PG-13, 133 minutes. Trailer.

Despite being somewhat of a film snob, I've generally enjoyed the Mission Impossible series, so the addition of Jeremy Renner and the direction of Brad Bird (The Incredibles) made the 4th installment seem promising. Unfortunately, this film is really just a boring slog with a few cool action scenes and very few funny lines. The plot is typical and the stunts and gadgets way too unbelievable for me, and the storyline involving Renner and Ethan Hunt's (Tom Cruise) wife is way too underdeveloped. Some of the scenes (especially the sandstorm) are cool, and Cruise is a magnetic star, but it is not entertaining enough to make up for the lack of plot or character development.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, RIP

I still remember seeing him for the first time in 1998 on Hardball with Chris Matthews. It was a pivotal moment, as I found someone that spoke to me in a way very few people ever have. He had plenty of faults and bad arguments, but we're all better off for being able to listen to his arguments.

On religion.

Best of everything else.

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Young Adult - B

In theaters. Rated R, 96 minutes. Trailer.

Charlize Theron stars as a shallow, damaged, and beautiful woman (Mavis Gary) battling depression and looking to her high school sweetheart to make her happy. The film is written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman. I love dark films and unvarnished renderings of damaged people, but this one didn't deliver nearly as much as I thought it would. Theron is great in a dense and interesting role, but Cody and Reitman leave her floundering in a story that just wallows in her pain, with scene after scene just reinforcing her character. The trailer has most of the funny stuff. Weird movie.

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Songs of the Day

Two pop gems (really, I can't listen to either enough):

1. I Gotta Good Feelin' - Flo Rida. The artistry these days is in the production, and this one is firing on all cylinders.

2. My Heart's A Stereo - Gym Class Heroes, featuring Adam Levine. Try as I might, I can't deny Levine's talent. This is a brilliant fusion of a pop hook and a catchy, interesting rap song.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Song of the Day - Tick of the Clock

By The Chromatics

A short version is on the Drive soundtrack. The longer, better version is here.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Favorite Lines

The Big Lebowski"Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man."

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Snap Judgments - a Quick Review of 5 Movies

Friends with Benefits

It begins superbly as Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis bounce dialogue off each other like a modern, vulgar His Girl Friday. Woody Harrelson and Patricia Clarkson provide excellent, hilarious support as her mom and his best friend. But then director Will Gluck (Easy A) tries to get the film to mean something and drags in Alzheimer's disease. And the film becomes exactly what it claims to detest during the cheesy singin' and dancin' finale where Timberlake woos her back. Still, can't wait to watch the first half again. B

A Better Life
An illegal Mexican immigrant (Demian Bichir) gets his truck and equipment stolen and goes looking for it with his son. That's the entire 98 minutes. Despite the good performance by Bichir, (especially great in a late, tearful farewell scene), the movie doesn't address any of the issues readily available to it. It comes closest when the son asks what's the point of so many poor people having children. But the father (hence the writer) won't or can't answer. I need another liberal guilt message movie like I need another mortgage. C+

30 Minutes or Less

Danny McBride and Nick Swardson strap a bomb to pizza delivery guy Jesse Eisenberg's chest to force him to rob a bank. He enlists his best friend (Aziz Ansari) to help him. Eisenberg is horribly miscast and seems to be in a different movie than everyone else. Lots of stupid people do stupid, mean-spirited, unfunny things. And the script leaves enough loose ends to hang itself 10 times. Cruel, misogynist crap. And sorta racist. It would be an F but it's only 83 minutes. D

Kill the Irishman
In 1970s Cleveland, a mob war has Danny Greene (Ray Steveson) smack dab in the middle - and he proves very difficult to kill. Despite the interesting true story, writer-director Jonathan Hensleigh can't elevate the material past cheap Goodfellas knock-off (which he seems to acknowledge when Paul Sorvino shows up toward the end). It's nice to see great actors like Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Bob Gunton get tough-guy parts, but the film just sits there and you're left thinking how great they were in prior films. The amateurish special effects don't help matters. C

Your Highness

Danny McBride and James Franco are brothers who team up to save a maiden (Zooey Deschanel) from an evil wizard in the Middle Ages. Your overall take on the film will depend on how much you enjoy McBride's incessant vulgarity. His anachronistic one-liners are actually funnier than in modern era films - but occasional restraint and subtlety would be nice. The special effects and bathroom humor are embarrassing. And the gore is way overdone. C-

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Song of the Day - Don't Be Shy

By Cat Stevens

This one is always worth a revisit.

Don't be shy, just let your feelings roll on by
Don't wear fear or nobody will know you're there
Just lift your head and let your feelings out instead
And don't be shy, just let your feelings roll on by
On by

You know love is better than a song
Love is where all of us belong
So don't be shy, just let your feelings roll on by
Don't wear fear or nobody will know you're there
You're there

Don't be shy, just let your feelings roll on by
Don't wear fear or nobody will know you're there
Just lift your head and let your feelings out instead
And don't be shy, just let your feeling roll on by
On by, on by.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Melt With You - C

Rated R for language and drug use

4 college friends (now each 44 years old) meet every Spring Break in Big Sur for a week of relaxation and reflection. Richard (Thomas Jane) is a professor struggling to find inspiration for his second novel. Ron (Jeremy Piven) is a wealthy stock broker in trouble with the SEC. Jonathan (Rob Lowe) is a doctor who sells prescription drugs to addicts. Tim (Christian McKay) is tortured by the death of his boyfriend and sister who both died in an automobile accident when he was behind the wheel. A pact they made 25 years earlier will result in disastrous consequences . . .

For the viewer. What begins as an interesting discussion of adolescent naivete and real world adult problems descends into overblown depravity and despair. Early on as we get to know the characters, the natural charisma and great performances of the actors keep things interesting. Director Mark Pellington uses the beautiful landscapes well and expertly chooses songs to support scenes. Then, his music video origins get the best of him as the second half overdoes it with the shaky camera, quick cuts, and inappropriate close-ups. But the music is still good. So there's that.The biggest problem with the film is the lack of a single likable character. The college buddies take more drugs and drink more booze than everyone in Boogie Nights, Goodfellas, Blow, and Leaving Las Vegas combined. Seriously - enough to kill a herd of rhinoceroses. You certainly can't relate to them and will probably feel they richly deserve the miserable lives they have. By the time it finally ends, it's a relief, not a release nor epiphany. C

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Song of the Day - Paradise

By Coldplay

I've always had a soft spot for their melodies and sentimental lyrics. This one is a return to form after the last album's letdown.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Countdown to The Master.

Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood will score Paul Thomas Anderson's new film The Master.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Crazy Stupid Love - C+

On DVD and Blu-ray, PG-13

After his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) springs a divorce request on him, Cal (Steve Carell) moves out and falls into a depression until he meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling) at a bar. Jacob remodels Cal's image and shows him how to be a ladies' man. But the divorcing couple's kids want them back together and they still have feelings for each other. Through an abundance of coincidences and plot contrivances, we end up getting a lesson we didn't ask for about soul mates and true love . . .

The Crazy: Released just 3 months ago, the film is already hopelessly dated with references to the prolificacy of Steve Jobs (who has shuffled off this mortal coil) as well as the stable, unusual marriage of Demi and Ashton (they're divorcing).

The Stupid: The whiplash tonal shifts might be the result of 2 directors (Glenn Ficarra, John Requa) or more likely it's just their style (since it's even worse in their only other directorial effort - I Love You Philip Morris). It's a byproduct of wanting it both ways - heartfelt and hilarious - a tough thing to pull off, to be sure. Since they scripted Bad Santa, there's still some good will left. The many problem is the numerous impossible coincidences, from timely meetings to surprise entrances to unmentioned relationships.The Love: The cast expertly plays the hand they're dealt. Moore gives a great dramatic performance that adds undeserved depth to the film, especially in a phone call about a pilot light to Carell. Gosling is even better since he has to be alternatively charming, sincere, and funny. His comedic banter with Carell is first-rate and he also has great romantic rapport with Emma Stone, playing a character that changes everything.

But they're mostly wasted on a plot that's overcooked and over-thought - and the climactic cringe-inducing school speech will have you looking for the fast forward button. C+

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Favorite Lines

Bottle Rocket
"Did you ever have a touch to lose, man?"

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Monday, December 5, 2011

No Need To Explain

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Too Big Too Fail - B+

On DVD (2011). Trailer.The 2008 Wall Street/Financial system meltdown was a cataclysm several years in the making. The timing (right before a Presidential election without an incumbent candidate) was horrible and the incestuous relationship between the Treasury, the Federal Reserve and Goldman Sachs only exacerbated the situation (don't miss Matt Taibbi's legendary article on GS). Too Big Too Fail (directed by Curtis Hanson) is a very straightforward depiction of these events as they unfolded behind the curtain. The stakes are high and the humans charged with solving the crises are just normal people, which makes it very scary. The cast is uniformly excellent, especially William Hurt as Henry Paulson (Treasury Secretary) and Paul Giammatti as Ben Bernanke (Chairman of the Federal Reserve). My favorite scenes are those between these two men in their private dining room. Hanson's disciplined direction allows the story to tell itself and the actors shine. A must see.

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Best of 2011 (so far)

Lots of film left to see, but here's a starting point list followed by the additional films worth seeing this year (with links to their trailers):

1. Drive
2. Tree of Life
3. Beginners
4. Descendants (no published review yet)
5. Too Big to Fail (no published review yet)
6. Melancholia
7. Margin Call
8. Contagion
9. Ides of March
10. Moneyball

Haven't seen, but may figure into my list: Shame; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Rampart; War Horse (doubt it); The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; The Artist; Carnage; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Streets Have No Name alert); Young Adult; The Help; We Need to Talk About Kevin.

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Favorite Lines

Inglourious Basterds
"Well, if this is it, ol' boy, I hope you don't mind if I go out speaking the King's."

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Beginners - A-

On DVD (2011). Rated R, 105 minutes.

What a pleasant surprise.
I expected to hate this film based on the trailer and the subject matter, but found it to be a contemplative study of love and loss. Ewan McGregor stars as a graphic designer whose father (Christopher Plummer) came out of the closet at 75, after Ewan's mother has died. The film follows his recollections of his father during his gay exploration period and his own relationship with a fetching actress (Melanie Laurent). As he remembers, he deals subtly with the guilt he feels about his dad's denial of self, the weirdness of his childhood and his own relationship issues. I loved the reset sequences about the stars and 'what people looked like'. Worth your time.

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Where to Begin? (J. Edgar and Margin Call)

My hat's off to Doc. He's kept us going. Here is a short summary of 2 films I've seen, with more to follow:

J. Edgar, C - Clint Eastwood directs Leonardo DiCaprio in a crappy biopic. J. Edgar Hoover is a fascinating figure in 20th centruy American history, but Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) turn the film into a fabricated platonic love story between Hoover and his longtime aide, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). The film is 137 minutes long and you feel every minute. Despite all the riveting material related to Hoover, there are only a handful of scenes that weren't annoying or boring. Judi Dench and Naomi Watts are wasted as Hoover's mother and longtime secretary, respectively.

Margin Call, B - A fictional account of a brokerage houses downfall in 2008, this film charts some interesting territory related to the ethics and "products" being sold in the new Wall Street. Writer/Director JC Chandor directs Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey and Zachary Quinto in this ensemble drama that tells the story of a 24 hour panic period when a brilliant analyst figures out the firm's risk structure spells doom. Not nearly as direct or literal as Too Big To Fail (A-, review to follow), this is a promising debut from Mr. Chandon. Loved Irons and all the 'big dogs' coming in with their helicopters.

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Best SNL Skit so far this Year

And a welcome return for the best cast member's best character:

Mr. Buscemi's episode also included the best commercial in forever:

And Mr. Samberg's best digital short in a long while too:

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Favorite Lines

"Just because you can't prove it doesn't mean it's not true."

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Song of the Day - The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie

By Red Hot Chili Peppers

Still going strong 2 decades gone; and at their syncopated, harmonizing best here.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Song of the Day - You Are a Tourist

By Death Cab for Cutie

A thin but catchy tune I can't keep out of my head.

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Favorite Lines

Fargo"What are you - nuts? We had pancakes for breakfast. I gotta go to a place where I can get a shot and a beer. A steak maybe. Not more f@ckin' pancakes. Come on."

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Favorite Lines

L.A. Confidential
"With a wrecking ball. Wanna help me swing it?"

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Favorite Lines

Apocalypse Now
"They were gonna make me a Major for this . . . and I wasn't even in their f@ckin' army anymore."

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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Tree of Life - A

On DVD and Blu-ray, Lawyer here, Priest here

Jack O'Brien (Sean Penn) is a success in the modern world but still haunted by the death of his little brother in the late 1960s and his tough upbringing even earlier in Waco, Texas. The majority of the film takes place when Jack is around 11 years old (and played by Hunter McCracken). His father (Brad Pitt) is a tough and critical, sometimes intentionally, as he tries to prepare his sons for a cruel world. His mother (Jessica Chastain) prefers her 3 boys to follow the Sunday morning teachings of grace, forgiveness, and love. Interspersed with the modern day scenes and the childhood memories are breathtaking visuals about the beginnings of the universe, earth, and man.

Combining the origin of the earth with the origin of a single man solidifies man's insignificance to nature as director Terrence Malick's central theme - prevalent in all of his films. His style is unmistakable - multiple narrators, often with a Southern accent; stunning cinematography in natural light; nature upstaging people; and striking use of music (less so here by Alexandre Desplat, but the classic musical choices are inspiring - especially this, this, and this). As in all of Malick's films, the plot is an afterthought - each film preferentially gets by on mood and tone.Many will find the film confusing, pretentious, boring, or all of the above. There are flaws - including too many close-ups for my taste. And you get the feeling hundreds of alternative editing choices could have been made without much difference in the final product. Brief snippets are seemingly from Malick's childhood memories and serve little purpose other than to prompt evaluation our own memories - and why they're remembered. Pitt never really pulls of the piano enthusiast portion of his character but is otherwise brilliant. The beach scene is labelled "Eternity" on the Blu-ray, with the final chapter being labelled "Was it a Dream?". Both are possibilities and there doesn't have to be one answer. It recalls the doozy finale of 2001: A Space Odyssey as it goes off the deep end with symbolism, imagery, and challenging (often clandestine) themes. But it feels a bit anti-climactic after all the real world greatness that precedes it.As someone who's tried to reconcile religion and science their entire adult life, the film couldn't have a better starting point. But it's the personal moments that hit the hardest and closest. Being excited when your overbearing, stern father leaves on a trip. The trauma of moving to a new town when you're young. The death of a childhood acquaintance - and your awkward response. How the outdoors feels when you're free to roam with friends. And on and on. I've gotten many things out of the film both times I've seen it and will be revisiting it often. It's a rare and mighty film that can help you come to terms with your past while encouraging you to become a better person (and father) in the present. A life-changer. A

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Tree of Life - Excellent Analysis

So, before Doc formally expands on his A for Tree of Life, here is the breakdown from Matt Zoller-Seitz on the film. Here is a link to the previous Malick film studies he has done.

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Zooey Deschanel, the Rangers, and America

Here is a video of Zooey Deschanel's rendition of the Star Spangled Banner from last night's World Series game. Keep watching for President George W. Bush's first pitch to Nolan Ryan.

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases - 10/25/11

Attack the Block - #
Captain America - #
Father of Invention - #
A Little Help - #
A Serbian Film - #
Shaolin - #
Tom & Jerry Golden Collection - #
Winnie the Pooh - #
Wrong Turn 4 - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

The Conversation - *
Dazed and Confused (Criterion) - *
The House by the Cemetery
Identification of a Woman (Criterion)
Island of Lost Souls
Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy - *

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekend Box Office: 10/21-10/23/11


1. Paranormal Activity 3: 54 mil / NEW
2. Real Steel: 11.3 mil / -31% / 67 mil
3. Footloose: 10.9 mil / -30% / 31 mil
4. Three Musketeers: 8.8 mil / NEW
5. Ides of March: 4.9 mil / -31% / 29 mil
6. Dolphin Tale: 4.2 mil / -33% / 64 mil
7. Moneyball: 4 mil / -26% / 64 mil
8. Johnny English Reborn: 3.8 mil / NEW
9. The Thing: 3.1 mil / -63% / 14 mil
10. 50/50: 2.8 mil / -34% / 29 mil

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Tone Remains the Same

Clearing the pictures off the laptop.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bad Teacher - B-

On DVD and Blu-ray, Rated R, 92 minutes

Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is a middle school teacher because of, as she puts it, "shorter hours, summers off, no accountability". When her rich fiance breaks it off, she's forced to downsize her life and look for a new man. She thinks a breast augmentation will help and starts to save and steal money to afford it. In her classroom, she's terrible - mostly showing movies (like Stand and Deliver and Lean On Me). She finds the gym teacher (Jason Segel) funny but he doesn't have enough in the bank account. A new substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) has rich parents but he's goofy, dense, and easily influenced. Another teacher named Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) becomes her rival in many ways when Halsey breaks too many rules to count . . .

The R-rated dialogue is often hilarious. Diaz clearly loves playing the antithesis of her movie star persona. And indeed, part of the humor lies in the shock value of watching Miss Rom-Com curse and slut it up in front of the kids. The supporting characters are pretty good - especially Phyllis Smith (TV's The Office) as an agreeable confidant and John Michael Higgins as the dolphin-loving principal. Director Jake Kasdan keeps a light, humorous tone and successfully makes the audience side with the drug-abusing, vulgar, promiscuous opportunist over the hard-working, dedicated, honest educator - no small feat.

And therein lies the problem - you're supposed to be happy that Halsey overcomes Squirrel so completely at the end. But that is morally problematic at best. The screenwriters want to have it both ways - and Halsey's abrupt "redemption" at the end can't hide the fact that she's probably done irreparable damage to many students. But it's just a movie - and funny enough until your brain starts to analyze it. B-

The Wire alumnus: Deirdre Lovejoy - wasted as a concerned parent of an excellent student - a far cry from her accomplished and shrewd prosecuter Rhonda Perlman.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Melancholia - B+

Coming soon (Currently OnDemand). Rated R, 135 minutes. Trailer.

Danish Director Lars Von Trier has courted controversy lately with pro-Hitler comments in Cannes this past May and the genital mutilation, misogyny and overall weirdness of his previous film, Antichrist (including this famous demon voiced fox...). Despite all that, I was intrigued by his new film, Melancholia, because of its doomsday focus and 'normal' narrative. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Stellan and Alexander Skarsgaard, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg the film is split into two parts, each focusing on a sister. Kirsten Dunst's Justine is the focus of the first chapter as her bizarre behavior ruins her own wedding. Gainsbourg's Claire is the focus of the second and much stronger chapter which focuses tightly on the family dynamics as a planet hurtles toward earth and may or may not collide with earth. Click below for more on MELANCHOLIA:

The title sequence of the film is set to Wagner and features a series of beautiful but odd stills and moving photos that don't really make sense in advance of the film, but let you know you're in store for a visually beautiful and challenging couple of hours. The first chapter at the wedding is hard to watch without knowing that Justine has visions of the future and that she is afflicted by Melancholia. There are several interesting frames and lots of insightful extended family explorations that are worth watching.

The second chapter reveals the real threat of annihilation and informs the first chapter as Justine's irrationality is explained. Throughout this portion of the film, the visuals are stunning and the music provides a mood that both ominous and hopeless.

Von Trier is a visual alchemist and this film does not disappoint. I found its commentary on the futility of life in the face of the end of the world to be very thought-provoking.

This is not for everyone, but I found myself thinking about the day after and really enjoyed it.

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Just Because

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DVD and Blu-ray Releases - 10/18/11

Bad Teacher - #
Batman: Year One - #
A Better Life - #
Clone Wars: Season 3 - #
Monte Carlo - #
Pearl Jam Twenty - #
Peter Gabriel: New Blood - #
Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - #
Red State - #
V: Second Season - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

Cape Fear
The Crow
The Goonies
The Guns of Navarone - *
Willy Wonka & Chocolate Factory

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend Box Office: 10/14-10/16/11

There were less choices in the 80s so even the mediocre films feel like "classics" since you saw them a dozen times on TV. Now that the 80s kids are running things, unnecessary remakes are a monthly event. This weekend there were 2 and hopefully the moribund box office returns will red light future endeavors. The slogan (This is Our Time) for the Footloose remake is hilariously un-self-aware. No, it was Kevin Bacon and Chris Penn's time. Get your own ham-fisted triumph-over-suppression flick.


1. Real Steel: 16.3 mil / -40% / 52 mil
2. Footloose: 16.1 mil / NEW
3. The Thing: 8.7 mil / NEW
4. Ides of March: 7.5 mil / -28% / 22 mil
5. Dolphin Tale: 6.3 mil / -31% / 59 mil
6. Moneyball: 5.5 mil / -26% / 57 mil
7. 50/50: 4.3 mil / -24% / 24 mil
8. Courageous: 3.4 mil / -30% / 21 mil
9. The Big Year: 3.3 mil / NEW
10. Lion King (3D): 2.7 mil / -41% / 90 mil
11. Dream House: 2.5 mil / -44% / 18 mil
12. Contagion: 1.8 mil / -38% / 72 mil

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Influence

Joan Allen gets approached in Manhunter . . .

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

DVD and Blu-ray Releases - 10/11/11

Bones: 6th Season - #
Chuck: 4th Season - #
Green Lantern - #
Horrible Bosses - #
Judy Moody - #
Tree of Life - #
Zookeeper - #

Click below for this weeks's Blu-ray releases

Aspen Extreme
The Bad Seed
Camp Nowhere
Dark Night of the Scarecrow
Disorganized Crime
The Family Man
Four Feathers (Criterion) - *
Indian Summer
Maniac Cop

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Ides of March - B+

In theaters. Rated R, 102 minutes. Trailer.

Ides of March tells the consultant/campaign manager side of a week inside a close presidential race. George Clooney directs himself as the candidate and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Rachel Evan Wood as his surrounding cast. Gosling is the lead character, playing an up and coming media consultant that has bought into Clooney's governor for president character. This film could have been called swimming with sharks; it portrays the cut-throat nature of high-stakes politics, especially among the campaign staff and media. Click below for more on IOM:

Golsing is a true believer that learns the dark arts of campaigns, adapts, and comes out a hardened (and successful) operative. As he deals harshly with a bad situation, he quickly feels the same treatment and he is all the more hardened for it.

The film is bathed in gray and it informs the general cynical mood of the film. There are no good lessons to be learned here, as human nature plays out in the big time.

All of the actors are at the top of their game here, with PSH being extra-special. Clooney's candidate gets a little annoying as he spouts Clooney's personal Democratic views with such fervor. This is probably an A- for me just because of my special predisposition to politics.

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Weekend Box Office: 10/7-10/9/11


1. Real Steel: 27.3 mil / NEW
2. Ides of March: 10.4 mil / NEW
3. Dolphin Tale: 9.2 mil / -34% / 49 mil
4. Moneyball: 7.5 mil / -38% / 49 mil
5. 50/50: 5.5 mil / -36% / 17.3 mil
6. Courageous: 4.6 mil / -50% / 16 mil
7. Lion King (3D): 4.6 mil / -57% / 86 mil
8. Dream House: 4.5 mil / -45% / 14.5 mil
9. What's Your Number: 3 mil/ -44% / 10 mil
10. Abduction: 2.9 mil / -48% / 23 mil
11. Contagion: 2.8 mil / -42% / 69 mil
12. Killer Elite: 2.2 mil / - 56% / 21.6 mil
13. The Help: 2 mil / -34% / 163 mil
14. Drive: 1.8 mil / -45% / 30 mil

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

DVD and Blu-ray Releases - 10/4/11

African Cats - #
Fast Five - #
Ken Burns: Prohibition - #
Scream 4 - #
Bored to Death: 2nd Season - #
The League: Season 2 - #
The Walking Dead: 1st Season - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

Almost Famous - *
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Cider House Rules
Cinema Paradiso - *
Dead Alive
Harakiri (Criterion)
Jackie Brown
Last Exit to Brooklyn
Life is Beautiful
The Lion King - *
Pee-wee's Big Adventure
Pulp Fiction - *
Salo (Criterion) - ^
Space Jam

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved
^ - Crap Alert

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Weekend Box Office: 9/30-10/2/11


1. Dolphin Tale: 13.9 mil / -27% / 37 mil
2. Moneyball: 12 mil / -38% / 38 mil
3. Lion King (in 3D): 10.6 mil / -52% / 79 mil
4. Courageous: 9 mil / NEW
5. 50/50: 8.6 mil / NEW
6. Dream House: 8.1 mil / NEW
7. Abduction: 5.6 mil / -49% / 19 mil
8. What's Your Number?: 5.4 mil / NEW
9. Killer Elite: 4.92 mil / - 47% / 17.5 mil
10. Contagion: 4.91 mil / -42% / 65 mil
11. Drive: 3.3 mil / -43% / 27 mil
12. The Help: 3 mil / -31% / 159 mil

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Song of the Day - Mighty to Save, Hillsong (!)

Sure, I love the shock value of posting praise choruses as a song of the day. But, this chorus (my second post from Hillsong) is really, really good (especially 2:00 to 4:00). Almost makes me wish I wasn't burdened with my belief system.

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The Thin Blue Line - B+

On DVD (1988). Rated PG, 103 minutes. Trailer.

As a cinephile and a Dallasite, it is sad that it took me this long to watch Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line. The documentary tells the story of the wrongful conviction and near execution of Randall Dale Adams by the Dallas County District Attorney's office in the 70's. Morris does a masterful job of presenting the facts in a reasonable and fact-based manner (Michael Moore should take notes) and the stunningly depraved attitude of the DA (their mantra was that any prosecutor could convict a guilty man but it took a real prosecutor to convict an innocent man). Worth your time - the film led to Adams' release and the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1988.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

SNL - Alec Baldwin

Amazingly funny season opener with Alec Baldwin and Radiohead. Favorites sketches:

1. Who's On Top?
2. Top Gun Screen Tests (Pacino is great - Doc will love Harvey Firestein)
3. Red Flag

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moneyball - B+

In theaters, PG-13 for language, 133 minutes

In Fall 2001, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the Oakland A's General Manager and former player who never reached his full potential. He's faced with his 3 biggest stars leaving for bigger markets and more importantly, bigger paychecks. After he meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), they find a way for their small salary team to compete with the wealthy. This is mostly by evaluating players different than everyone else - placing a higher value on on-base percentage rather than a "name" player. Initial skepticism and failure eventually makes way for success and validation . . .

Pitt is excellent in the movie star role - he's in every scene and carries it all effortlessly. Hill is the best he's ever been, especially in the trading deadline scene when he's on the phone. As A's manager Art Howe, Philip Seymour Hoffman is borderline unrecognizable as the crabby, condescending roadblock in their way. The uncredited Spike Jonze is at his wacky best in a short scene. The writing by none other than Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List, the upcoming The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) is great as expected. The highly detailed (and nerdy) statistics are explained well and the banter between Pitt and Hill is superb. But you've already seen all of the best lines in the trailer.The main problem is the generic made-for-TV directing by Bennett Miller. There's maybe one shot (Beane's truck hurrying onto an exit ramp) that breaks the mold. While Miller does nicely allow several scenes to play out with pauses and breaks, there's hardly a "cinematic" shot in the whole thing. And this is despite the considerable talents of cinematographer Wally Pfister (The Dark Knight, Inception). The editing is frequently distracting, with unimportant shots sporadically spliced in for no effective reason. And the whole thing is 10 minutes too long. Even worse, the baseball player close-ups look like outtakes from Jerry Maguire. Then, Miller bungles the ending by using a song (sung by Beane's 12 year old daughter) that's horrifically similar to Juno's "Anyone Else But You". It's contrived for an emotional payoff that eluded Beane in real life. But the real Beane is a true hero - choosing family and loyalty over money. And ultimately winning the war while losing all the battles that mattered most. B+

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wish It Went Longer

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases - 9/27/11

Carlos (Criterion) - #
Good Neighbors - #
The Hour - #
Jeff Dunham: Controlled Chaos - #
Transformers: Dark of the Moon - #

Click below for this week's TV and Blu-ray releases

Army Wives: 5th Season
CSI: 11th Season
CSI: Miami - 9th Season
CSI: NY - 7th Season
How I Met Your Mother: Season 6
Hung: 2nd Season - #
King of Queens: 9 Season Set
Kojak: Season 2
Law & Order: SVU - 12th Year
Married With Children: Complete Series
The Middle: 2nd Season
New Tricks: Season 5

Basket Case
Ben Hur
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 & 3
Phantom Carriage (Criterion)

# - also on Blu-ray

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Picture of the Week

Nirvana's Nevermind Baby - All Grows Up

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Song of the Day - Lithium

By Nirvana

The 20th anniversary of Nevermind's release was 2 days ago. It started an excellent musical mini-revolution that lasted 5-6 years. All the Nevermind tracks are essential, so this one is arbitrarily singled out. Only "Territorial Pissings" is even close to a throwaway, but it shows them at their most raw and powerful.

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Weekend Box Office: 9/23-9/25/11

Drive's disappointing box office numbers probably reflect an audience that expected more car chases and less character development. Maybe the marketing led them astray. The "Drive" in the title isn't really about his job, but what motivates him internally. It's really about his connection to 2 people and how this changes his modus operandi. Audience members should be challenged to examine their own inner drive. Anyway, the meaningless box numbers after the jump.


1. Lion King (in 3D): 22 mil / -27% / 62 mil
2. Moneyball: 20.6 mil / NEW
3. Dolphin Tale: 20.3 mil / NEW
4. Abduction: 11.2 mil / NEW
5. Killer Elite: 9.5 mil / NEW
6. Contagion: 8.6 mil / -41% / 57 mil
7. Drive: 5.8 mil / -49% / 21 mil
8. The Help: 4.4 mil / -32% / 154 mil
9. Straw Dogs: 2.1 mil / -59% / 8.9 mil
10. I Don't Know How She Does It: 2 mil / -53% / 8 mil

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Drive - A

Lawyer's original review with plot points is here. There are small spoilers below.

Valhalla Rising was highly stylized but too grimy and gritty to connect to the characters. The violence was overdone from the opening scene. Of course, I'll never know what director Nicolas Winding Refn did between that medieval debacle and this modern masterpiece. He apparently watched the first and second seasons of TV's Miami Vice. And he probably watched Blue Velvet, Manhunter, and Thief several times too. All films are derivative and have to start somewhere. Refn emulates some of my favorite directors while finding an amazing balance and patience that allows the characters to breathe and develop . . .

Refn's use of color is reminiscent of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. His tight frame composition informs on characters motivations, desires, and connections. Refn's slow camera movements are hypnotic (particularly the shots of the LA buildings). It's always fascinating to see how foreign directors see America and Refn clearly loves Los Angeles. The fusion of music and images is evocative of none other than Michael Mann and as assured as Martin Scorsese. Light bulbs that change intensity are downright Lynchian as is the way Gosling retreats into the bathroom after his shotgun kill.The emotional depth of Carey Mulligan is perfectly balanced by Gosling's flat affect. Some beautiful compositions have Mulligan bathed in red and orange lights while Gosling is supported by cooler colors - blue, green, silver, and white (see below, but there's a better one in the film). A late terrific touch has an Exit sign above Gosling's head as he makes some final decisions. And this is one of dozens. I needed a pause button to keep up with the genius. The editing is consistently intriguing, flashing forward and back just enough to keep it interesting. The tension is brilliantly built with ticking clocks and Gosling's reaction shots.The violence is severe and shocking, but (like Bound's severed finger) the film wouldn't be as intense without it. Some minor flaws include Albert Brooks's shaved eyebrows, Ron Perlman's attempts at profanity, and Gosling walking around in public with blood stains on his jacket. For a guy that plays it safe, this seems way out of character. But the rest of it is pure cinema, probably too artsy for some, but right up my intellectual alley. A massive jump in style and substance for Refn. A

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