Category Archives: News

What great news! I love the Jesse Owens story and if Anthony Mackie ends up playing the 1936 Olympic champion, I’ll be there opening night. For those of you that may not know, Jesse Owens was the star at the Berlin Olympics winning four gold medals and giving Adolf Hitler a figurative massive headache. The German leader was not amused.

I’m super excited that Relativity Studios appears to be acquiring the project and even more so that the costar of Captain America: The Winter Soldier may be playing the track legend. Check out the full story at Deadline Hollywood who first released the story.

Category: Editorial, News

Check this out. I’ve never been more of a fan of Will Ferrell. He spent hours on Thursday the 12th of March playing nine positions for ten different teams. Not only was he playing for an HBO special he was also playing to raise money for cancer charities. Say what you will, it seems Ferrell is a pretty great guy! Check out the full story at CBS This Morning.

Category: News

Brilliant dialogue, excellent direction and some incredible story elements make The Cabin in the Woods one of the best horror films in decades. Packed with some pretty good action scenes, there’s also plenty of entertainment value. The Cabin in the Woods is a nearly unique blend of the supernatural, technology, violence and humor.

Deep in the woods is a secluded cabin. The cabin is wired, big time, and part of a technological nightmare world full of weird creatures, pheromones and geeks with white shirts and black ties. Rather like Best Buy on a Saturday afternoon. Enter five college students taking a weekend off their studies, only to find serious danger at a cabin owned by one of their cousins. What happens next is classic slasher film, literally. All hell breaks loose. The students are attacked and brutalized and must fight or flee. That’s where the film takes a demented turn, but you’ll have to go see it for that.

I strongly suggest that you do. The Cabin in the Woods is startlingly good! The writing is superb, the acting surprisingly excellent and the plot, though simple, incredibly engaging. I couldn’t wait to see what Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, the writers, would come up with next. It’s seldom that I’ve seen a film that almost completely surprised me, but Cabin sure did.

Whedon and Goddard managed to turn film clichés into original, if often disturbing, scenes, particularly the ones in the tech center. Speaking of the tech center, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford as Sitterson and Hadley, the leaders, gave masterful performances. And the teenagers much the same: Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Conolly and Fran Kranz were managed to make fairly extreme characters likeable and believable. Anna Hutchison too was quite good, if less extreme.

I have to give real credit to director Drew Goddard for putting it all together. Cabin in the Woods flows beautifully, it’s logical in a sick twisted way and sells the plot nicely. All in all it’s one of my favorite films this year and one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen.

Rating 4.5 starts out of 5.

Category: News, Reviews

Ok, Andrew Garfield is the new Amazing Spider-man. I’m reserving judgement… I’ve got to say though, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, wow! The trailer, for me, is a bit underwhelming, but I love Spider-man so here’s hoping. Check out the trailer and I’ll see you at the front of the theater, I promise, on opening night. The release date is July 3, 2012.

Category: News, Trailers

Great trailer, great characters and, what looks like a great plot, makes this movie look like one to see. Add Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Russell Brand and I actually cannot wait. The trailer looks awesome and hopefully it’s as funny as it looks! The release date is June, 15th, 2012…see you there!

Category: News, Trailers

Stunning graphics, a great story and the best action, so far, make Wrath of the Titans the best action film of the year! With a cast to die for: Liam Neeson (Zeus), Sam Worthington (Perseus), Bill Nighy (Hephaestus), Ralph Fiennes (Hades) and Rosamund Pike (Queen Andromeda), and some of the most powerful fight scenes I’ve ever seen, Wrath needs to be seen on the big screen.

The plot is classic Greek mythology. The gods are at war. Unfortunately, this time, they are at war with each other. Man no longer worships them: their power in the world is waning and Kronos, their father, has promised to restore their immortality. This is not so good for humans for Kronos has decided to destroy the world. Of course, Hades, god of the underworld is right in the middle of the conflict. It appears he’s forgotten what a bastard his father is.

As the film opens, Perseus, son of Zeus and the hero, is living in a small peaceful village and raising his son Helius. When Zeus comes to him the god admits that his power is shrinking and he needs help. Man no longer prays to the gods of Olympus and their power is greatly diminished. Naturally Perseus will have none of it and Zeus is forced to confront Hades and ask his help. Poseidon, Zeus and the Ares enter the underworld to speak to the dark god and all Hell breaks loose (sorry for the pun). Perseus is forced to gather his friends and head into Tartarus to save the world.

Father against son, Brother against brother, cousin versus cousin and trips in and out of Hell certainly qualify Wrath of the Titans as Greek mythology, but it’s the story elements that make it so good. The addition of Poseidon’s son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), a ne’er do well that tried to steal Queen Andromeda’s jewels, to the story. The burgeoning love between Perseus and the Queen and Perseus’s son Helius add some depth to his character. But it’s Kronos that tops everything.

Kronos, father of the gods, greatest of the Titans and incredibly frightening is fighting for release from his ancient prison and he is pissed. Gods, humans and even the Earth is in terrible danger and Wrath of the Titans is one of best at showing this I’ve ever seen. The final scenes, when the gods unite to fight their father, are amazing. I don’t want to spoil the ending but this is one to see.

Wrath of the Titans is no masterpiece. The dialogue needs some work, the film tends to drag a bit in the beginning and it’s confusing at times but it is so much better than the new Clash of the Titans that it seems a different franchise entirely. Even the acting was much better. The characters seemed more alive and real and the chemistry is much better than the first film.   Jonathan Liebesman, the director, did an excellent job of creating an engaging film.

For the powerful and emotional ending, the incredible Kronos scenes and the all around superior quality of the graphics I’m rating Wrath of the Titans a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

Category: News, Reviews

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” Certainly not this latest iteration of the Snow White story. Starring Julia Roberts, Nathan Lane, Lily Collins and Armie Hammer, Mirror, Mirror is the age old fairy tale of an orphaned princess raised by an evil step-mama. When the princess turns out to be a great beauty the jealous stepmother sends her off to be killed. Only, the kindly killer frees her and she runs off to be found by a small colony of dwarves.

Thank goodness there’s little change in the plot. Mirror, Mirror keeps much of the charm of the original Snow White, but that’s about the best thing I can say. The story elements are just too silly: a weird chess like game with small ships on people’s heads, the prince gets beaten up by the dwarves, repeatedly (and is also is spelled by a “puppy love” spell) and the mirror character is a weird representation of the queen.

Unfortunately Julia Roberts is entirely too likeable a character as the evil queen. I want Julia Roberts to always be the good “guy,” and she comes off as being too good to be really bad. Check out Disney’s Enchanted: Susan Sarandon’s Queen Narissa has a much better evil laugh and she’s really easy to despise. And Julia Roberts steals every scene. Whether it’s Snow White (Collins), Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) or the queen’s toady, Brighton (Lane), when Roberts is on the screen she holds the attention. Snow White, particularly, must catch every eye and steal the show. The prince and the toady must also pull some attention from the queen or their characters disappear.

Only during the classic ball scene did White shine, and there just wasn’t enough of it. With a white swan headdress Snow White was truly the center of attention. Armie Hammer too, though I think he made a pretty good prince, just didn’t have screen presence. His performance was fine but for a story that borders on melodrama Hammer’s performance was too reserved. Well, except when he was licking Julia Roberts under the puppy love spell, Ha! Check out James Marsden in Enchanted or Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride. The prince has got to be bigger than life.

The incredible Nathan Lane too was not what I hoped. He was good as the obsequious toady, Brighton, but I really wanted to see Lane challenged: think Iago in Disney’s Aladdin or Igor in Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein. There is something quite refreshing about a toady that’s not really.

A couple of small points: I loved the scenery and the special effects were pretty good, except those surrounding the mirror character, and the beast was classic. But I would have loved to see more of Sean Bean. Bean is such a good character actor it would have been nice to see him interacting with the young Snow White. And the dwarves were just a little too hip for a classic tale. But Snow White’s change into the leader of the outlaws, excellent! It brought her character out, unfortunately way too late in the film.

I admit, having seen the trailers, I wanted to dislike the film more than I did, but it turned out to be marginally better than I expected. Mirror, Mirror is probably a good film for younger children but not so much for an older crowd.

Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5.

Category: News, Reviews

Destined to be number one at the box office, the movie version of Suzanne Collins’ popular novel, Hunger Games, opened with a bang! Sold out theaters, great internet buzz and a film that, presumably, follows the book quite well is going to make Games the first mega blockbuster of the year. I managed to squeeze myself into the theater opening weekend along with a couple of friends and here’s the review.

Imagine a world torn by some unknown apocalyptic event where the only area left is a series of 12 districts surrounding the “Capitol” in what was once the United States of America. The Capitol, the governing area, managed to survive a particularly harsh rebellion and have been punishing the rebels severely for 74 years. The punishment includes withholding food and supplies, demanding tribute in the form of children and forcing those children to fight in a futuristic electronic arena. The arena is like a giant holographic suite, per Star Trek. Seemingly the game masters can create whatever environment and creatures they want.

This is where the plot gets a little dicey. The “hunger games” are meant to be entertaining, engaging and exciting. Each of the 12 individual districts is forced to enter their 12 to 18 year old children in a lottery, the winners entered into the arena. Unfortunately there is something dynamically different between 12 to 15 year old children and 16-18 year olds. Watching the older children slaughter the younger, in the first few seconds of the games, would hardly be much entertainment, and it certainly wasn’t in the film.

The children picked to fight in the arena are given some training after their choosing, but once again there is a snag: some districts have trained their children to fight from an early age, while others throw their children in nearly helpless. That makes Hunger Games seem completely ludicrous. In any sane world each district would be training their children from birth. For anyone that claims that there are no resources for training in the poorer districts, how many resources does it take to teach hand to hand combat and knife or bow fighting, virtually none.

The hero of Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, using what is apparently a homemade bow to illegally hunt game to sell and feed her family, is the favorite to win. With just a little training, she, and all of the children, might at least not be fodder for the bigger stronger youth. You would think that, in 74 years, there would be more than one or two districts that would provide training. Furthermore, Katniss is the first in her district to volunteer in the same 74 years. It’s the only way to replace her 12 year old sister in the games. It would seem in that long there would have at least have been some.

This is not a new plot but usually there are plenty of people, knowing the immense benefits of winning, willing to volunteer. In 74 years you’d think there would also have been parents training their kids (Hollywood moms and dads for violence, yay!). The Hunger Games was written as a young people’s series but still I expect some reasonable logic. Even more so when it’s turned into a film. There was none! And unfortunately much of the background for The Hunger Games was left out of the film so I’m not sure if the book explains about the understory.

Another point: how decadent and disgusting would a society have to be to watch children brutally killing each other on TV? I found no evidence in Hunger Games of some kind of Gladiator style blood lust. There was also no evidence of a lingering anger or bitterness over the earlier rebellion, which would have added some sense. There was just a seemingly silly audience dressed in ludicrous outfits watching the Hunger Games as thought it was a fictional drama. Certainly overdone, in fact everything in the film seemed overdone, except the explanation of why people in the Capitol would allow this idiocy to go on for 74 years.

Check out The Running Man and Rollerball, films with somewhat similar plots, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Both films are based around a violent “game” with an audience caught up in blood lust and violence. The only explanation I can figure out for Hunger Games silliness is that they are all on some weird drugs. Did I miss that? Is there some kind of affective disorder?

Hunger Games does have some decent action scenes. Woody Harrelson is a bright spot in the film as Haymitch Abernathy, a former winner and the trainer of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and the other lottery pick from district 12, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Harrelson actually is the only character that seems human in the film.

Lawrence does an adequate job as Katniss, though I wasn’t always sold on her emotional response to crises, but Hutcherson was miscast. He just didn’t fit the role and I didn’t find him likeable. Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne was at least likeable but in far too little of the film.  Everyone else seems more like cardboard cutouts or cartoons like Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), Compare him to Richard Dawson as Damon Killian in The Running Man. Dawson is incredible in what could also been a cartoon character.

The director seemed to do a credible job, considering that with which he had to work, but I would have liked to see more explanation as to why.

The special effects were good, though once again I was lost as to the need for mutated animals and to what extent the arena was biologically separate from the great world. I would also like to have known where the immense power needed for the Capitol, the arena and technology came from. It would seem unlikely that the minimal population in each territory could provide such immense resources.

The Hunger Games seems like a film written for fans of the books or unquestioning action junkies, not for adult science fiction fanatics begging for logic and common sense. It also seems very much directed at teens. The story just seems limited to what the young people’s experience, not the adults. Which is probably why Haymitch Abernathy is such a rich character. He’s the only “live” adult.

I personally would have also liked some better explanation of why the 12 districts meekly accept the annual murder of children without trying to do something like, hide the children, running them away or training them.

One last point, have you ever tried to tell a teenager to do anything? What in the world makes you think they will listen to “big brother” and kill people they have befriended or love. Um, never going to happen. Thus the scene where two of our combatants decide to commit suicide rather than kill each other.

I’m lukewarm toward the film and give it a hearty:

2 stars out of 5.                 

Category: News, Reviews

Watch out paranormal romance. Dystopian science fiction is coming for you. Last night, I saw The Hunger Games, starring the exquisite Jenifer Lawrence, whom I first saw in Winter’s Bone (That’s right, not X-Men). I am a huge fan of the best-selling, award-winning Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and I was not disappointed in this adaptation.

The Hunger Games paints a bleak picture of the future: a post-war North America, called Panem, divided into 13 districts whose citizens are compelled by their Capitol to send a young male and female “tribute” to fight to the death every year in the televised, eponymous Hunger Games. It’s not your typical teen date movie, I suppose. Of course, the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is not your typical teen girl protagonist. Without giving too much away, I will say that Katniss finds herself competing in the games to survive and on her own terms.

Any film adaptation of a book that I love makes me worry. The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross, was pretty faithful to the book without being bogged down in details. Something has to be left out, and I think the screenwriters mostly used good judgment. I was concerned that the audience would be unable to relate to Katniss without her inner monologue provided to the reader in the book (just thank God they didn’t use narration, ick), though the way the film was put together, we could see her justification for her actions and words without it being too painfully obvious. I was also worried that to achieve a PG-13 rating, they would tone down the bloodshed too much. For a book for young teenagers, The Hunger Games is spectacularly violent. The filmmakers were able to tone down a little without diluting the horror of children forced to kill each other by their government. The acting was good for the main characters but less great for the supporting characters. Jennifer Lawrence was wonderful. Also, can I just say how much I love, love, love Woody Harrelson?

My problems with this movie are few. My only technical complaint is the camera work. They overused handheld shoots which made it difficult to follow the action sequences. There was not enough character development for a couple of the characters I think deserved it, and a few plot developments were difficult to follow for viewers who haven’t read the books. I am not someone who needs to be spoonfed everything, but I would have liked more exploration of the power of the Capitol and the Panem Universe. They also downplayed the biting critique on mass media and PR manipulation that made the books so brilliant, but hey, it IS media, so… Also, as my boyfriend informed me, some plot developments were predictable. I understand where he’s coming from, but I do not think the author meant anything to be surprising. The story is about the transformative power of violence and marketing, and the film almost captured it. Let’s hope the rest of the trilogy gets its due, so we can see it fully developed. Rating 3 out of 5 stars.

Category: News, Reviews

21 Jump Street is my favorite movie of the year so far! The dialogue is witty, the characters real (if exaggerated) and the action refreshing. The chemistry between Tatum Channing and Jonah Hill is remarkable. They seem like extremely unlikely best friends.

The film is based on an 80s TV show by the same name about young looking cops that infiltrate high schools and colleges to solve crime. Tatum Channing is Jenko, a classically good looking athlete whose only goal in life had been popularity till he tried to become a cop. Jonah Hill is Schmidt, a brilliant if socially stunted individual that doesn’t come into his own till he meets Jenko. The two find themselves at the police, Jenko unable to compete academically and Schmidt physically. Jenko and Schmidt combine forces to make a pretty good team, Jenko scraping by in the classroom and Schmidt managing to avoid stumbling over himself long enough to graduate.

Unfortunately the team is very much a screw up but they do have one thing going for them, they look young. After a particularly harsh berating by their captain Jenko and Schmidt are assigned to the one place their unique talents, and seeming youth, fit, 21 Jump Street. Jump Street is a team of young looking police officers that, like the original TV team, attempt to solve young adult crime. Their methods are unorthodox, their captain (played by Ice Cube) a classic TV/film archetype and their assignment an unusual one, find the supplier of a unique new hallucinogenic drug.

What makes 21 Jump Street so good, and original, is the complete role reversal of character. When Jenko and Schmidt arrive at the school they forget their respective characters and they get switched. Jenko gets assigned to AP Chemistry and Schmidt to the fluff classes including Drama. I don’t want to spoil the rest of the role reversal, it’s truly classic, but expect a fun change in the social structure.

The guys throw a party for the kids, complete with alcohol and pot, manage to win them over and begin the task of infiltrating the school. What happens when Schmidt for the first time becomes part of the popular crowd and Jenko the science outcasts is the stuff of classic film and elevates 21Jump Street to one of the best TV to film transitions that’s ever been done.

Surprisingly, the acting is pretty good, the characters well developed and the story elements superb. Everything fits together like a well planned puzzle. There is a sub plot of drug use but it doesn’t undermine the main plot or seem gratuitous. It just fits nicely into the larger puzzle.

You will probably love the film, I did!

Rating 4.5 stars out of 5.

Category: News, Reviews

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