Friday, April 24, 2009

Quick Shots 3

Title: Twilight.

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Taylor Lautner and Billy Burke.

Brief Synopsis: Bella Swan (Stewart) moves to Washington to be with her dad and is immediately accepted into her new school. There she is (sort of) introduced to Edward Cullen (Pattinson) a loner who pretty much only sticks with his family. After a lab pairing, Cullen and Swan get to know each other - and begin to become infatuated with each other. This would be fine, if Cullen wasn't a vampire. The Cullen family has learned to live off the blood of animals instead of humans, but Edward is drawn to Bella's blood - which of course has some repercussions.

Opinion: I had no true interest in seeing this film. For some reason it never drew me in like Harry Potter did. My wife, however, has read all of the books and seen the movie a few times, and asked me to watch it with her. So far it is by no means Harry Potter, but I will probably take in the other films - it at least had me interested.


Title: Bedtime Stories.

Starring: Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Courtney Cox-Arquette, Guy Pearce and Russell Brand.

Brief Synopsis: Skeeter Bronson (Sandler) is promised by Barry Nottingham that when he is older he would take over the Nottingham Hotel that was purchased from Bronson's father. Cut to present time and Bronson is only the buliding's handy-man. Wendy (Cox-Arquette), Bronson's sister, has two kids that she needs Bronson and Jill (Russell) to take care of while she is in Arizona looking for a job. Bronson decides to tell the kids bedtime stories like his father did with him - only they start to become true. He tries to take advantage of this, but soon realizes it isn't what he is saying that is coming true - but what the children are saying.

Opinion: Pretty solid family film. Nothing too adult here, even with the inclusion of Sandler and Brand in the cast. If you are into family films, it is a pretty good ride. It had a lot of good laughs, especially from a big-eyed guinea pig named Bugsey.


Title: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong and Jet Li.

Brief Synopsis: Yet again a mummy is awoken from a curse thanks to the O'Connell family - this time Rick's son, Alex (Ford) is the culrpit. So Rick (Fraser), Evelyn (Bello), Jonathan (Hannah) and Lin (Leong) try to stop Emperor Han (Li) before he becomes invincible and raises his army.

Opinion: Well, at least the mummy wasn't different this time. I have to admit the first two Mummy films are a bit of a guilty pleasure - they had action and humor which kept me interested. This film had those as well, but seemed a little forced. Li's character is mostly a walking statue the entire film, which really didn't make sense to me - and I love Fraser's work usually, but even he seemed bored with this installment. And what was the point of having Bello replace Rachel Weisz? They should have just removed her character. The other films had CGI, but the CGI yeti's were a little over the top, even for me.


Title: Reign Over Me.

Starring: Don Cheadle, Adam Sandler, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Liv Tyler, Saffron Burrows and Donald Sutherland.

Brief Synopsis: Charlie Fineman (Sandler) lost his entire family in the plane crash during 9/11. Alan Johnson (Cheadle) has fallen into a bit of a rut both with his family and at work as a dentist. Johnson sees Fineman, his former college roommate, on the street one day and tries to reconnect with him. Fineman, however, has been a little out of reality since the horrific loss of his family - even mentioning anything to do with them sends him into an angry tirade. Johnson takes on the task to help Fineman get a grasp on reality and deal with his pain - all the while Charlie is actually helping Alan get out of his own rut at work and with his family.

Opinion: This is one of the better movies I have seen in a long time. I have wanted to see it for awhile, but never got around to viewing it. I am shocked that Sandler wasn't given more recognition for his portrayal of a 9/11 widower - it was truly an amazing performance.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Revisit: NBA Predictions

OK, I have slacked again with the postings - yet another job has been due here at work, plus I have been in the middle of getting everything completed for summer/grad school.

No excuse, I know, but I have a handful of ideas for blogs over the next few days. Here is the first and if I have time another will follow today.

Back in October at the beginning of the NBA season I, like I do in most sports, selected my playoff and award predictions for the season.

So here were my predictions:

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics
Central Division: Cleveland Cavaliers
Southeast Division: Orlando Magic
Other Playoff Teams: Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, New Jersey Nets.
Champion: Orlando Magic
Western Conference
Northwest Conference: Utah Jazz
Pacific Conference: L.A. Lakers
Southwest Conference: New Orleans Hornets
Other Playoff Teams: Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers.
Champion: New Orleans Hornets
NBA Champion: New Orleans Hornets

Individual Awards
MVP: LeBron James
6th Man: Rodney Stuckey
Rookie: Michael Beasley
Coach: Byron Scott
Defensive Player: Ron Artest
First Team
Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Paul
Second Team
Tim Duncan, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Brandon Roy
Third Team
Paul Pierce, Yao Ming, Chris Bosh, Tony Parker, Kevin Martin

The playoffs began this weekend and out of my selections, I didn't do half bad.

For the East, I was exactly correct in my division winners with Boston, Cleveland and Orlando. As for my playoff teams, I was off by two - Chicago, Detroit and Miami all made the playoffs, but so did Philadelphia and Atlanta. My selections of New Jersey (finished 12th) and Toronto (finished 13th) were a bit off.

As for the West, I was only able to correctly select the Lakers as a divisional winner. However, both New Orleans and Utah made the playoffs. My lone miss for the West was Denver, who actually captured the Northwest division, while Phoenix just missed the playoffs in finishing ninth.

As of now, the only individual award handed out was Coach of the Year and that was given to Mike Brown of Cleveland - who definitely deserved it. The way the Hornets fell into the bottom half of the Western conference bracket, my selection of Scott was a bit off.

I believe I will get my MVP selection correct with LeBron James. My Rookie pick is going to be wrong, as Derrick Rose of Chicago will most likely win. Rodney Stuckey for 6th man blew up in my face as he ended up starting, so Jason Terry of Dallas will be the winner this year. I am not sure about my defensive selection - it could be him or it could be Orlando's Dwight Howard.

Playoff predictions:

LA vs. Utah - LA
Denver vs. New Orleans - New Orleans
San Antonio vs. Dallas - Dallas
Houston vs. Portland - Portland

Cleveland vs. Detroit - Cleveland
Boston vs. Chicago - Chicago
Orlando vs. Philadelphia - Orlando
Atlanta vs. Miami - Miami

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Die Hard Tetralogy

I had to watch Die Hard: With a Vengeance for a project I had to do in my math class. And I didn't want to watch the third movie, without at watching the first two.

I swear I had watched these movies before, but after I got through the three of them I realized, that I may have only seen the third one - despite recognizing a few scenes in the first two, I don't think I have watched them as a whole.

So, this week I watched the Die Hard Tetralogy - including last year's release of Live Free or Die Hard.

Instead of large reviews each film, I will do what I have been doing with smaller reviews of a handful of movies - but as a whole I would have to give this tetralogy an Excellent grade.

Title: Die Hard.

Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason, William Atherton and Alan Rickman.

Brief Synopsis: John McClane (Willis) is heading to LA to be with his estranged wife Holly (Bedelia) and his two kids. Holly had moved to LA for a job, leaving NY police office McClane behind. After arriving at her office during a Christmas party, Hans Gruber (Rickman) and his gang take over the building in an attempt to steal a large amount of money. And it's up to McClane to save the day.

Opinion: I have to admit I love a good, smart villain and Rickman's Gruber was outstanding. He had thought of basically everything to get away scott free with a ton of money, and it was fun to see everything play out. What he didn't count on was McClane - who is truly an every man's hero.


Title: Die Hard 2.

Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, William Atherton, John Amos and Dennis Franz.

Brief Synopsis: McClane is visiting his wife's parents for Christmas and is currently awaiting Holly's arrival at the airport. That same afternoon, General Esperanzo is being transported via plane to the area. McClane becomes supsicious when he finds two men in the baggage department of the airport - but receives little help from Capt. Lorenzo (Franz). Col. Stuart (Sadler) and his men take over the airport and all the airport guidance systems in order to free Esperanzo. Of course, McClane proves to be a one-man army again to take down the villains.

Opinion: I still enjoyed this film, but it was lacking a lot of what the first one had. Plus, it almost tried to copy the first one as McClane was all alone in saving the day. Sadler was pretty good as the villain, but not as great as Rickman's character in the first film. Still a solid showing, but probably my least favorite of all of them.


Title: Die Hard: With a Vengeance.

Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Larry Bryggman and Jeremy Irons.

Brief Synopsis: A criminal mastermind, Simon Gruber (Irons) has stolen gallons of a liquid bomb which is set off in downtown New York. Gruber is also holding a grudge against McClane for killing his brother, Hans. So, he enlists McClane - and later Zeus Carver (Jackson) - to play a handful of games, including riddles and math problems, in order to save a school.

Opinion: This film was highly entertaining, and although I was not sure if giving McClane a partner would work - it truly did with Jackson's performance and the two played very well against each other. Irons still wasn't up to the task of Rickman's performance, but he was very convincing as Simon. The riddles and games as a diversion was also very clever and pretty entertaining in trying to figure out along with Carver and McClane.


Title: Live Free or Die Hard.

Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Maggie Q, Kevin Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Brief Synopsis: 12 years after the last film, McClane is a police lietenant and is given the assignment of tracking down and bringing in a computer hacker, Matt Farrell (Long). What he doesn't realize is that Farrell has accidentally helped Thomas Gabriel (Olyphant) take over the world's computers - and cause a "fire sale". McClane has to keep Farrell alive, track down Gabriel and also rescue his daughter Lucy (Winstead) before Gabriel shuts down the entire coutnry.

Opinion: A bit updated as the events take place in 2006 or 2007, which was very interesting to see McClane adapt. He has never been happy with technology, and seems even further behind now. Not technically a sidekick, Long was very entertaining as Farrell - and Olyphant was a great villain, who technically thought he was a do gooder.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Double Dipping

This has never happened before.

This past weekend, my wife and I, saw two movies in the theater on the exact same day.

I know, I had to pinch myself.

After seeing a grand total of five movies in the theater last year, I am already at three for this year - and the rest of the year is looking rather promising as well.

On to the first flick.

My wife is a rather large Vin Diesel fan - and I don't mind looking at Jordana Brewster - so seeing Fast & Furious was a rather no brainer. This time around, the movie seemed to flow a lot easier with Diesel and Paul Walker back in lead roles - with no disrespect to Tyrese Gibson, but Diesel and Walker made this franchise.

I know absolutely nothing about cars, and I hate watching car racing - but something about these films really gets me going. I continually enjoy the pretty real situations that the characters find themselves in - although I am still at a loss at to where Dom (Diesel) gets his money for his cars. I mean I know he is stealing, but where is he hiding it.

Anyway, this time around Dom and Brian (Walker) find themselves looking for the same guy, Braga - and in order to get close to him they need to join his team of drug smuggling drivers. At first there is only one spot open and Dom and Brian, as well as two others, race to get selected. But another is soon opened up when another driver is caught with drugs.

Brian is out to bring Braga down for drug smuggling, while Dom is out for revenge. And the two end up helping each other along the way to get both done.

Returning from previous films are Michelle Rodriguez as Letty, Brewster as Mia Toretto and Sung Kang as Hahn.

I am still not sure if this was better than the first film, although I am definitely sure it was better than the second and the Tokyo spinoff.


The second feature we took in was a little close to our hearts, Adventureland.

This film was shot at Kennywood Amusement Park in Pittsburgh, PA. I was born there and also attended college there (as did my wife) and we had been to Kennywood on multiple occasions.

The movie is directed Greg Mottola, the same guy who directed Superbad. And although I feel Superbad was funnier, I actually felt this was a better movie as a whole.

James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is looking forward to his college graduation present of heading off to Europe, but a career change for his father thwarts his plans and he is forced to get a job. The lone job he could find, thanks to the help of a former childhood friend who still hasn't grown up Tommy Frigo (Matt Bush), is at Adventureland. Hoping to get a job in the rides department, the parks bosses, Bobby (Bill Hader) and Paulette (Kristen Wiig) feel he is much better suited for games.

Here he meets a great friend in Joel (Martin Starr) who shows him the ropes, and a girl who he begins to form a major crush on Em (Kristen Stewart).

The movie is sort of a you never know what life will throw at you sort of movie. Brennan was crushed when he couldn't go to Europe, but because of it was forced to work at this park and met a great friend and possibly the love of his life.

It was also fun to see 1980's Pittsburgh. My wife and I (okay mostly me) were trying to find certain things in the backgrounds that are mostly only in Pittsburgh. Like drinking Iron City or the Stroh's neon sign - or even the Jack Lambert jersey on one of the park patrons.

All-in-all a great film. It had all the drama, with small bits of comedy thrown in. In Superbad I think it was more a comedy with the small pieces of drama thrown in.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Baseball 2009

OK, so the 2009 Major League Baseball season started Sunday night with the Braves putting a whooping on the 2008 World Series champion Phillies.

I usually make selections with each pro season to what I think is going to happen - I am a lot closer with football and basketball, but I do try to guess on baseball and hockey.

So, here they are. My 2009 MLB playoff, world series, MVP and CY Young picks.

American League
East: Boston Red Sox
West: Anaheim Angels
Central: Chicago White Sox
Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays
MVP: B.J. Upton
CY Young: Josh Beckett

National League
East: NY Mets
West: LA Dodgers
Central: Chicago Cubs
Wild Card: Atlanta Braves
MVP: David Wright
CY Young: Johan Santana

World Series: Red Sox over Dodgers

Monday, April 6, 2009

Farewell, ER!

Yes, I do have a pair of movies that I was able to see this weekend, which I will be posting about later. And yes, it is the start of the baseball season and I have to make my horrendous selections.

But, ER closed its doors for the last time on Thursday and I thought it deserved a small blog today.

ER began way back in 1994 with the likes of George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Eriq La Salle, Noah Wyle, Julianna Margulies, Sherry Stringfield and William H. Macey patrolling the hallways. Not a single one was still around Chicago's County General, even though Wyle returned in a brief stint as the season concluded.

This show began when I was just 13 years old and has been on more than half my life - 15 years. I have to admit, I didn't watch each and every season. I believe I started watching the show and had a pretty large gap somewhere in the middle before finishing up with probably the last 5-or-6 seasons.

A lot of people say the show sort was a "spin-off" in itself as members of the original cast slowly left and were filled in with other cast members. But, in my opinion, it is sort of like a real ER - not very often do you have the same exact doctors and nurses aroudn for 15 years. There are bound to be new people, and ER continued on just like if nothing had changed.

The finale on Thursday proved that the most, as we said goodbye to the show, the show showed us that these people will continue on - without us. There were many subtle hints that reminisced about shows in the past - including the arrival of a new Dr. Greene, as Mark's daughter Rachel is all grown up and about to become a Med student.

There was no wedding, birth or funeral for everyone to come back to - the hospital wasn't closing. The finale brought back a handful of people from the original cast as Dr. Carter opened up the Carter Institute - and the ER continued on as usual behind the scenes.

I may not have stuck with the show through its entire run, but I was around for most of it. And I can tell you this, it will be very difficult not seeing it in its regular 10 p.m. slot on Thursday nights.

Thanks for the run.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quick Shots 2

Title: Crash.

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Terrance Howard, Matt Dillon, Ludacris, Brendan Fraser, Ryan Phillippe, Thandie Newton, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Esposito.

Brief Synopsis: A series of events happens throughout Los Angeles, most of which are racially motivated.

Opinion: Although it was difficult to watch all of the bigotry happening, this film did not show just one side of racism, but all sides. Whether it be an Indian man against a Latino, an African-American against a white, and vice-versa.


Title: Role Models.

Starring: Paul Rudd, Sean William Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb'e J. Thompson, Jane Lynch, Ken Jeong, Joe Lo Truglio.

Brief Synopsis: Wheeler (Scott) and Danny (Rudd) get sentenced to 150 hours of being a Big buddy to kids, or going to jail, after Danny goes insane when his girlfriend breaks up with him and he realizes his life sucks. Danny is paired with Augie Farks (Mintz-Plasse) a bit of a nerd who loves to participate in LAIRE (sort of a war renactment, only with mythical creatures). Wheeler is paired with Ronnie (Thompson) a troubled youngster whose father left him and his mother when he was younger.

Opinion: Pretty predictable storyline, two guys get stuck mentoring these two kids - they end up screwing it up somehow, and then are forced to make up for it. This particular film, however, was actually funny about it along the way. Kudos to both Ken Jeong and Joe Lo Truglio for hilarious parts during the LAIRE sequence. I found Lo Truglio's over the top Kuzzik character extremely funny.


Title: Extreme Movie.

Starring: Ryan Pinkton, Frankie Muniz, Michael Cera, Matthew Lillard, John Farley.

Brief Synopsis: Basically sex. I have no real synopsis for this movie - it was just a bunch of thrown together scenes basically.

Opinion: Horrendous. It was very difficult to actually get through. There was no real plot, it bounced around from scene to scene, and even the scenes were pretty horrendous to watch. I picked it up with Muniz and Cera being involved, but each one had a very brief scene. Not worth watching.


Title: Munich.

Starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush, Ayelet Zurer.

Brief Synopsis: This movie follows the horrible events of the Munich Olympics which members of the Israeli team were taken hostage and eventually killed by Black September. After these events, the Israeli's took matters into their own hands and this film also shows that aftermath.

Opinion: This movie was based on a true story, and based on a George Jonas novel. I am always very interested in viewing movies that are based on actual events, and this one is no different, however, it would not rate as high as some other films I have seen regarding these subjects. But, it was very telling and allowed me to gain more information about those horrible events.