Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oz: The Complete Series

No, I am not talking about that magical place Dorothy met up with the Scarecrow. And no, I am not talking about Jim Levenstein's buddy from American Pie. No, I am talking about the HBO series that ran from 1997-2003.

I had heard about the series Oz for a long time, but I had no clue what it was about. I knew that it was based in a prison and that it was pretty bad ass. Well, that is definitely true.

The term Oz comes from the name of the Oswald Correctional Facility and the "M" City started up by Tim McManus (Terry Kinney) which was nicknamed Emerald City.

In this part of the prison, prisoners live 2-by-2 in glass cells and are allowed out to mingle in a pretty up-scale (for prisons I believe) room. They do their own laundry and even have a computer room. So, a lot of the prisoners want to stay in this part of the facility.

Unfortunately, this also brings about a lot of what people fear about prisons: rape, death, drugs, etc.

The show is very eclectic in terms of characters, but we follow a handful of inmates for almost the entire run of the series.

Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) was a lawyer on the outside with a drinking problem and on one night kills a young girl when he drives drunk. He is tossed in the prison and is immediately a fish out of water.

Vern Schillinger (J.K. Simmons) runs the Aryan brotherhood in the prison and in the first episode 'rescues' Beecher from Simon Adebisi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). We soon find out that there was no rescue, but Schillinger intended to make Beecher his bitch and after burning a swastika on his ass raped him.

I don't want to make this a large posting so I will just run down some of the other major characters

  • Augustus Hill (Harold Perrineau) - provides the narration for the episodes while also being an inmate. Was paralyzed during his arrest so is in a wheelchair during the duration of the show.
  • Ryan O'Reily (Dean Winters) - an Irish inmate who likes to make trouble with everyone by joining sides with everyone.
  • Kareem Said (Eamonn Walker) - a Muslim activist who tries to rise above the violence and drug use happening in the prison.
  • Miguel Alvarez (Kirk Acevedo) - a Latino inmate who longs to belong, but also tries to straighten his life out.
  • Cyril O'Reily (Scott William Winters) - Ryan's brother who sustained a head injury and acts like an infant child.
  • Chris Keller (Chris Meloni) - Is a friend of Vern, but also becomes the on and off again boyfriend of Beecher.
Along with McManus for the good guys we are given Warden Leo Glynn (Ernie Hudson), Dr. Gloria Nathan (Lauren Velez), Sister Peter Marie (Rita Moreno) and Father Ray (B.D. Wong).

It took me a few episodes to get into this series. It comes at you awfully quick and in a weird manner with Hill's narrations. But, it was a very enjoyable series that I am glad I took the time to watch. It has a ton of violence, swearing, drug use and male nudity - so if those things bother you I would stay away. If you can handle them though I would highly recommend checking it out.

As I was watching I started to see a lot of actors that I have seen in other shows together. Here are a few that I noticed:

  • Dexter: Lauren Velez, David Zayas and Erik King.
  • Lost: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Lance Reddick, Harold Perrineau and Ken Leung.
  • The Wire: Wood Harris, J.D. Williams, Domenick Lombardozzi, Seth Gilliam, Lance Reddick, John Doman, Method Man, Clarke Peters, Reg E. Cathey, Toni Lewis, Frankie Faison, Michael Hyatt - to name the main ones.
That is all I can remember for now, but a pretty large amount of actors from the show have teamed up again on other shows - most notably on The Wire.


Friday, August 20, 2010

The Bounty Hunter

I had heard some pretty bad things about this next movie, but I try not to let others influence me on films. Then, my brother-in-law said he thought it was funny - so I figured it had to be at least some where in the middle.

And that is what it was. Just another run-of-the-mill comedy. Nothing too ground breaking here, but also not one that pained me to death either.

The Bounty Hunter is yet another romantic comedy-type film that you basically know the ending and most of the plot just by knowing what the film is about. They tried to throw a curveball or two at the audience, but in the end it was exactly what was expected.

Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler) has lost his job as police officer and has taken up bounty hunting. He has also lost his wife, Nicole Hurley (Jennifer Aniston). Hurley is a newspaper reporter on the verge of cracking a major scoop - just when she has to be in court for assaulting a police officer.

Hurley decides to go after the story instead of attend her court date and Boyd is the lucky guy who is hired to track her down.

I am not really sure what Butler is doing with his career. I think he is trying to have a Bruce Willis-type career as he is mixing both the comedy and the action films. As of now there isn't really that huge action star that we used to have in the 80s (Stallone, Van Damme, Schwarzenneger) - although if Dwayne Johnson stops doing kid films he may be next in line - so I don't know why Butler wouldn't just corner that market. That is where he succeeds.

He is ok here, but I would much rather watch him in another Law Abiding Citizen film then watching him pine after women (that is why we have people like Ryan Gosling).

Anyway, like I said a pretty basic romantic comedy that you know what will happen before the end of the opening credits. But, they all have a different way of getting there and this one was just about average.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Like I have said in the past, it is very difficult for Mrs. Kano and I to watch movies any more until after my son goes to bed. Well, he is also a fan of movies and we as parents will watch these movies with him.

Sometimes, like in the case of a Shrek or Toy Story, I don't really mind watching them - because frankly I love those movies. Still, sometimes there is that stinker like The Tooth Fairy that leaves you a little less pleased.

Last year my son and I watched the first live-action Alvin & The Chipmunks and although it wasn't amazing, it certainly wasn't an abomination either. It was actually pretty sweet and had a little bit of humor.

So, last week we tossed in the sequel (or squeakquel whatever that means), Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel and unfortunately it didn't live up the original. My son liked it, so that is what matters - but the kid in me did not (as much).

A few points that killed it for me (spoilers possible):

The subtraction without truly being subtracted of Dave (Jason Lee). In the film Dave has an accident and is forced to stay in the hospital for most of the film. Lee was probably what made the first film so interesting - so forcing him into the background was a big mistake. They 'replaced' him with cousin Toby (Zachary Levi), who just didn't live up to Lee.

Bringing back Ian (David Cross) as the villain. I mean come on - two movies and you have the exact same villain to overcome in both. I am not sure if Cross had a two picture deal or what, but there could have been a better storyline than bringing his character back.

One of the main parts of the first film was when the chipmunks help Dave get back together with his former girlfriend, Claire (Cameron Richardson). But, she is completely missing with no mention of her in the entire film.

A few things I felt worked, but with everything above didn't work as well as it should have:

The introduction of The Chipettes. Obviously if you are a fan of Alvin & The Chipmunks at all then you are familiar with The Chipettes, so it was only natural that they would be introduced at some point.

Both sets of chipmunks entering high school. Again, back to the cartoon - The Chipmunks lived life like any other kid, which included going to school. So this made sense to me - and opened up a ton of possibilities (including the sibling rivalry that become apparent with Simon and Alvin).

Look, I am not going to say don't see this film, but I felt it was sort of lazy to bring back the same exact villain as the first film (especially on the sequel immediately following that first film). Also, if you are going to have Jason Lee, why put him as a background character?


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

Let me first start off by saying that this film should have been WAY better than it turned out being.

For starters, they roped in a ton of great comedic actors and oddball types from television and film. And, for the most part, most of the ideas in the film are pretty good - they just didn't seem to follow through with the funny, which was disappointing.

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard is about a group of sniper salesman (my term) who are hired to come into an auto dealership and basically sell the place out. This is what they specialize in. The leader of the group is Entourage's Jeremy Piven, who plays Don Ready. In Ready's entourage are Jibby Newsome (Ving Rhames), Brent Gage (David Koechner) and Babs Merrick (Kathryn Hahn).

Ready is brought in by Ben Selleck (James Brolin), owner of the auto dealership over the Fourth of July weekend to sell each and every car on his lot. If Selleck is unable to sell these cars a rival salesman, Stu Harding (Alan Thicke) and his son, Paxton (Ed Helms) will take over the dealership. Another tossout, Helms' character just happens to be engaged to Selleck's daughter, Ivy (Jordana Spiro).

Like I said, a pretty bankable cast already with the funny and I haven't even mentioned that Tony Hale and Ken Jeong are part of Selleck's sales team. Or that Craig Robinson is brought in as the events disc jockey.

The premise seems great and a lot of the small things going on in the film can be funny, like Helms aspiration to become a hit boyband group, but while in his 30s. Or that Babs is really trying to score with Ivy's brother, Peter (Rob Riggle) despite the fact that he is a 10-year old with a pituitary issue.

Overall, I laughed a few times, but I have to admit I was hoping for more with the cast that was assembled. Sure, there were no A-list quality comedians in the bunch, but with the amount of second banana characters in the group it still could have been much more than it was.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gran Torino

When this first came out I really had no interest in seeing it. Even when it was getting rave reviews from people I still wanted nothing to do with it. But, it came through on my sister's netflix and we decided to watch it.

I am not sure what kept me away - perhaps it's the fact that I don't feel Clint Eastwood is a really good actor, in fact he is pretty horrible in my opinion. I have been running through his movies that I have seen in my head and I cannot come up with a single one that I have enjoyed. That could have been the driving factor of me not wanting to see this film.

But, I did anyway. And, Eastwood was again not that great of an actor - but the film around him was good enough and I was able to not let his overacting and horrible, horrible voice keep me from enjoying it.

Gran Torino is the title of the movie and a symbol to a bond that is formed throughout the film between Walt (Eastwood) and Thao (Bee Vang), a Hmong teenager who lives next door.

Walt is a Korean Wat veteran who hates pretty much all races - including his own offspring. He is basically an old crumudgeon, which is kicked into a high gear after his wife passes away.

Thao and his family move in next door to Walt, and he does his best to stay away from them and not interact. Thao's cousin is in a gang in the neighborhood and feels that Thao should join the gang as well - as a part of his initiation he must steal Walts' Gran Torino. Walt catches him, however, and Thao's family insists that Walt use him as a laborer to help repay and regain respect to their name.

Thao's sister, Sue (Ahney Her), also befriends Walt and puts up with all of his racist comments and horrible attitude. Walt even begins to enjoy her company - although I doubt he'd admit that. Sue was a standout character for me and I really enjoyed the acting job by Ahney Her.

Anyway, the rest of the story is about the bonding between a racist old man and his Hmong teenage neighbor. There are definitely a lot of subplots that occur throughout the film that are all pretty interesting, but that is the main one.

I would say this is a pretty enjoyable film and I can definitely relate - I know a ton of older gentlemen that act about the same as Walt does in this film. It's good to see that a leopard can change its spots.

Probably my favorite Eastwood film - acting wise. I have still not seen (but I will) his other films that he has directed.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

I have a question - when did Matthew McConaughey decide to strictly do these romantic comedies?

I mean, he has some quality films in his resume - namely Dazed & Confused and A Time to Kill - not to mention a lesser known film Frailty. But, for every one of those films he makes there seems to be at least three romantic comedies. Is it the southern drawl that brings the ladies in?

Anyway, here he is again in the film Ghosts of Girlfriends Past - which is an updated and modified version of A Christmas Carol.

McConaughey stars as Connor Mead, a high-profile photographer who has become a womanizer and basically modeled his entire existence after his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas).

Mead heads back to his uncle's old house as his younger brother, Paul (Breckin Meyer) is getting married to Sandra (Lacey Chabert). One of Sandra's bridesmaids just so happens to be a woman that Mead dated and left - and was also his best friend as a child - Jenny (Jennifer Garner).

As he begins to get those old feelings again for Jenny, he is visited by three separate ghosts a la Ebenezer Scrooge.

For me, it was the ghosts that truly made this film passable. They were extremely funny - especially the ghost of girls past, Allison (Emma Stone). Allison was Mead's first conquest back in high school.

Of course, the rest of the film is rather predictable as we see into Mead's past to find out why exactly he became the way he did. And, is it possible that he can change just like Scrooge did in A Christmas Carol?

Again, most of these films - in different ways - almost always end up telling the same story, so nothing should be a surprise when the ending comes. However, some do end up telling the story in a good way - and like I said, the ghosts definitely made this film somewhat enjoyable, but without them it probably wouldn't have gotten as high of a grade (and no the grade was not planned).