Thursday, May 31, 2012

32/50x2: All the President's Men

This is yet another one of the films I selected that is based on true events. Over the years I have sort of learned more and more about this scandal, so a lot of what I watched I already knew.

All the President's Men focuses on Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), journalists from the Washington Post. Woodward finds out about a story involving the Watergate complex where five men had broken in and were attempting to bug the place.

With little information, Woodward begins to do a little digging and the Post teams him up with Bernstein, who at the time wasn't as well known as Woodward. The two clashed as partners, but worked extremely well together.

They, of course, were investigating and reporting on the Watergate Scandal, that eventually the two reporters - with the help of inside man known only at the time as Deep Throat - were able to connect some very high up people in politics, including the President of the United State, Richard Nixon.

The film was definitely interesting. It gave us the inside story of Woodward and Bernstein and the way that they took such a small lead and were able to dig and find information to take down the most powerful man in the country.

It was a bit extra interesting for me being a person who works at a newspaper. Now, granted, I work in the sports department so I have to do very little of this kind of journalism, but ethics do come into question on occasion. It's nice to see the struggle of the journalists and the editors as they had to decide what they could and couldn't report based on the information, and even the type of information that they had received. A nice, inside look at that.

Truly loved both Hoffman and Redford's work in this film. Being someone who really doesn't look at a ton of old movies, I can see the real appeal of those two actors even more now.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

31/50x2: Rescue Dawn

When this film was first released I really wanted to see it. It was right around the time that Christian Bale was becoming (or cementing himself as) a pretty top-notch actor. Plus, for the most part, war films are usually done rather well.

Rescue Dawn stars Bale as Dieter Dengler, who is German-born but is a U.S. Navy pilot. During a mission his plane is shot down over Laos. He is captured, but given the opportunity to go free if he signs a document against the United States - he refuses so he is sent to a prisoner of war camp.

Here he meets a few other P.O.W.'s from around the world, including Americans Gene DeBruin (Jeremy Davies) and Duane W. Martin (Steve Zahn), who have been captive for a few years now - and so they are a bit stir crazy.

The camp is pretty strict with guards with guns walking around 24/7. At night the prisoners are even locked up by their hands and feet and forced to lay on the wooden floor of their "cell".

Immediately after being taken to the camp, Dengler begins his plans for escaping, despite the concerns of the other captives who have been beaten down both physically and mentally during their time at the camp. But, the others agree to help once Dengler comes up with a plan.

Possible Spoilers Ahead

Dengler and the others eventually do escape, but a few of the other captives don't follow Dengler's plans and thus both he and Martin are forced to trek though the jungle without any shoes because one of the men didn't grab some for them.

This is sort of where things get annoying for me. I was all ready for the small group of people that escaped to work their way through the jungle and to possible safety - with of course obstacles along the way - but they all split up and Dengler and Martin head of together without anyone else.

In fact, we never hear or see from any of the other characters at all, not even at the conclusion of the film. That irritated me. I wanted to know what happened to Davies' character. Did he make it? Was he killed or recaptured? But, we got nothing.

Then comes the strange occurrence at one of the villages that the pair we do get to follow come across. The two get on their knees in hopes that the villagers will see that they are not threatening and will offer them food and shelter. But, instead, one of the villagers chops off Martin's head. At first I thought this was all a dream or mirage that one the guys was thinking about. And I got even more confused when not much time later we actually see Martin walk up and sit down next to Dengler - but no, that was the actual mirage, the dude was killed, decapitated.

And, the decapitation looked horrible and fake.

As much as I would love to actually love this movie. As much as I enjoyed the acting and all of the main actors. I just could not get past some of these things at the end of the film. It's two hours long and almost immediately are dropped into this camp and get to know the prisoners there - but no closure is given on more than half of them. That truly bugged me.

Bale, Davies and Zahn gave top-notch performances, but the overall film left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I can't hate it completely, but it drops my grade because of it.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

30/50x2: Team America: World Police

When South Park originally came out I was all-in. It was a long time ago now, but I remember recording the episodes on a VHS tape (yes kids, that was before DVDs and DVRs). Those first few seasons were pretty amazing.

But, I sort of fell out of love with South Park, but I absolutely loved South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Even with my fondness for that film it took me until now to fully embrace and watch (force myself to watch) their 2004 film.

Team America: World Police was created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker (or the guys who brought you South Park and the underrated BASEketball). Here instead of horrible looking animation, the creators bring you an entire film of marionettes. I'll definitely give Stone and Parker some credit, they are definitely ambitious.

The film itself is sort an attack on everyone - which is what Stone and Parker do so well. They make fun of and show their hatred for the world's dictators like Kim Jong-Il and Saddam Hussein, but also in a not-so-subtle way show the United States is being hated for being the "World Police".

The plot itself is a group of individuals work under the banner I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E., five members all with a different set of skills and whose home base is inside of Mount Rushmore. They are dispatched whenever the world needs saving.

During one such mission, a member of their team is killed and the group is in need of another member. Their leader, Spottswoode, recruits an actor named Gary who has a background in foreign languages. His belief is that Gary would be able to infiltrate different terrorist organizations and find out their secrets.

At this time, Jong-Il also happens to be planning a large world attack with other terrorist nations. So, it is up to the new Team America to gel quickly - even though most of the members are against the inclusion of Gary - and stop the world's terrorist from destroying the planet.

Crazy. Something completely insane it could never possibly work. But, it did. You almost forget while watching that you are watching puppets perform. Not only that, but there are so many real-life people as puppets in this film - whether it be the terrorists from the world or actors like Alec Baldwin or Matt Damon - that it actually feels like it's them (at times of course, I'm not crazy).

I really enjoyed it. I may have given up on South Park, but whenever Parker and Stone come up with another hair-brained idea for a movie, I will definitely check it out - eventually.


Tuesday's With Movies: 5/29/12

Man on a Ledge: I have seen the trailers a dozen times, but nothing in them screamed that I had to see this movie. After reading more about it, I may need to check it out. I am a sucker for heist films and this one looks like it may be different than all the rest out there. So, probably will check it out.

Coriolanus: I really have no idea what this movie is about, even after reading some things about it. This is one I have not seen anything about leading up to its release on DVD. Apparently based on one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays. As of right now, not looking to see it.

Gone: This stars Amanda Seyfried, who I guess is the hot new it girl, and is about a kidnapping and her trying to track down who kidnapped her sister. Might be interesting enough for me to at least give it a chance.

Goon: So, this is a hockey movie - which is a sport I am not really that into. Plus, it appears to be about the one part of hockey that I truly can't stand - the fighting. But, I am still really looking forward to seeing it. Looks like it may be funny and is about an underdog trying to succeed. Definitely in.

We Need to Talk About Kevin: About a mother and son - a son who at a young age showed signs of being a  little different and as he grew, showed even more signs of aggression. The mother can see these problems and grows to despise her son, while the father plays it off. This all culminates in a large 'incident'. Nope, not interested in checking this out - but apparently I am not alone as it made less than $2 million dollars in North America.

Memorial Day: With the holiday weekend fast approaching, why not put a film out that shares in its name? James Cromwell stars in the film as a war veteran who is very tight lipped about his time in the service. His grandson finds a box with his grandfather's things from the war inside - and his grandfather says he can select three items and he will tell them all about it. Probably won't check it out - but after reading about it, I like it more than when I first discovered the name of the film.

Monday, May 28, 2012

29/50x2: Eight Men Out

I had heard about this scandal for years, and it is sort of depicted in a small way in Field of Dreams but here we get an entire movie about it.

Warning: Filled with spoilers, obviously.

In 1919 the Chicago White Sox were quite possibly the greatest baseball team ever assembled, especially at that point in time. Eight Men Out shows that some of the players on the team agree to fix the World Series of that year and allow the Cincinnati Reds to win in order to make extra money.

The team is owned by Charles Comiskey (Clifton James), who is notoriously cheap when it comes to his players and rewarding them for their strong play. A few gambling men, Arnold Rothstein (Michael Lerner) and Bill Burns (Christopher Lloyd), agree to pay a few of the players more than they would make if they won the World Series to throw it - and thus the fix was in.

Star, but aging, pitcher Eddie Cicotte (David Stratharn) agrees to the fix and, although he had won 29 games during the year, loses his first two starts of the World Series. Other players like Lefty Williams (James Read), Swede Risberg (Don Harvey), Hap Felsch (Charlie Sheen) and Chick Gandil (Michael Rooker) are also along with the fix.

Cicotte's mind was easily made up after he was benched for rest the final two weeks of the season upon winning his 29th game. Cicotte had a clause in his contract that would have awarded him $10,000 if he won 30 games, but Comiskey ordered him to sit and thus allowing him not to pay Cicotte the bonus.

But, eight men in all are said to be included in the scam, including Buck Weaver (John Cusack) and Shoeless Joe Jackson (D.B. Sweeney). The White Sox lose the series to the Reds, five game to three, and at the conclusion the newspaper reveals that the series may not have been played on the level - thus beginning a search of the team and an eventual trial.

Players Williams and Cicotte sign confessions, and Jackson signs one as well despite not knowing what he was signing due to his inability to read. Weaver, however, maintains that he was never in on the fix and all of the players fight the accusations.

Though found not guilty the eight players are banned from ever playing professional baseball again. Weaver, though, continued to fight for his reinstatement up to his death in 1956.

This was an interesting telling of the story, one that obviously has many different points and sides to it. This story points to Comiskey as the villain - and we all know that despite their large salaries the real money makers in professional sports continue to be the owners.

The story mostly focuses on Weaver and Cicotte with a bit of Jackson and his homelife thrown in as well. The others that are part of the scandal are mostly window dressing, though we see players like Gandil being one of the main ringleaders.

I am not 100 percent sure how accurate the portrayals are of the athletes, but I found it interesting that Jackson was unable to read and really played up to be a simple person who really just loved playing baseball and that was all that he knew - and because of that was taken advantage of in situations.

It was a very fascinating depiction, though we don't really get an answer to the tale - but that isn't the filmmakers fault, because honestly there is no true answer. We do know that some of the players were in on the fix, but how many and who will always be a mystery.


Friday, May 25, 2012

28/50x2: Fletch

After hearing about this film over and over again, mostly due to a nickname, I had to give it a try. Again, due to its age I had pretty much known most of what went on in the film, but never actually sat down to watch it in its entirety.

Chevy Chase stars as the titular character in Fletch. Fletch is a reporter for a newspaper. He will do almost anything to get the story, including going undercover.

As we find him pretending to be a homeless man to try and get the story on a drug trade. As he is undercover, though, he is approached by Alan Stanwyk (Tim Matheson), a rich man who says he has cancer and wants Fletch to murder him so his family will get the life insurance - unaware that Fletch is actually a reporter and not a homeless man.

Fletch actually agrees to help Stanwyk once he is offered a large sum of money to do the job, but as a reporter he becomes increasingly suspicious of Stanwyk's motives and begins to do a little digging - uncovering a whole mess of things about both Stanwyk and the drug trade he was originally pursuing.

Of course, there also happens to be a love interest for Fletch - this one comes in the form of Stanwyk's wife, Gail (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson).

Did I enjoy the film? Yes. Would I have enjoyed the film a lot more had I seen it in its entirety around the time it first came out? Most definitely.

I think it felt a bit dated to me. The references and the dream sequences that featured Fletch playing for the Lakers - featuring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who retired in 1989 - were just way too dated for this movie to be truly appreciated for a first-time watcher.

But, I did feel it was an interesting film and the comedy was pretty good. The type of comedy one has come to expect from Chase - he has certainly made a darn good living doing it.

I like it, but I didn't love it.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

27/50x2: Finding Neverland

The creation of a story, a film or an idea can sometimes even be more fulfilling than the finished project. But, what if the finished project is an iconic masterpiece known to everyone in the world? Would that story still be interesting?

Well, in Finding Neverland it certainly was. J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) had just wrapped up the play called 'Little Mary', which became a serious flop. Barrie heads off to a park to think and finds himself becoming wrapped up with the Davies family.

This family consists of four boys (most notably Freddie Highmore as Peter) and their mother Sylvia (Kate Winslet). The boys allow Barrie to act like a kid again and go on many adventures together. Barrie's wife, Mary (Radha Mitchell) and the boys' grandmother, Emma (Julie Christie), do not agree with the amount of time that Barrie is spending with the family. Especially since Sylvia is suffering from an unknown illness that she is desperately trying to keep from the children.

But, Barrie has given the children something they need - a sort of surrogate father figure - while also supplying friendship and companionship to Sylvia, but they are also giving Barrie something he needed as well - the inspiration to write what is now known as Peter Pan.

Barrie, however, needs to coax the producer, Charles (Dustin Hoffman), into allowing him to show the play as it is not something that the upperclass, stuffy people would usually enjoy. Barrie has a plan up his sleeve, though, as he brings children from a nearby orphanage and scatters them throughout the crowd to watch the production. And as the children react to the play - the adults react as well. 

The film is said to be semi-autobiographical so I am not sure how much of the story is true, but I was definitely enthralled by the performances of Depp, Winslet and Highmore. They were all at the top of their game.

Kind of nice to know that the play/film about a boy who never wanted to grow up - came from a man who loved acting like a kid.

Also, kudos to Hoffman for returning to the Peter Pan franchise. Of course, he played Capt. Hook in Hook years earlier.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

26/50x2: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

It's sad really, that I had to put a film like this on a list for me to actually force myself to sit down and watch it. I am a big fan of science fiction, extraterrestrials and, for the most part, enjoy the work of Steven Spielberg.

So, I should have seen this film in the 90s when I started really getting into movies, but alas, I did not. And, it sort of kept getting pushed back until it got to the point where I needed an excuse to get me to watch it. And, I finally did.

Warning: Contains Spoilers

Close Encounters of the Third Kind stars Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary is a family man from Indiana, who works as an electrical lineman. One night bright lights pass by him, so bright in fact that it leaves burn marks on the side of his face.

Roy wasn't the only person to witness this experience, as he is one of a few dozen that begin to have visions and odd experiences. Roy becomes so infatuated with UFOs and an image of a mountain that his wife, Ronnie (Teri Garr) leaves him and takes their three children with her.

Roy forms a bit of a bound with another woman, Jillian (Melinda Dillon) and her small son as the three of them have shared this experience together.

On a television broadcast, Roy and Jillian see a train wreck at Devil's Town and begin to realize that the mountain image in his head is real - so they start heading towards the area. As many others are stopped by the Army, the two of them are persistent and manage to make their way up the mountain in time for the arrival of the UFOs.

As the UFO lands, dozens of people exit the ship - including Jillian's son who was taken earlier - as well as pilots from a Flight 19 that had disappeared years before, only they had not aged a bit.

Roy is selected to be apart of a few scientific members to possibly join the aliens on their UFO. Roy ends up being the lone person the aliens select to join them and he walks with them onto the alien spacecraft.

Of course, I knew what most of this film was about. It was nice to fill in a lot of the missing pieces though. I had seen many of the iconic scenes, including the potato mountain and the lights/music that is played to try and communicate with the aliens. And, I have seen many of these same scenes parodied more than a dozen times in other films.

But, it was great to finally see the film in its entirety. Though it is from the 70s (releasing the same year as Star Wars) it sort of holds up. I mean sure, you can tell it was filmed in the 70s, but the overall premise is still fun to watch to this day - and the special effects aren't too bad either.

The film itself is iconic, so of course I went in with high expectations, which usually presents the death of a film because it can't live up to those expectations. Here, though it may not have lived up to them, it certainly didn't fall that far from it. It was a very well done film and certainly entertaining - I am sure in the 70s this was even more breathtaking to look at then it is now.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

25/50x2: St. Elmo's Fire

I guess I should sort of be a shamed of myself. I didn't realize just how many of these Brat Pack films I had never seen before. In my last group I took down the Molly Ringwald-led films, Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles.

I was not that big a fan of Pretty in Pink, but Sixteen Candles was a fun watch. I would say St. Elmo's fire fell somewhere in the middle of the two.

We have a few of the returning parties from the earlier films, but here they are college graduates (Georgetown) instead of still in high school. And the tone of the movie has changed due to their maturity as well - it is a bit darker than the high school films.

So, the film follows seven friends: Jules (Demi Moore), Billy (Rob Lowe), Alec (Judd Nelson), Leslie (Ally Sheedy), Wendy (Mare Winningham), Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) and Kirby (Emlio Estevez).

All of them are friends from college and the film is basically about their coming of age and their struggles to make it in the adult world. Which, despite the 80s feel of the film, is actually right on point for all college graduates or anyone trying to make it as an adult.

Alec is a politician who is in a relationship with Leslie, and is constantly trying to get her to marry him. But, she keeps turning him down - which he uses as an excuse to cheat on her.

Wendy is the virgin of the group, who is very shy and comes from a wealthy family. She also happens to be in love with Billy, who is the black sheep of the group. He is married, but is a terrible a husband and father - he spends most of his time partying and sleeping around.

Jules is probably the counter part to Billy, a pretty big partier in her own right. She also happens to have a few bad habits in her life, like spending money she doesn't have and doing a bit too much cocaine.

Kirby is working tables at the bar, St. Elmo's Fire, while trying to put himself through law school to become a lawyer. He develops a bit of an obsession with Dale Biberman (Andie MacDowell), an intern at the local hospital.

Kevin is a writer and works for a newspaper, but his only job is writing obituaries. He is the lover of the group, but never has a girlfriend, so most of his friends suspect him to be gay, despite the fact that he may in fact be in love with one of his friends.

That is pretty much the outline of the characters. A lot goes on throughout the film, and it does take some pretty dark turns with many of them. But, it shows the strength in friendships and having people in your life who will always be there for you - no matter what.

I think I enjoyed Sixteen Candles much more because of the coming-of-age story and the film had some pretty good comedy in it. Here we don't really get as much comedy, it is a pretty straight-forward drama. But, still a decent watch - even though I don't think I would run to watch it again.


Tuesday's With Movies: 5/22/12

Red Tails: Sort of interesting that huge rise of Cuba Gooding, Jr. about a decade ago now only for him to fall just as fast he rose. I have nothing against the guy, in fact I actually enjoy him - so I do hope he can somehow make it back up to at least B-list actor. This film actually looks somewhat compelling, a reminder of what is probably a greater film in Glory. But, I will check it out.

This Means Wars: Well, I have already seen this one. In fact, here is my review. A lot more fun than I originally thought it was going to be. So, now that it is on DVD perhaps a good chance for others to check it out.

The Woman in Black: My mother actually went to the theater to see this - twice. And her horror/ghost tolerance is much less than mine. So, I have no doubt that this is one of those films I would have no issues watching due to any of those reasons. Though, that is not what is keeping me back. It's just that the trailer and all that I know hasn't pulled me in. Perhaps some day down the line.

Monday, May 21, 2012

24/50x2: In Bruges

When I first started watching this I could have sworn it was a Harry Potter reunion party. Almost like someone said, "Hey, there is this film being made over here. We can do it in between shots." And a bunch of them listened.

So, In Bruges is about a pair of hitmen, Ray (Colin Farrell), who is very new to the job and his partner, Ken (Brendan Gleeson), who has been around for awhile.

After a job, the two are sent to Bruges by their boss, Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) and told to wait there until he contacts them with further instructions.

For Ken, it is great. He takes in the sights and actually enjoys being on leave. Ray, though, has been dealing with the previous job where in he accidentally killed a young child during it.

He befriends Chloe (Clemence Poesy), who he believes is working on a movie being filmed locally, but as it turns out she is a drug dealer and thief. But the two actually hit it off quite well.

Still, he can't seem to shake the murder of the child. Ken receives a call from Harry and is given his next assignment - to kill Ray. Apparently there is a code for killers as well - there is no forgiveness of killing a child. Ken follows Ray to a local park and watches him - just as he is about to sneak up on him and put a bullet in his head, Ray pulls a gun up to his own head and is about to commit suicide, but Ken stops him.

Ken puts Ray on a train and tells him not to return. He would deal with Harry.

The next part of the film is Harry coming after both Ken and Ray to clean up their mistakes, and it is actually a pretty fun and wild ride.

I say this is a bit of a Harry Potter reunion because it has three of its stars in it. Poesey played Fleur, Gleeson, of course, was Mad Eye and everyone knows Fiennes was Voldemort.

It was fun seeing all of them together again. And in such a different type of film. This was mostly a dramatic film, with some high points of action and some good comedy sprinkled throughout. As I said, a fun little ride for a film that sort of flew under the radar upon its release.


Community: Season Three

Let me first start out by saying that I am so incredibly happy/excited that Community was picked up for a fourth, albeit just 13 episodes, season.

Though it was banished to the Friday night schedule part of me has hope that the large amount of fans, much like Fringe that was also sent to Friday and has stayed there for a handful of seasons, will follow it there (and maybe even pickup a few more now that it's out of Big Bang Theory's shadow) and not only force NBC to give it a few more seasons, but also pickup the back nine episodes for season four. One can only hope.

Plus, there is the added Chevy Chase/Dan Harmon feud that, in my opinion, made NBC let Harmon go as showrunner. The new showrunners are supposed to make it more appealing to a wider audience - which I hope doesn't mean the show I love will cease to exist the way it truly should. I think Chase has done a great job on Community but out of the cast, he may be the lone member that could be let go and the show would still remain the same as it always was. I guess we shall see how things look in the fall.

Now, season three. We had to wait until March to finally get more Community and I definitely wore out my Hulu Plus watching the previous seasons during that lost time.

I actually feel like the show got off to a rocky start. Sure, it was still funny and better than most shows on television, but it was lacking from what I come to expect from Community. I was excited for the guest stars, John Goodman and Michael K. Williams. But, even those came in with a whimper and didn't truly take off until the final part of the season.

And, the final part of the season was epic just like the first two seasons.

One of the great things about Community is that it can do these 'themed' shows that are so amazing, yet still use them in the course of the overall show.

"Basic Lupine Urology" was an episode that revolved entirely around Law and Order. The study groups yam is killed and because Annie can't see herself getting a grade lower than an A she gets the others to find out how the yam was killed. In this episode we finally get that great Michael K. Williams guestspot.

The final three episodes of the season that all aired over an hour and a half on the same night were possibly the greatest of the season.

The first was another great 'theme' episode entitled "Digital Estate Planning" and almost the entire episode takes place in an 8-bit video game. Breaking Bad's badguy Giancarlo Esposito steps in as Pierce's dad's assistant who will hand over the Hawthorne Wipes fortune to Pierce, if he is the first to defeat the video game.

In the final two episodes we get resolution on Chang taking over the school and the Greendale Seven being expelled. We also receive a visit from alternate timeline Evil Abed.

The final of the three episodes almost wraps up the season as if this would be the final show of the series. And it sort of touches you that way as well. But, now that the show has finally gotten the pickup it deserved, perhaps the flashes that we see at the conclusion of this episode will be intertwined in the story lines of season four.


PS- I have to admit that I am definitely Team Annie (if I were a teenage girl and actually used terms like that), but I definitely had the gaga eyes for Britta when she was dressed in goth. I don't know why, but it worked.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday's With Movies: 5/15/12

One For the Money: Katherine Heigl has to be in a good movie sooner or later, right? I doubt this will be it considering I don't recall hearing much about it, and if she stood out in a film I think I would hear about it. But, she keeps getting chances, so perhaps one day she will succeed. Still, she probably should have stayed on television - she really had a good thing going there. I am sure I will at least check this out, some time.

The Grey: Liam Neeson has really become a go-to-guy for action roles of late. And, he seems to choose a lot of great films. I am really interested in checking this one out. I loved The A-Team and Taken was a great ride. Looking forward to this one.

Chronicle: I really had no interest in checking this one out. Looked like another found footage type film and honestly it looked pretty juvenile. But, I watched some of the later trailers interesting enough and I heard some great reviews - and now I am actually looking forward to checking it out.

Rampart: Lately I have really taking a liking to Woody Harrelson again, and I am glad he has been doing so many decent films. This one looks interesting and the part looks like it was perfect for Harrelson. That alone got me interested in seeing it, but we also get the Foster brothers. Ben and his younger brother Jon are both in this film - so now even more interested.

Monday, May 14, 2012

23/50x2: 300

I think I probably should have watched this when all of the hype was out around it. Because, I honestly didn't really see the appeal. I mean it was a decent enough watch, but was I missing the amazingness that everyone saw when this first came out?

So, 300 stars Gerard Butler as King Leonidas. The film follows him from when he was a young child and becomes a great warrior, and eventually the king of Sparta.

One afternoon a messenger approaches Sparta, Leonidas and his wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) to demand the submission Sparta to King Xerxes. Of course, Leonidas refuses and kills the messenger. Expecting Xerxes and the Persians to attack, Leonidas recruits 300 spartans and sets off to attack the Persians themselves.

Leonidas knows this will be a suicide mission for almost all that have volunteered, but he hopes that this will bond the council and stop the Persian attack.

Back in Sparta, Gorgo is trying to help her husband and is approaches by Theron (Dominic West) who says he will persuade the council to send more soldiers to help Leonidas if she will give herself to him.

Again, this is pretty much the entire film. Sure it looks nice and there is a ton of great action to watch, but it just didn't do a whole lot for me.

I did enjoy seeing West in something again. He has done so little since his time on The Wire and he is pretty good here in a small role. I also enjoyed Headey as the queen - those were probably my two favorite characters. Leonidas, or Butler, was just way over the top. Butler has been decent in most roles I have seen, but this was supposed to be his top role, but I was not that large a fan of the role.


Friday, May 11, 2012

For Your Consideration

The Lammy's are here again. Please think of me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

22/50x2: Go

I really enjoy films (and even television shows) that show different points of view or different stories that all come together in the end in some way, shape or form.

Of course, it helps when the story is interesting and the conclusion comes together well.

Go worked in all of those ways. The film follows three different storylines, the one of Ronna (Sarah Polley), the one of Simon (Desmond Askew) and the one of Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr).

It all starts with the fact that Ronna is about to get evicted from her apartment and so close to Christmas Eve. Ronna, Simon and Claire (Katie Holmes) all work in a local grocery store. When Simon hears of Ronna's need for extra cash, he offers up one of his shifts at the store. Of course, he has selfish motives at hand as well, as he wants to head to Vegas with his friends.

While working in the store a couple of guys, Adam and Zack, ask where Simon is. Simon is a drug dealer on the side and they are looking to score some ecstasy. Looking for some easy money, Ronna offers to help them out and agrees to meet them later with the drugs.

What Ronna doesn't know, though, is that Adam and Zack are actually a couple of soap opera actors who were busted for possession and are now helping Burke (William Fichtner) track down Simon.

Ronna, Claire and Mannie (Nathan Bexton) travel to Simon's drug supplier's house, Todd (Timothy Olyphant) to try and get him to allow her to sell this one time. She doesn't, however, have enough money o purchase the amount of drugs they want, and as collateral leaves Claire behind until she can make the deal.

This is pretty much the main storyline and the other two weave their way back into this one. So, I will leave it at that.

Let's just say that things sort of go wrong completely for each person who is the lead in each storyline. But, it is definitely interesting, and pretty fun, to see how things come together in the end and how things end.

I actually found it quite interesting that in a movie with so many actors that we have come to know, two lesser knowns actually have the lead roles. I can't for the life of me recall another Sarah Polley or Desmond Askew film. I didn't even mention that actors Taye Diggs and Breckin Meyer are heavily featured in Simon's story, and a much younger Melissa McCarthy and Jane Krakowski were featured Zack and Adam's story.

As I said, it was an interesting film and a great way to tell the story with three separate stories. I very compelled to see where everything was going, and it didn't disappoint.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

21/50x2: 127 Hours

I guess I should rethink my original thought that I would not like a movie where one character is the one and only focal point throughout. Granted the amount of those films I have seen is sparse, but out of those films I have seen I have enjoyed each of them.

The first, of course, being Cast Away and my love for Tom Hanks could have easily allowed me to overlook that he was the only one on the screen for a good portion of the film. But, after watching Buried it is possible that I may actually enjoy this type of films.

Finally, I watched 127 Hours and although I think James Franco is a fine actor and certainly growing with each role, I never thought that a film consisting mainly of him would hold my interest. But, it did and again I was proven wrong.

Franco stars as Aron Ralston. who is really an outdoorsman and loves hitting the mountains and canyons just for a hike. On this day, Ralston is heading to Utah's Canyonlands National Park. While hiking, he comes across two young ladies, Kristi (Kate Mara) and Megan (Amber Tamblyn) who appear to be lost. Ralston presents himself as an expert and the two follow him and manage to find a small little oasis underneath the rocks where they all go swimming.

About to say their goodbyes, Kristi and Megan invite Ralston to a party they are having the next night. Of course, they don't expect him to attend.

They part ways and Ralston heads back to the hike and heads to Blue John Canyon. While trying to get through a narrow passage a boulder comes loose and Ralston falls into the canyon. To make matters worse, the boulder falls right behind him and it appears he will be crushed by it. But, the boulder becomes wedged between the two walls and Ralston is spared - except for the fact that his arm is now pinned between the wall and the boulder.

Unable to free himself, Ralston is now trapped inside this canyon where absolutely no one knows where he is except the two girls he met on his hike - who never expect to see him again.

The rest of the film shows Ralston trying to keep himself alive using only the items he has in his backpack for his hike. It also shows how the mind works when you are alone, dehydrated and scared for your life.

Again, I was surprised by my enjoyment of this film and how well Franco was able to hold my interest alone for such a long period of time. Granted the movie itself is only about 97 minutes long, but we are alone with him for most of it - and we remain interested and concerned for his well being.

This was based off a true story, so going in I knew the outcome - yet still I was interested in seeing how things were pulled off. And, even despite me knowing the outcome, they still pranked me during one scene - I admit I was confused, but I understood once the movie rolled one.


Tuesday's With Movies: 5/8/12

Underworld: The Awakening: I have thought about checking this series out on numerous occasions, but I have never gotten around to it. I am sure at some point I will give it a look. This one's trailer looks a little more like something I may not actually watch, but if I like the others then I will give this one a try as well.

Genesis Code: I have never heard of this movie until I saw it was being released. And, even after looking it up I still have no real idea what it is about. Apparently a movie that dives into science vs. religion. Yeah, I'll pass.

The Vow: Mrs. Kano asked me just the other day if this one would be coming to us. So, I guess she is interested in it. Looks to me like a mashup of The Notebook and Dear, John also two movies I have yet to see. Even stars one actor from each movie. She will probably check it out, I need to watch The Notebook in my next 50 list - if I like it I will come back to this one.

Mother's Day: No, this is not the next film in Garry Marshal's series behind Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve. But, I may have given it a chance if it was. This is a thriller/horror film, one that doesn't really look to be up my ally. So, I will also pass on this one.

Monday, May 7, 2012

HOT: A League of Their Own

I am glad that I did this little Hanks-O-Thon. Not only because I finally get to see movies I have not seen before (this is not one of those) and not only because I get to see films from Tom Hanks that I truly love, but haven't watched in a while. But, watching these films for the first time in the order in which he made them I get to see Hanks become the actor I love.

This was where things began to turn for Hanks. You can tell the actor he is becoming, the actor that will win Oscars, this is where that begins.

A League of Their Own isn't even about Hanks' character. The film is about the first women's baseball league that was created during World War II when the men of baseball were thrust into duty. Instead of shutting down baseball all together, the owners came up with the idea of allowing women to play the game.

This film follows two sisters, Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty). Hinson is a married women (as she tells us many time throughout the film) to a solider, Bob (Bill Pullman). He is an assistant manager at the dairy, but is over seas in the war. Keller is single and Dottie's younger sister. She feels lost in Dottie's shadow and is looking to branch out on her own.

They both play for a local softball team and Dottie ends up hitting the game-winning hit while a scout, Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz) is looking for girls to tryout for this new baseball league. Dottie of course refuses, but Kit is raring to go. Capadino, though, wants nothing to do with her - he wants the talent. But, as he is saying goodbye he touches her arm - and thinks she may just be able to be a pitcher. He says she can go as long as Dottie comes too.

Well, Kit convinces Dottie to make the trip and both of them make the Rockford Peaches, one of four teams in the league that is forming. They are joined by a number of girls, but Mae Mordabito (Madonna) and Doris Murphy (Rosie O'Donnell) stick out the most.

The league is overseen by Ira Lowenstein (David Strathairn) who gets the job from one of the owners, Walter Harvey (Garry Marshall). Harvey is the one who hires Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) as the Peaches manager. Dugan is a former baseball player, who was actually very talented, but developed a serious drinking problem and drank himself out of the league - especially after he fell and ruined the cartilage in his knee.

Dugan takes the job because he needs the money, but spends the first part of the movie drunk and pretty much passed out on the bench during games - so Dottie does most of the managing.

Something, though, changes and Dugan begins taking things a little more serious. He forms a bond with Dottie and she does her best to sober him up a bit.

The main conflict, though, despite the issue of selling women's baseball to the public is the relationship between Dottie and Kit. Dottie continues to overshadow her little sister and has become the face of the league and its best player. After a few squabbles, Dottie threatens to quit just before the playoffs unless she is traded to another team - but the team trades Kit instead, to rival Racine.

I hadn't watched this film in its entirety for awhile and I forgot just how great it was. Sure a few things didn't really make sense - like a baseball league with four teams and Rockford finally making the playoffs, of course they did. But, the acting is definitely superb. The relationships between all of the characters are outstanding. Davis and Petty did a great job at playing sisters and the bond formed between Davis and Hanks seemed so natural.

Hanks really knocked it out of the park with this one. His metamorphosis from drunk, chauvinistic former ball player into an actual manager for this group of ladies was outstanding and he played both sides of the coin so well. Another thing that stands out was O'Donnell (and Madonna to a lesser extent). You tend to forget with all of the controversy surrounding her that she was once a talented actress, and this may be one of her best roles. She really played the baseball player with a big mouth well.

When I first watched this movie, I guess when it first came out, I was always on the side of Kit and even had a bit of a crush on Petty. But, watching it again I see that her character was actually a whiny, younger sibling who blamed almost everything that doesn't go her way on Dottie, despite Dottie trying to help her succeed. I guess that's just the older sibling in me finally noticing that. But, now I was on Team Dottie.

It also takes a ton for me to get a bit misty eyed. I don't really cry, but I do get a bit choked up every now and then, and this film always seems to do that to me. I found myself feeling that same way despite seeing this so many times - it still gets me.

Despite my love for Hanks and having enjoyed a lot of his previous films, this is the one where he jumps into superstar actor for me. And we are about to go on a run of spectacular films in his career, so stay tuned.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Theater Review: The Avengers

Not only was I able to get out and see a brand, spanking new movie, but I was able to see it on opening weekend. And, I am actually going to post something on it the very same day I watched it.

I know, alert the newspapers.

Now, this is one of the films this summer that everyone and their brother is going to see. So I will not bore you with a running plot, and I really hate doing that for new movies anyway.

The Avengers has been a film that has been in the eyes of the movie studios since they even thought up Iron Man a few years back. This is where they wanted to end up, and thanks to the films leading up to it (the Iron Man series, Thor and Captain America) and their success, it has gained a huge following.

People were going to come out and see it. That was pretty much a given, and judging by the near record breaking numbers at the time of this post, the people did come out. But, would the film itself actually pan out?

The issues that have plagued many comic book film adaptations in the past is that once they get rolling, they feel they can do no wrong - so they introduce more and more characters, in most of these films those characters are usually the villains. The original Spiderman trilogy (and maybe to a lesser extent the first Batman) slammed us with far too many villains in one film - and it suffered because of it.

So, with all of these heroes coming together for one gigantic film, would it work? Or, would there just be too much going on that the story suffered?

In this instance, and I know that due to its success (and hell even the film itself) that there will be at least a sequel and possibly more, but for this film it worked tremendously.

Captain America: When we last left Steve Rogers (Chris Evens) at the conclusion of Captain America he had just fond out that he had been woken up from a freeze and it was no longer World War II. Since then it sounds as if he has not really adjusted to the new world he is forced to live in, is not sleeping and is spending most of his time in the gym. Rogers is the military man of the group, and does most everything by the book. So his pairing in this group is difficult at first, but when given the opportunity to lead his instincts take over and the rest of the group falls in line.

Iron Man: At the conclusion of Iron Man 2, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) has been reestablished as the CEO of Stark Industries after Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) relinquished it back to him. Since then it appears that Stark and Potts have continued their romantic interlude, and Stark is surprised when Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) pops up to bring him back into the Avenger Initiative, since Stark was thought to be too narcissistic to be able to join. Of course, Stark believes he is the leader of the group and clashes with most of his fellow members, especially Rogers. But, when the time comes for battle Stark may just prove that he can put other people before himself.

Thor: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still struggling with the fact that his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is attacking the world that he loves and protects in Earth. It appears that Loki is not just looking for a kingdom to rule, but revenge on his brother for growing up in his shadow and taking over Asgard, even though he thought it rightfully belonged to him. Thor struggles with the fact that he is part of a group that may eventually kill his brother, even though he believes it should be him to take him back to Asgard.

Hulk: Not really sure which Hulk this one comes from, but I am guessing it was Edward Norton's version. Here, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) has 'quarantined' himself off in Cambodia. He is tracked down to help with the initiative, and to find a way to locate the Tesseract, which Loki has stolen. Banner is a genius, but we all know that behind him The Hulk is always lurking to come out. So, the others must be careful not to get a reaction out of him and accidentally unleash the beast.

S.H.I.E.L.D.: We have slowly been introduced to a number of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents throughout the other films. Agent Coulson, for one, has been in most of the films leading up to this one. He has even sort of become a friend to some of the heroes, especially Stark and Potts. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is the head of the program and despite the Avengers Initiative being terminated, brings it back when Loki lands on Earth. Agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannson), aka Black Widow, was introduced in Iron Man 2 so we get a bit of what she is capable of. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), aka Hawkeye, has a tiny role in Thor but he was a bit of a mystery and quite possibly the person we knew the least about. Finally, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) is introduced in this film and appears to be third in control behind Fury and Coulson.

That is a lot of characters, and thankfully they were weaved together expertly. Each one was able to have his own moments in the film, but no one character truly overshadowed the other. One would think that with the success of Iron Man and the clout of Downey, Jr. that this could have become another Iron Man film, but that didn't happen which is why it worked so well.

It also looked amazing. Plus, we all expect the great action scenes and there were a ton of great ones. The film was not lacking in action. But, what was unexpected was the amount of comedy that was sprinkled throughout the movie. There were many times in my theater where people were literally laughing out loud.

I have to say, I have loved Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, and I still do. But, I really enjoyed Hawkeye in this film - and I FINALLY loved The Hulk.

In the previous installments, The Hulk was just way too large, in my opinion. Here, we understand that he is big, strong and mean, but he was only a few feet taller than the other characters, which was perfect. In the others, he was about the size of a house. Far too big. And, in this film, he was given some great things to do - which gives me hope that with the proper person The Hulk may just have a good solo movie in him. One can only hope.

Finally, being able to bring the amount of characters from different movies that were written and directed by different people and have it all come together like this was just masterfully crafted. Each character has so much behind them and each film has so much going on in it, and all of that is on full display here. It was just a great meshing, which honestly really surprised me.

It was all I could hope and more. I was already looking forward to seeing it again when I walked out. And for that to happen means it was an outstanding film. Do yourself a favor and go check it out. But, who am I kidding? I am sure you already have.