Thursday, January 30, 2014

Quick Shots 27

Title: Olympus Has Fallen.

Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Cole Hauser, Finley Jacobsen, Ashley Judd.

Brief Synopsis: Mike Banning (Butler) is a member of the secret service, and close friend to President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart). He also gets along very well with the president's son, Connor (Jacobsen). On an icy night to give a speech, the president's limo is hit by a falling branch and teeters off a bridge - unable to get the first lady (Judd) out of the car, Banning makes the difficult decision of pulling the president out and the first lady fell to her death. Having to blame someone - Asher fires Banning. But, when the White House is under attack by North Korea - it's Banning that becomes the lone hope to stop the attack. 

Opinion: Pretty decent action-packed film. Butler I think is more of an action star than a romantic comedy actor - so he is in his element here. A lot of this was pretty predictable, but even though most of it was seen coming, the trip was still pretty enjoyable.


Title: R.I.P.D.

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Szostak, James Hong, Marisa Miller.

Brief Synopsis: Nick (Reynolds) is a police officer in Boston. After taking stolen items from a drug bust with his partner Hayes (Bacon), Nick has a change of heart and wants to turn it in - but says he won't turn Hayes in. During a raid at a warehouse, Hayes tracks down Nick and shoots him dead to cover up the theft. Heading to heaven, Nick takes a diversion into limbo - and is told to work in the Rest in Peace Department, a department that captures 'deados', or spirits that have managed to stay on earth despite being dead. His partner is Roy Pulsipher (Bridges), a marshal from the 1800s. On Earth, 'deado's are rounding up pieces of a machine that when put together would put an end to the dead going to the after life. 

Opinion: Sort of a poor man's Men in Black, but I didn't hate the film as much as everyone else seemed to have. Both Reynolds and Bridges were fun to watch together, and Bacon always plays a great villain. Sure, it could have been way better - and the CGI could have looked much better, but for what it was it kept me entertained.


Title: The Other Dream Team.

Starring: Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulonis, Rimas Kurtinaitis, Arturas Karnisovas, Donnie Nelson, Jonas Valanciunas.

Brief Synopsis: This is a documentary about the bronze-medal winning Lithuanian basketball team at the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, Spain. Lithuania for years, had been forced to compete with the Soviet Union and this team was the culmination in the struggle to become a free nation again. As a side story, we also follow the path of 2011 NBA draft pick Valanciunas on his journey to being selected into the NBA - showing how far the country had come over the years. 

Opinion: As most know, I am not a fan of subtitles, but I love sports - especially basketball. I remember this team so fondly, 1992 was really when I started falling in love with basketball, thanks to our Dream Team. And, I remember seeing the little known Lithuanian team in their Grateful Dead outfits. Now, I know the whole story - and I am glad I do.


Title: Planes.

Starring: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Priyanka Chopra, Carlos Alazraqui, Roger Craig Smith.

Brief Synopsis: Dusty Crophopper (Cook) is a cropduster who dreams of being a racer in the Wings Across the World race. Though he is just a cropduster, he comes in sixth in the qualifying race, and misses out on the opportunity - but the fifth-place finisher used an illegal fuel enhancement and he has been disqualified - giving Dusty the chance to compete. He asks former Jolly Wrench, Skipper (Keach) to help him - and it is soon revealed that Dusty has a fear of heights. At the race, Dusty is well liked by many of the participants, but is loathed by three-time champion Ripslinger (Smith), who believes if he does well - all types of planes will soon try to join the ranks . 

Opinion: If you liked Cars at all, you will probably enjoy this. But, it wasn't as good as Cars. In fact, a lot of it felt recycled from Cars itself - the grouchy, old mentor, the weird best friend, the mean racer - seems pretty familiar. But, it was still an okay watch.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Theater Review: Saving Mr. Banks

I love finding out the back stories of some of my favorite things. Sometimes they aren't what they seem, but you usually find out some pretty cool information.

Saving Mr. Banks is the behind-the-scenes process of bringing Mary Poppins to the big screen at Walt Disney Studios.

P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) created the character Mary Poppins for children's books that she had written. And, as we see in flashbacks of Travers' childhood, Poppins is more than just a character in a book to her.

Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) promised his daughters more than 20 years ago that he would bring their favorite book to the big screen - and he began trying to court Mrs. Travers in doing so.

Travers, though, only saw Disney as that animated place - and never saw Mary Poppins as an animated feature, nor did she see it as a musical.

After 20 years, the book money has not been coming in as frequently and Travers had begun to run out of money. So, she decided to take a trip out to Los Angeles to meet with Disney and his crew about the possibility of bringing Mary Poppins to the big screen.

Of course, Travers is anything but helpful along the way. In fact, she pretty much hates everything. She forced each meeting to be recorded. I really had never heard of the practice before of pretty much fleshing out the entire movie before even acquiring the rights - perhaps it happens and we just don't hear about it.

Richard (Jason Schwartzman) and Robert (B.J. Novak) Sherman present many songs they have written for her movie - and of course they clash with her. Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) was the screenwriter for the film and all three bent over backwards to make things work.

The only person Travers opened up to during her entire trip was her driver Ralph (Paul Giamatti), who she said was the only American she could stand.

Though she was a pill, Disney actually understood her - in fact, she probably was the best person go through this process with her. He too once had an imaginary family member that someone wanted to purchase - and he never gave him up.

Obviously, in the end the movie ended up being made under the Disney banner - and Disney ended up getting his way with a lot of the things Travers disagreed with, including having Dick Van Dyke play Bert.

The acting, especially Hanks and Thompson, was outstanding. Thompson was so spiteful as Travers - she really got into the character very well. Hanks was great as Disney as well, it was the first time ever that Disney had been portrayed in a film.

Novak and Schwartzman both stood out as the Sherman brothers, and Whitford and Giamatti are both their outstanding selves.

In flashbacks, Colin Farrell played Travers' dad and Annie Rose Buckley, in her first film role, plays a young Travers - and I thought she was amazing in the role.

Overall, a great telling of the story - and a great use of flashbacks to allow the viewer to see why it is so difficult for Travers to allow Disney to make this into a movie.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday's With Movies: 1/28/14

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2: I know the first film was based on a children's story - that was probably 30 pages long. But, they managed to get a pretty decent film out of it. And, apparently they also got a sequel. I watched the original once and I remember enjoying it - but if I haven't watched it again, it must not have left a lasting impression. But, I will definitely watch this - at least once.

Bad Grandpa: I know there is an audience for these type of films, I mean obviously since it was made and people went to see it. I never got into the Jackass craze, I just don't find it that funny. I don't look up people doing stupid things on youtube either. So, this isn't for me.

Last Vegas: Should be excellent and pretty darn funny, but I have heard it was a bit of a disappointment. Either way, I never listen to what others say, I always wait to give it my own thoughts. And, I will be looking into this.

Rush: The mixture of Ron Howard and Chris Hemsworth is probably the only reason I will check this out. I am not a race fan at all, and even less of an Indy car fan. But, sounds like it might actually have a good story - so I will watch it.

Metallica: Through the Never: I am not sure about this one. I am not the biggest Metallica fan, but I do enjoy some of their songs from time to time. But, is it worth watching an entire movie for that? I don't know. I am still thinking about this.

The Fifth Estate: This film I believe flopped at the box office, which is strange with Benedict Cumberbatch starring - his stock has exploded in the last few years. I actually think I might look in on this.

Ass Backwards: I would probably never think twice about watching this, but Casey Wilson from Happy Endings stars and I really started to enjoy her on that show. It goes against my original feeling, but I might check this out.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday's With Movies: 1/21/14

Captain Phillips: Tom Hanks is my favorite actor so of course I am going to be watching this. I think I am more interested in Saving Mr. Banks, but I have heard his performance in this is really great.

Blue Jasmine: I really haven't found a Woody Allen film I particularly love. He certainly can march out the stars, though. I might give it a try at some point.

Machete Kills: Machete was certainly a surprise - a film that didn't take itself too seriously, which really made it fun. Hopefully this one is close to the original.

In a World...: A film about a lady that does voice over work - women don't really get too much play in this field. The film explores that and family dysfunction. Have heard great things, and I will definitely check it out.

Charlie Countryman: I actually think that Shia LaBeouf can be a really talented actor. It's a shame that he has totally gone off the deep end of late. I might actually check out this film.

Best Man Down: Can't tell if this is more drama or comedy - it stars two guys usually in a comedy in Justin Long and Tyler Labine. However, the movie is about the death of the best man, so it has the chance of being a bit sad. Guess I will have to check it out.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tuesday's With Movies: 1/14/14

Yeah, I am late again. But, now you probably expect it. Anyway, today (er, Tuesday) a bunch of films from film festivals seem to be released. A pretty large crop of films coming out at on time. Here you go:

The Butler: My wife said she wants to check this out. On my own I don't think I would look into this, but perhaps we can watch it together.

Riddick: Have yet to watch either Riddick films, but I have both of the first two. With this one coming out I think I will do a marathon watch of all three.

Carrie: Too bad, I like Chloe Moretz. I think Carrie is probably one of those 'horror' films I might be able to take - though I just don't have that much interest in watching either version.

You're Next: A bunch of killers attack a group during a family reunion - but apparently a member of the family is the most skilled killed of the bunch. Can't wait - to not watch this.

Enough Said: Heard some pretty decent things about this one, and it is one of the (if not the) last film of James Gandolfini. Pretty sure I will check it out eventually.

Fruitvale Station: So apparently this Michael B. Jordan guy is going to be the next big thing. I have enjoyed him so far in The Wire and Friday Night Lights. This looks like a pretty good movie - but one of those you may only watch once. But, we shall see.

Spectacular Now: I have been hearing about Shailene Woodley for awhile now, but I have yet to see anything she is in. This might be the first of many this year. I also really enjoyed Miles Teller in his role in the Footloose remake. Looking forward to seeing this.

Short Term 12: A film about a young counselor at a foster-care program for at-risk kids and her life outside of her job. Not really pulling me in.

Blue Caprice: This film is inspired by the beltway sniper attacks that took place in 2002. Probably will look into this one.

A.C.O.D.: Stands for Adult Child of Divorce and stars Adam Scott. Finds out he was unknowingly part of a study on divorced children. Also has Clark Duke in it - could be pretty funny.

Big Sur: The plot from IMDb "A recounting of Jack Kerouac's (here known by the name of his fictional alter-ego Jack Duluoz) three sojourns to the cabin in Big Sur, owned by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti." -- If I have to do that, no way I will be checking it out.

A Single Shot: After a girl dies a hunter finds himself trying to stay alive as others look to hunt him down. Never heard anything about it until last week when I saw it was coming out, but I think I might look in on this.

Friday, January 10, 2014

HOT: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

In the next to last Hanks-O-Thon film before I wrap it up, a film I watched months ago but am just now getting to write about, I watched yet another film that Hanks is a main character, but again barely in.

In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Hanks plays Thomas Schell a father of a young boy and a man that works in one of the World Trade Center buildings.

Schell and his son Oskar (Thomas Horn) enjoy having missions given to them - such as finding an object from every decade in the past century. Though he loves his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock), Oskar seems to get along much better with his father.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Oskar is let out of school early, though he is not exactly sure why. When he gets home he discovers a few messages on the answering machine - and five of them are from his father who is inside the World Trade Center. As he finishes the fifth message, the phone rings. It's his father who begins to leave a sixth message - which then goes silent. Oskar immediately realizes that his father has died.

After his father's death, Oskar and his mother grow even further apart. He gets comfort from his grandmother (Zoe Caldwell), who lives across the street in another building. He flashes her light from a flashlight whenever he needs to speak to her. In her apartment she is also housing  a man that she calls 'the renter' (Max von Sydow) - which intrigues Oskar,

Oskar finds a vase inside his father's closet, that falls and breaks. Inside the vase is a small envelope with the name Black on it, and inside is a key. Oskar takes it upon himself to find the owner of the key - sort of a last riddle that his father gave him to work on.

When he visits his grandmother she is not there - and he encounters her renter. The renter does not speak - he only writes his answers, and has the words Yes and No on his hands. When asked if he wants to go on the journey with Oskar, he raises the hand Yes.

Together they head out to find the person that belongs to the key, and there are 472 Blacks in the New York phone book.

The film is both sad and a journey to find happiness again. As Oskar goes out on his journey he is forced to speak with other people, and he grows a strong bond with both his grandmother and the renter, who actually has a special place in Oskar's life. And, Oskar's realization that his mother does in fact love him.

Hanks, as I said, is barely in the movie. He is in the beginning, and serves as a bit of a narrator - he is also seen in a few flashbacks.

The stars of the film are easily Horn and von Sydow. Despite not being able to communicate very easily, their chemistry is really good. I really enjoyed von Sydow - Horn is young, and eventually I think he could be a pretty good actor. Here he was decent enough to carry the film - but I feel other child actors might have been able to do better.

It was a good watch, and despite 9/11 now being over 12 years ago, I feel it is still too fresh. I have been able to watch a few of the films about it, and I am glad that I did, but I have only been able to watch them once.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tuesday's With Movies: 1/7/14 (and 12/31/13)

Well, the holidays are over and I missed a Tuesday's With Movies. Never fear, it is back - and I have included the one I missed at the bottom of this one.

Runner Runner: College graduate gets swindled out of money in online poker and decides to track down the owner in Costa Rica. Soon he is stuck between a possible sweet setup of riches, or helping the FBI bring down the man who swindled him. I will definitely check this one out.

Closed Circuit: Two ex-lovers are forced back together to help bring down a terrorism threat, and soon help save each other's lives. Not on my to-watch list as of right now.

Thanks for Sharing: Follows the lives of a handful of people as they struggle to deal with and live with their sex addiction. I will check this one out.

We Are What We Are: A pair of sisters are forced by their father to keep their families customs alive - which seems fine, except this custom is cannibalism. Yeah, think I will skip it.

Big Ass Spider: I don't know why, but I just heard about this and for some reason it has intrigued me. We shall see - maybe a viewing in the future.


Don Jon: Joseph Gordon-Levitt has become a much watch for me, and pretty much most movie goers. He is one of the better actors of his generation. Here, he is the writer, director and the star - so that is a three-peat for me. 

Inappropriate Comedy: I don't even care to say what this is about - it looks completely stupid and I will be staying away.

CBGB: The movie follows the real-life nightclub CBGB, which was considered the birthplace of underground rock n roll and punk.

Sweetwater: A former prostitute tries to make a normal life with her new husband in New Mexico in the late 1800s. However, she soon becomes the focus of a powerful religious leader - and she enlists the help of a renegade sheriff. 

Cassadaga: Let's just say a random horror flick - the plot is crazy but it involved a deaf woman, spirits and marionettes.