Sunday, October 31, 2010

Netflix Review - "Wonderful World"

Ben Singer (Matthew Broderick) is a cynical, depressed copywriter who used to be a famous children's musician. He hates his job and most of the people in his life, save for his daughter, Sandra (Jodelle Ferland), and his roommate, Ibu (Michael K. Williams), whom he plays chess with. When Ibu falls into a diabetic coma, his sister, Khadi (Sanaa Lathan), comes from Senegal and ends up crashing with Ben. As the world around him begins to grow darker, Ben finds himself reawakening and rediscovering his life and finds that the world isn't quite as bad as he thought it was.

I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of "Wonderful World." A lot of these "the world sucks but our hero prevails" indie movies wallow in despair, making them almost unwatchable. "Wonderful" more than touches on the harsh parts of life but paints with a broad brush rather than a fine point, which I personally appreciated. It's a well-told story and writer-director Joshua Golden keeps the movie moving without drowning me in the sorrow. That's not to say this is an easy movie to watch. It's 70 percent sadness and that makes for a tough viewing but one that I found worthwhile. Broderick works hard to craft a sympathetic curmudgeon, a different role than his usual cheery if understated hero. The supporting cast compliments him well though Williams, one of the very best character actors the business has to offer, was severely underutilized. "Wonderful World" is far from a great movie; it's a bit bumpy and at times the emotion feels forced. Still, it's a strong-enough indie offering and it's always good to see Broderick on the screen.

Grade: B

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Movie News Today

The great Zach Galifianakas is rumored to be joining the cast of the new "Muppet" movie.

3-D continues to ruin my life as it now appears that "Indiana Jones" will come back to the big screen in that most hated of formats.

Christopher Nolan is auditioning actresses for an undisclosed role in this third installment of his "Batman" franchise. Cinema Blend discusses which character might be cast.

A blog written by Erik Lundegaard (which I have become obsessed with lately) delivers 39 reasons why the Yankees suck. I know it's not movies but come on, this is important stuff here.

Blah! Movies discusses 15 directors who shaped the way he looks at film. Nice read.

New DVD Tuesday

Saturday I rented a movie for the first time in weeks. I picked up "The Karate Kid" (which I didn't care for) and I rewatched "How to Train Your Dragon," which was just as good the second time as I thought it was the first time around. Definitely going on the Christmas list. My point in saying all this? The 2010 movie calendar sucks. I would have never rented "Karate Kid" if I wasn't desperate for a new movie and I almost never rent a movie I've seen in theaters. I need SOMETHING worth watching, Hollywood! Please don't let me down!

Sex and the City 2 (2010) - Sarah Jessica Parker et al
The sequel to the 2008 smash hit that may have FINALLY brought an end to this inane franchise. This pile of crap offended or pissed off just about everyone who came in contact with it and received atrocious reviews from critics and audiences alike. I would rather light my own leg on fire than watch this movie. I'm only half kidding.

Winter's Bone (2010) - Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes
A Festival darling about a teenager girl (Lawrence) who goes looking for her criminal father, I am genuinely excited about finally getting a chance to see this. Lawrence is the next big thing of the day and has already been cast as Mystique in the upcoming "X-Men: First Class." More importantly, however, her role is likely to earn an Oscar nod.

The Girl Who Played with Fire (2010)  - Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
The second installment in the world-beating Millennium series got less than stellar reviews as compared to the first one. Still, eventually I'm going to get around to seeing this if for no other reason than A.) to know what in the world every other human on the planet is talking about and B.) to get myself prepared for the American remake being helmed by David Fincher ("The Social Network").

New to Blu Ray
Back to the Future Trilogy (1985) - Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd
Need I provide a summary of one of the three best trilogies the world has ever known? I thought not. There are no words to describe how excited I am for this set finally reaching Blu Ray. I love "Back to the Future." Love it. Can't wait to add this to the collection.

Alien Anthology (1979) - Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm
Another classic franchise that didn't age quite as well as "Back to the Future." The first movie is undeniably outstanding. The second is...adequate. I caught it on Netflix Instant View a few weeks ago and it didn't quite match up to my memory. The third is a wild card; I've only seen it once and I'm not sure how I feel about it's quality. And the fourth film is absolute rubbish, a paycheck movie if ever there was one. All that said, am I excited about the upcoming prequels? Um, of course I am! These may deserve a re-watching in the near future.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Movie News Today

FX has purchased the rights to a new series starring Elijah Wood. This sounds super quirky but if it's good enough for FX, it's usually good enough for me.

The Guardian discusses the merits of two of my all time favorites, Gary Oldman and Tim Roth.

Val Kilmer is joining with Francis Ford Coppola for a low budget horror/thriller called "Twixt Now and Sunrise." I know he doesn't deserve it but man I want Val Kilmer to be important again.

Cinema Blend discusses the possible villains for the second "Star Trek" movie. My Nerd Alert is screaming right now.

Tony Scott gives some details about "Top Gun 2" and dances around the topic of where exactly Maverick (Tom Cruise) will fit into the plot. Translation? Another reboot that will connect to the original in name only. Boo.

Movie News Today

Collider discusses Trent Reznor's near-perfect score for "The Social Network." I post a lot of links but seriously, this one is worth clicking on. Excellent points.

IFC takes some tool bag named Larry Fahey to task over his criticism of Roger Ebert. This is a common theme for snooty, ascot-clad critics who only write reviews for themselves and other people who have doctorates in English. Glad to see a mainstream source come to the legend's defense.

Flowtown has a pretty cool chart to illustrate the evolution of the geek. I fall into at least 4 of these categories.

It appears Liam Neeson will continue the strangest resurgence in the history of film by replacing Mel Gibson in a cameo for "The Hangover 2."

Before you read my next sentence I want you to sit down and take a deep breath. Okay. It's possible that George Lucas is preparing to begin work on a third "Star Wars" trilogy. Lucas is already denying this report but it's ground breaking news regardless. I have so much to say about this that I'm going to have to wait for a full column. But wow.

Weekend Box Office Returns
1. "Paranormal Activity 2" - $41.5 million
2. "Jack Ass 3-D" - $21.6 ($87.1 million total)
3. "Red" - $15 ($43.5)
4. "Hereafter" - $12 ($12.3)
5. "The Social Network" - $7.3 ($72.9)
6. "Secretariat" - $6.9 ($37.4)
7. "Life As We Know It" - $6.2 ($37.6)
8. "Legend of the Guardians" - $3.2 ($50.2)
9. "The Town" - $2.7 ($84.7)
10. "Easy A" - $1.8 ($54.8)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blu Ray Review: "The Karate Kid"

When his mother is transferred to China, Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) finds himself in a strange place with no friends and no sense of belonging. When he befriends a girl at his school (Wenwen Han), he draws the ire of a group of bullies who train at a disreputable kung fu studio. Things begin to change, however, when he meets and begins to train with Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), the building's maintenance man. Soon he enrolls in a kung fu tournament, setting up the inevitable confrontation between himself and his tormentors.

First, the very brief positives. "Karate Kid" has solid action and some pretty cool fight scenes. Jackie Chan gives an admirable and quite believable performance as the pseudo Mr. Miyagi. In some ways this might be the perfect role for Chan as it combines his likability in an element he is comfortable in without exposing and/or exasperating his numerous flaws as an actor. And there are a few humorous lines (emphasis on the "few").

Now, the negative. I've got a lot of problems with this thing but I'm going to keep it to three short points.

1. "The Karate Kid" is not about karate; it's about kung fu. On numerous occasions the characters make references to Dre learning kung fu and yet it never seemed to dawn on anyone involved in the filmmaking process that maybe a movie called "The Karate Kid" should be about karate. Call me crazy but doesn't that kind-of-sort-of make sense?

2. Jaden Smith and the rest of the kiddie cast are WAY too young for this film. Dre is a 12 year old played by a kid who looks like an 8 year old but operating in situations that are suited for a 14 or 15 year old. News flash, Hollywood: no one wants to see 12 year olds kissing. It's weird and creepy and terribly off-putting. And it's not just the awkward romance. There's extensive training that no pre-adolescent could handle, some "witty" repartee that doesn't land, and at one point Jackie Chan puts a beat down on a group of 11 year olds. There's something wrong with that, isn't there? All told, it comes across as if Will Smith (whom I love, but still...) bought a script and cast his son regardless of whether it was a good fit or not.

3. This is just BARELY a remake. Remakes are always a risky proposition because if you get too close to the original thing it feels unnecessary and if you stray too far away from a beloved inspiration, people feel it's an insult to the original. "Karate Kid" takes a bit from the original and adds some new elements but the mix just isn't right. Ultimately it comes off as a cheesy parody of a classic film that is treasured by most Americans born between 1975 and 1990. "Jacket on, jacket off" is embarrassingly feeble compared to "Wax on, wax off" and Dre Parker would crumble at the hands of Daniel Son. What I mean to say is, this feels like someone wrote a script and someone else thought, "If we titled this "The Karate Kid" and made some vague references to the original, we could make a ton of cash off this thing!" And that's exactly what happened.

When you put all of that together, you get a below average film that fails to inspire. Not a terrible experience but certainly not the enjoyable trip down memory lane I was hoping for.

Grade: C

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Movie Friday

"Hereafter" - Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr
Three stories about death and the afterlife, including one involving a psychic (Damon), intersect in a "Crash"-like fashion. Directed by Clint Eastwood, this is getting mediocre reviews but still has my strong interest. Look, I'll see anything that involves Matt Damon. Love the guy. But I'm extremely intrigued to see what Eastwood does with a very un-Eastwood concept.

"Paranormal Activity 2" - Katie Featherston
The sequel to last year's smash hit will involve some sort of freaky ghost action. Confession: ghost movies (and I mean real ghost movies, not "Ghostbusters" or "The Frighteners") FREAK. ME. OUT. I don't see many horror movies because I think they suck. Worthless plots on top of gratuitous junk that just doesn't work for me. But ghost movies? I don't see many of those because they make me want to crawl under the bed like Kevin McAlister and never, ever come out. Needless to say, I'm out.

Another weak release schedule. One of these days it's going to pick up. But today is not that day.

Movie News Today

Martin Freeman ("The Office" UK and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") has officially been confirmed as Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit." If Peter Jackson were to ask my opinion of this move (which he hasn't as of yet) I would say, "Bravo."

Shawn Ryan has agreed to write the script for a Tom Clancy adaptation focusing on John Kelly, who was played by Willem Dafoe in "Clear and Present Danger" and Liev Schrieber in "Sun of All Fears." If you're unfamiliar with Ryan, whose best work was done on the FX series "The Shield", trust me when I say he is probably the perfect choice for this script. AMAZING writer.

Go, See, Talk! discusses the "loss of magic" from the theater to your home TV. Excellent post.

Details magazine provides a nice profile on star-in-the-making Chris Pine aka Captain Kirk aka Jack Ryan.

Movie Muse continues his hot streak, delivering a post on the afterlife and movies. Excellent read.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

HBO Special - "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian"

Things have changed in the years since Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) left the New York museum where he was once the night guard. Daley himself has flourished, founding a successful business that sells made-for-TV products while the museum is struggling. When he finally visits his old stomping ground, he finds that many of the exhibits are being packed up and sent to Smithsonian storage without the ancient Egyptian tablet that allows them to come to life at night (in case you haven't seen the first "Night at the Museum" that's pretty much the entire plot). Soon, however, he gets an urgent call from his friend/miniature Cowboy exhibition item Jedediah (Owen Wilson), who informs him that the tablet has come with them into storage and that they are under attack from all the various items packed away in the nation's capital.

That is a lot of summarizing for such a simple kid's movie. As far as these movies go, "Museum 2" isn't all bad. There are a few laughs, Stiller is invested in his character (no matter how shallow it may be), and it all comes together fairly concisely. So it's not bad, it's just not necessary. This is the kind of movie that SCREAMS, "We know we can make a ton of money on this no matter what kind of crap we throw on screen." The first "Museum" was a surprising success and a movie that really had some fun, valuable moments. I actually quite enjoyed the first film, though I admit my expectations were virtually nil going in. The sequel, however, is clearly stretched for quality content and is hampered by a plot that doesn't really leave much room for growth or development. Even supporting actors like the multi-talented Hank Azaria and Soap Box Office-favorite Amy Adams can't find much of a groove to work in as the whole movie just seems to be spinning its wheels. I know, I know, it's a kid's movie, it's not supposed to be inherently complex or layered. But we live in a world in which movies like "How to Train Your Dragon" and everything Pixar has ever done have set a standard for making smart, dynamic children's movies. By contrast, "Night at the Museum 2" fails to produce much of anything you could expect me to recommend.

Grade: C+

Movie News Today

Admittedly distracted this week. I haven't experienced playoff baseball for my team in a long, long time. The roller coaster of emotions that is having your team playing to go to the World Series has taken over my free time. I'm working on being better at multitasking my inane hobbies. Thank you for your support.

We knew this was coming when Disney acquired Marvel a few months back, but they have now officially secured the rights for "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3."

Mel Gibson will make a cameo appearance in "The Hangover 2", just like Mike Tyson did in the original. Cannot begin to describe what a GENIUS move this is for Gibson. Tyson's role in "Hangover" and Tom Cruise's turn in "Tropic Thunder" revamped the careers of both. He may be a scummy dude but he's got smart people around him.

Do you want to own a real life TIE Fighter? Of course I do!

"The Incredibles" will finally hit blu ray next Spring! I believe "Finding Nemo" should debut next month which means all of the Pixar films will soon be available in this format.

My colleague Univarn over at A Life in Equinox reviews "Red" and since I'm not likely to have time to get to this anytime soon, I thought I'd pass along his "pretty good" review.

In "Are You Reading My Diary, Hollywood" news, Amrie Hammer of "Social Network" fame has let slip that the new Superman will be middle aged. Why does this matter? Because John Hamm, who literally IS Superman without the special powers (as far as we know), is likely to get the role. Finally, Hollywood.

Robert Downey, Jr. is being courted for a movie adaptation of the nonfiction memoir "Emergency!" If it's good enough for Downey, it's good enough for me.

And because I know you're all Pixar Freaks like me, here's the teaser trailer for "Cars 2."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New DVD Tuesday

Predators (2010): Adrien Brody, Topher Grace
Yet another relatively worthless installment of a once great series. This one finds humans being brought to an alien game preserve to be hunted by the predators. Because, I mean, if you can just bring the game to you, why bother going to earth yourself? It hasn't always worked out in the past so really, it's a decent enough plan for the predators. Plus, if you want to guarantee an easy kill, wouldn't you bring in Topher Grace? It's almost too easy.

Seriously, I'm not kidding, that is the only mainstream new release to hit shelves this week. How that's even possible I don't know. Thankfully there are some Blu Ray releases of note.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2004) - Ultimate Editions
You could make the case that the third installment of the "Harry Potter" film series is the best of the bunch. It should be a case study in how to transition from kid's stuff to darker subject matter. In my opinion "Azkaban" is the film that took this series (both the movies and the books) from pretty good children's fiction to the demographic-shattering success that it is today. I've got the first and second installments in the Ultimate Edition series and while some special/ultimate/limited edition DVD/Blu Ray sets are pretty sparse, these are chock full of nerdy goodness. A must-have for any Potter freak like myself.

Apocalypse Now (1979): Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando
The dark-and-twisted war classic that somehow I've never seen. This is a super-awesome edition of the film that includes the original movie, the redux from 2001, and "Heart of Darkness." Adding this to the

Psycho (1960): Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles
Another classic that is finally getting the Blu Ray treatment for its 50th anniversary. From a suspense standpoint, there might not be a better movie ever in the history of film. I'm just sayin'. By the way, anyone remember back in 1998 when acclaimed director Gus Van Sant, fresh off the success of "Good Will Hunting", directed a remake of "Psycho" that sucked so bad that it almost ruined the career of everyone involved? No? Me either.

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon
The fact that I put this is in today's column displays a.) how committed I am to just giving you the news of the day regardless of my personal opinion, and b.) how very bad New DVD Tuesday is this week. I HATE "RHPS." Actually "hate" might not be a strong enough word. I borderline "Travolta" this movie. Since I despise John Travolta above all pop culture entities in the history of the world, that should tell you how much I hate "RHPS." I just felt like it needed to be said. No movie has wasted more people's time than this one. Absolute rubbish.

Moulin Rouge! (2001): Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman
I know so many people who swear that this is a good, even great, movie but I just don't get it. It's pretty generic for the most part highlighted by director Baz Luhrmann's standard over-the-top glamour. The music is really, really strong but the movie? Pretty weak sauce in my book. BUT. If given the choice between watching this 12 times consecutively or watching "Rocky Horror" only once, I would gladly suffer through "Moulin Rouge!" again and again.

Romeo+Juliet (1996): Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes
Another Luhrmann production that I don't quite understand the allure of. To be fair, however, while I'm a huge Shakespeare fan, I think "Romeo and Juliet" is perhaps the worst of his well known works. It bothers me that this is the play that most people first associate with such a great writer. Regardless, while this definitely isn't my cup of tea, the modern interpretation that Luhrmann is quite bold if altogether uninspiring.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Movie News Today

In case you missed it this weekend, "The Hobbit" is finally and officially a go. I'm getting in line for my opening day tickets right now.

And since "The Hobbit" has been greenlit, we can now safely being casting speculation.

Care to enjoy some more behind-the-scenes "Empire Strikes Back" photos? I thought so.

Marshall and the Movies discusses "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", one of my favorite movies you've never ever heard of. Robert Downey, Jr. plus a committed Val Kilmer? Come on.

Weekend Box Office Results
1. "Jackass 3D" - $50 million
2. "Red" - $22.5
3. "The Social Network" - $11 ($63.1 million total)
4. "Secretariat" - $9.5 ($27.5)
5. "Life As We Know It" - $9.2 ($28.9)
6. "Legend of the Guardians" - $4.2 ($46)
7. "The Town" - $4.0 ($80.6)
8. "My Soul to Take" - $3.1 ($11.9)
9. "Easy A" - $2.6 ($52.3)
10. "Wall Street 2" - $2.3 ($47.8)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Movie Friday!

"Red" - Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Hellen Mirren
Based on a graphic novel (what isn't these days), "Red" is about a group of retired CIA agents who get the band back together in order to track down the people who are trying to kill them. Love the idea, love Bruce Willis, and love Morgan Freeman. But I'm not convinced that this is going to work as well as it should. It just looks like a film that could struggle with an identity crisis and that'll ruin an action comedy really fast. Interested, though.

"Jackass 3D" - Johnny Knoxville
Um, not really much of a plot to summarize here sooooo.......yeah.

"Conviction" - Hillary Swank, Sam Rockwell
The true story of a woman who becomes a lawyer just to get her wrongly-convicted brother out of prison. I hate Hillary Swank. Just absolutely can't stand her. She annoys me on screen, she annoys me off screen, and I can't figure out how she keeps getting choice roles because I've never met a single human who raves about her. Even Katherine Heigl has a fan club. Combine Swank with blatant Oscar baiting and I am OUT.

I guess that's it. Weak calendar all around. So be it. All the more reason to watch my Rangers CRUSH THE FREAKING YANKEES this weekend!

Movie News Today

Sony is pursing James Cameron to direct a new "Cleopatra" film. *Yawn*

Amy Adams is close to joining the cast of the new "Muppets" movie, which will DEFINITELY be the best "Muppets" movie of the last 5 years or so.

JJ Abrams has a new project. He's been pretty lazy lately so it's about time.

Tom Hardy, whose turn in "Inception" was one of the most underrated factors in the film, has been recruited by Chris Nolan for a role in the third "Batman" movie.

In "Unnecessary Sequel" news of the day, a second "Top Gun" may be in the offing. Because anytime you can make a sequel 24 years after the original, you gotta do it.

Ridley Scott is chasing Natalie Portman to star in his upcoming "Alien" prequels. Not that Sir Scott needs my approval but that's pretty much perfect casting in my opinion.

The LA Times delivers an excellent little article about the new brand of TV comedy that mixes heart in along with the humor.

Wired presents 10 things you didn't know about "The Empire Strikes Back," excerpts from a new book about the film's production. I'm buying this book, by the way.

Finally, while this column by Bill Simmons (my favorite sports writer) is about sports, it's an excellent look at the role of the reporter and the craziness that is Twitter. Great read.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Texas Rangers Keep the Dream Alive

I don't deviate from the "movies and TV" theme of the Soap Box Office very often. But on rare occasions, sports takes priority and since this is my only medium at the moment, I must commandere this space for a moment. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled (and completely irrelevant) movie ramblings tomorrow.

The Texas Rangers have just completed a historic playoff series victory. The TEXAS RANGERS won a playoff series. I have to keep repeating that to myself because it doesn’t feel real. I’m a little worried that this is some giant episode of “Punk’d” with the Universe playing the role of Ashton Kutcher. Like I’m going to wake up in the morning and the Sportscenter anchors will be laughing at the brilliant joke they’ve just pulled on us all. Linda Cohn will point into the camera and scream, “HA! Like you could EVER win a playoff series! You fools!” And I’ll just slump my shoulders and nod my head and know it to be true just like Luke Skywalker knew Darth Vader was telling the truth on that platform in Cloud City. (Anytime I can combine sports with “Star Wars” you know I’m doing it.) The last twenty years of Ranger baseball has conditioned me to expect utter failure and to be happy when the team wins enough to keep me interested until football season starts. So to win three playoff games (and all three on the road no less) seems almost out of the realm of possibilities.

It’s not easy to write a celebratory sports column in a moment like this. We haven’t won the World Series or anything like that and in fact, this is a pretty insignificant victory in the grand scheme of baseball things. The truth of the matter is Yankee fans don’t even know what it’s like to celebrate a Division Series victory. That’s just a small stepping stone on the path to another bought and paid for championship. But writing is what I do and when my team makes franchise history…come on, what the heck else am I supposed to do? I’m certainly not going to go to sleep anytime soon. So I’ll focus on a couple of small moments and hope I get a chance to write another victorious blog post in a couple of weeks.

There are four moments that really stuck out to me tonight that might have gone unnoticed.

MOMENT ONE – Bengie Molina Steals Second
Molina, the Ranger catcher known first for calling a great game behind the plate and second for being slower than a one legged tree sloth, led off the top of the third with a line-drive single. A couple batters later manager Ron Washington called for a hit-and-run on a 3-2 count. Batter Elvis Andrus swung and missed but the call caught the Rays so off guard that Molina managed to truck into second for a stolen base. This is the moment when I knew we were going to win. I didn’t voice this thought so as to keep from incurring the wrath of the sports gods but in my mind, I KNEW we had the win. If Bengie Freaking Molina is stealing bases, then you know you can do no wrong.

MOMENT TWO – Cliff Lee Strikes Out Carlos Pena
In the bottom of the third, Cliff Lee gave up a couple of weak hits that resulted in a run for the Rays. He had looked uncharacteristically erratic through three and he stepped up to face Carlos Pena to start the fourth inning. Pena crushed the Rangers in the last two games and I hate him for this. It’s not enough that he was a first round pick for the Rangers in the late 90’s and did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING the entire time he was in the organization. No, now he has to kill us in the postseason, too. Jerk. Lee works quickly, going low curve for a strike, high heat for a ball, inside fastball that was fouled off, and then ends it with a curveball that started at Pena’s shoulder and dropped beautifully into the zone. Lee had gone to the curveball a few times before that but this was the moment where I think everyone realized, “Crap, he’s got his stuff tonight.” After this pitch he routinely went back to the curve and worked it all over the plate, getting the Rays to swing at the balls in the dirt and watch the ones that hit the zone. In other words, he was unstoppable.

MOMENT THREE – Ian Kinsler Drives in the Final Nail
Okay, obviously a two run blast in the top of the 9th that puts the game away didn’t go unnoticed. What might have slipped under the rug, however, is that suddenly and out of nowhere, Ian Kinsler is clutch. I have mercilessly bashed on Kinsler at every opportunity over the last couple of years. On a team that is chock full of likeable players, Kins is an easy target for negativity. He comes across as arrogant, he swings at 3-0 pitches when he shouldn’t, he commits stupid errors in the field, and he routinely chokes when it matters most. Somewhere in the last month, though, Kinsler has gone from the guy who foolishly tries to win the game with every swing to a valuable, big play hitter. He hit a game winning double in the last week of the season followed by his huge bombs here in the ALDS. All three of his homers in this series were big, clutch hits. I’m not sure what’s turned it around for him but when the team’s long-time clutch bat Michael Young is slowing down and MVP Josh Hamilton is obviously still struggling with injury, Kinsler’s sudden dose of clutch hitting is greatly appreciated. I take back 87% of the things I’ve said about the guy.

MOMENT FOUR – A Ginger Ale Celebration
Josh Hamilton’s history of drug and alcohol issues have been reported ad nauseum so I’m not going to delve into that here. Suffice it to say, the Hambone simply CANNOT be around alcohol. When the Rangers clinched the division a few weeks ago, Hamilton had to skip out on the champagne-soaked post-game celebration, opting instead to spend the evening in a church. Things were a little different this time around. When Hamilton entered the clubhouse tonight, the champagne and beer were replaced by ginger ale. The guys all piled into the room, goggles on, and doused each other in bubbly soda so that their teammate and on-field leader could be involved in the celebration. It was just one more example of how ridiculously tight the Ranger clubhouse has been all season. From the Claw and Antlers to the endless barrage of post-win shaving cream pies, the guys on this team have created a firm bond with each other. That’s the only reason they’ve been able to succeed against near-impossible odds given all of the hardships the franchise has gone through this year. It was a seriously touching moment that I picked up on immediately and choked me up a bit. I’m honestly a little ticked that so many other media outlets caught hold of the story and that I’m easily the 4 millionth reporter, journalist, or blogger to write about it.

Of course there were a lot of other huge plays throughout this season, series, and game. (How in the world does Vlad score from second on an infield single?!) But these are the moments that stuck out to me as I paced the floor relentlessly and came close to nervous vomiting on numerous occasions. This is without question the biggest win in the history of the Ranger franchise but you get the feeling there are more wins to come. It’s time, yo.

I hear Christopher Lloyd is in town this weekend,

P.S. Lloyd was the head angel in “Angels in the Outfield” in case that reference was over your head.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Movie News Today

You'll have to forgive me for a lack of quality research tonight. I'm incredibly distracted by my Rangers winning a playoff series for the first time. I never thought this day would come so I'm ill prepared. The sparse news I have for you today is...

Rhys Ifans ("Notting Hill") has been offered a villainous role in the new "Spiderman."

Cult (and Soap Box Office) favorite "Napoleon Dynamite" will be adapted into a TV series next year.

Matt Damon is officially out on the next "Bourne" movie and so am I.

Screenwriting genius Aaron Sorkin took the time to reply to a comment made on this dude's blog. Wow.

Empire presents 10 essential war films. "Bridge Over the River Kwai" is the only noticeable omission in my opinion.

New DVD Tuesday

How to Train Your Dragon (2010): Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler
One of the more inventive movies of the year finds Hiccup (Baruchel), a weak and worthless Viking, helping and subsequently befriending a dragon. This is, in my mind, the best Dreamworks animated feature to date. I really liked this one when I saw it a few months back.

Jonah Hex (2010): Josh Brolin, Megan Fox
The comic-book based Old West tale of a hero (Brolin) who happens to be undead or something. Not really sure what else happens in this thing. It might have been the most critically trashed movie of the summer. So, will you judge me if I tell you I kind of want to see this? It's okay, so do I. But something that got this torn apart...I just feel the need to see what all the fuss is about.

Leaves of Grass (2009): Edward Norton
I know very little about this independent film other than the fact that Ed Norton plays dual roles. That's it and that's all I need to know. In.

TV Shows No One Cares About

Dollhouse - Season 2 (2009): Eliza Dushku, Harry Lennix
Joss Whedon's second go 'round with Fox ended almost as quickly and with much less fanfare than the first one. (I'm talking about "Firefly." If you're under the age of 40 and you didn't catch that, I want you to do two things. One, find a small hammer, a tack hammer perhaps, and hit yourself in the left hand as punishment for not understanding. Two, go to Best Buy IMMEDIATELY and buy this series. Do it now.) I confess that, despite my love for Whedon, I haven't watched a single minute of this show. It was just too difficult to get invested knowing that Fox would end it sooner rather than later. Might catch up now.

Ghost Whisperer - Season 5 (2009): Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jamie Kennedy
The show that sort-of almost reinvigorated the Friday night lineup centers around a woman (Love Hewitt) who can see and speak with ghosts. Basically "The Sixth Sense" without Bruce Willis. I have no idea how this thing got through five seasons but good for it, I guess.

CSI: Miami - Season 8 (2009): David Caruso, Emily Procter
The best thing about "CSI: Miami" is that it provides awesome joke fodder for "Saturday Night Live", "Community", and yours truly. I've got a great series of jokes based on David Caruso's terrible "opening line then put the sunglasses on while The Who play the theme song" bit. Trust me, it's a great set.

New to Blu Ray
Three Kings (1999): George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube
I saw this movie back in the day and HATED it. I vaguely remember soldiers played by the three guys listed above trying to steal some ill gotten gold right after the Persian Gulf War and that I didn't like any of the characters. It is held in high regard, however, by people I trust so I may have to give it another try now that I'm no longer 17 and stupid.

Blu Ray Pick of the Week or Whenever I Feel Like Doing This
The Darjeeling Limited (2007): Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman
This is easily the lowliest of Wes Anderson's films but I actually quite liked it. It focuses on three very different brothers who take a train through India in an effort to get to know each other once again. Quirky and off beat just like everything Anderson has ever done, the characters are extremely likable and it's a rather warm, fun movie. Definitely worth a viewing if you've never seen it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"The Social Network"

Mark Zuckerberg is a douche bag. I was pretty well solidified in this opinion before seeing “The Social Network” and the viewing did nothing to sway that thought. Like so many “Creatives”, whether actor, musician, artist, or inventor as the case may be, Zuckerberg doesn’t understand or perhaps doesn’t have time for people he considers to be less significant than him. You probably know or have known one of these guys. The type of person who can’t conform to social conventions, doesn’t seem to value your portion of the conversation, and simply can’t figure out a way to bridge the gap between himself and the “regular” people. This guy is usually extremely talented but more often than not, he’s almost unbearable. It’s why bands break up and wide receivers get traded. At some point, the “Creative” turns from “misunderstood genius” to just plain “jerk” and either breaks off on his own or gets left behind by people who can’t deal with him anymore. In Zuckerberg’s case, what transpired is the former and that’s where “The Social Network” comes in.

Set in 2003, Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), both angry and drunk, hacks the school’s system and creates a crude website that compares the year book photos of two girls on campus, allowing viewers to choose who is hotter. Within a few hours the website crashes the network and makes Zuckerberg a legend. Soon after, he is approached by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer), the school’s star crew rowers and the definition of a legacy, who hire him to program a site which ultimately amounts to a Harvard-only dating site. Zuckerberg accepts the offer but performs no work on the project (setting up the first of two lawsuits). Instead, he begins working on a new adaptation of his previous website, an effort that requires some capital investment. With this in mind, he turns to his best (and perhaps only) friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) gives him the $1000 he needs to make the site operational in exchange for a thirty percent stake in the company (setting the stage for the second lawsuit). When “The Facebook” becomes an overnight success, Zuckerberg embarks on a whirlwind 18 month journey that involves the previously mentioned lawsuits, the betrayal of his best friend, and the development of his dorm room creation into a multi-billion dollar business that reaches over 500 million people worldwide.

From top to bottom, I can’t remember a recent drama, let alone a biopic, that is better than “The Social Network.” I confess I find myself a little bit obsessed with this film so please bear with me as I try to compartmentalize its merits. It is so well put together that you almost overlook the acting which is quite strong across the board. Eisenberg truly encapsulates all of the facets that make a guy like Zuckerberg both successful in his field and an utter failure in most everything else. He is egotistic, narcissistic, and brash while at the same time completely insecure and low on self-esteem. Insecurity is the key to this role. Insecurity is what drives a guy like Zuckerberg (at least as portrayed in this film) and it taints every other aspect of his being. If Eisenberg misses the mark on this “quality” then the entire movie falls flat. He doesn’t miss, however; rather, he nails this vital portion of the Zuckerberg mentality.

Garfield delivers a similarly deep performance. At his core, Saverin is a good person and that is ultimately what dooms him. There’s a hint of suspicion in every move he makes along the Zuckerberg Path but he still chooses to take the walk. Garfield uses facial expressions, body language, and the briefest of hesitations to convey the understanding that, deep down, Saverin knows that eventually his best friend will stab him in the back. Hammer also performs admirably as the scene-stealing Winklevoss twins. The dual vision of Hammer is a commanding presence and he uses that perfectly to convey both a slight sense of intimidation and a touch of helplessness that plays sympathetically to the audience. And then there’s Justin Timberlake, who’s Sean Parker (the creator of Napster) provides the intrepid spirit of adventure and recklessness that Zuckerberg needs to push himself beyond small-time notoriety and into the realm of world renowned (and full-on jackass mode). It’ll be a surprise if Timberlake doesn’t pull a Best Supporting Actor nod when Oscar nominations are released.

But the excellence of “The Social Network” goes far beyond the strength of its actors. Literally every aspect of this film is perfect or darn close to it. Director David Fincher assembled a tremendous group of talented individuals to add to his own enormous level of skill. The casting is magnificent and Fincher masterfully uses that, putting each actor in a position to succeed and pulling the very best effort out of every one of them. Aaron Sorkin (probably best known for “The West Wing”) wrote a brilliantly worded, wonderfully paced script that pretty much falls right in line with his other works. His style is unmistakable to the degree that, without any knowledge of his involvement in the film, I could peg the dialogue as Sorkin’s about one minute into the opening scene. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails delivers a powerful, edgy score that drives the film and subtly builds the drama. It is without question the best score in recent memory and one that is SURE to garner a few awards. Even the sound mix, a facet of filmmaking that you almost never notice, is perfectly balanced in a way that makes you feel as if you are in the movie. Every tiny detail of “The Social Network” is painstakingly thought out and exquisitely put together.

Being the fan of hyperbole that I am, it would be easy for me to call “The Social Network” the best movie of the year. I’m going to avoid that statement but I have no doubt that it will absolutely clean up when award season rolls around. The real stroke of genius, and what sets it apart from so many other biopics, is its treatment of its muse. Zuckerberg is not painted in a favorable light and there’s no sugarcoating of his actions despite his considerable brilliance. By going that route, Fincher shows the four billion dollar man to be quite a sad character, a symbol of what the combination of greed and insecurity can get you in the extreme.

This has to be the first Fincher film in which no one dies,

Movie News Today

Nextmovie provides us with 50 upcoming remakes. Quite the list.

In "Hallelujah" news of the day, Warner Brothers has announced that their next "Harry Potter" film will NOT be in 3D. When we look back in 7 months, I think this might be the final nail in the 3D coffin. Good riddance.

Dan Aykroyd is working on "Ghostbuster 3" which will inevitably end in tears when Bill Murray again refuses to take part.

As noted by my friend over at Marshall and the Movies, Hollywood is finally making a movie about the 1900 hurricane that completely wrecked Galveston, Texas. Strong source material if they care to flesh it out.

Movie Muse discusses one of Hollywood's most unlikeable actresses, Katherine Heigl.

Weekend Box Office Returns
1. "The Social Network" - $15.5 million ($46.1 million total)
2. "Life As We Know It" - $14.6
3. "Secretariat" - $12.6
4. "Legend of the Guardians" - $7 ($39.4)
5. "My Soul to Take" - $6.9
6. "The Town" - $6.4 ($73.8)
7. "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" - $4.6 ($43.7)
8. "Easy A" - $4.2 ($48.1)
9. "Case 39" - $2.6 ($9.6)
10. "You Again" - $2.5 ($20.7)

Friday, October 8, 2010

New Movie Friday

Since I saw three movies last weekend and haven't had a chance to review them all as of yet, I'm kind of glad that this week's offerings are almost completely uninteresting to me. No temptation to make time for a movie I don't have time to see.

"Life As We Know It" - Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas
Two single 30-somethings (Heigl and Duhamel) who can't stand each other are given custody of a baby when their mutual friends die. Somehow they make it through and, shockingly enough, they fall in love. So basically "Raising Helen" with a baby. Two reason I know this movie sucks. 1.) I've seen three or four different versions of the trailer and each one, while containing different footage, has given me snippets of the exact same jokes. Meaning I've already seen every "funny" moment. 2.) Katherine Heigl is involved. Heigl is quickly scaling my Wall of Hatred and seems hell bent on being the first person to successfully challenge John Travolta's right to the throne of Most Insufferable Actor. Completely unlikeable on and off the screen, that one.

"Secretariat" - Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Scott Glenn
The "impossible" true story of the famous race horse and his owner (Lane). First off, I have a problem with the terminology. "Impossible true story" is an oxymoron. If it is in fact a true story then by definition it cannot be impossible. I get what they're trying to say but that's no excuse. Second, I don't care. My mom is going to love this film but I won't. Hopefully for Disney they're not banking on the male age 18-49 demographic because I'm willing to speak for all of us when I say we aren't interested in a movie about a horse starring Diane Lane.

"It's Kind of a Funny Story" - Emma Roberts, Zach Galifianakas, Keir Gilchrist
An overworked teenager (Gilchrist) admits himself into a mental institute where he is inexplicably tossed in with all the adult crazies and one girl his age (Roberts). Soon he develops a friendship with a long-term nut (Galifianakas) and I assume learns to cope with the world. This one looks good and I'm quite interested in seeing it. Unfortunately it's in limited release meaning I'll probably have to wait for DVD. Too bad.

"Nowhere Boy" - Aaron Johnson, Kristen Scott-Thomas
The semi-true (?) tale of John Lennon's upbringing and the formation of the Beatles. Having seen the trailer for this a few times now, I again feel good about speaking for my entire demographic: snooze. Might be a good movie though it looks self-important and generally lackluster. But regardless, we just don't care. Sorry, John.

"My Soul to Take" - Max Thieriot, Denzel Whitaker
From the gotta-be-a-bit-senile-by-now mind of Wes Craven comes a horror movie in which a local boogeyman either comes back from the dead to start killing again or takes over a kid's subconscious and uses him to kill his victims. Either way, people die. IF I liked horror movies, I could find reason to see this. Just not my cup of poison tea.

"Stone" - Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich
Concerns a twisted love triangle between a violent prisoner (Norton), his wife (Jovovich), and the man's soon-to-be parole officer (De Niro). This ordinarily would not interest me but as a big Norton fan, let me say this: when he wants to be (and granted, there are plenty of times when he doesn't), Norton can turn himself into one of the finest actors in the game. When he's locked in, there are very few people who can top him. And he's got that look in the trailer. Just sayin'.

We're hitting the part of the year where we're going to see a lot of limited release films and festival darlings that only open in LA and New York. I try to highlight some of the smaller films that come out in an average week but let's be honest: most of these films will never be seen by the average movie goer and that is, after all, the target audience of the Soap Box Office. So, when one really piques my interest (like "It's Kind of a Funny Story"), I'll pass it on, but I'll probably avoid most of the movies none of you will ever see. Just a heads up.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Movie News Today

Short and simple today as I'm just now getting home at 1:30. Crazy fun evening seems to always lead to crazy exhausted morning. Worth it.

As reported here first (and by first I mean at least 34,578th), Kathryn Bigelow's newest project has gathered significant interest from Tom Hanks. Now it seems Johnny Depp is looking for a role as well.

Sam Raimi ("Spiderman") has officially signed on to direct the "Wizard of Oz" prequel. Is Robert Downey, Jr. next?

The AV Club has an interview with the brilliant Mitch Hurwitz, creator of "Arrested Development."

Cinema Blend (rapidly becoming a go-to site here at The Soap Box Office) gives us 10 common misconceptions of movie blog readers. This means you (and me)!

And to meet my nerd quotient of the day, here's a look at some character posters for the upcoming "Harry Potter" film. (Nerd voice: I love science.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"The Town"

Like every other regular, straight, American male, I hate Ben Affleck. It’s like a genetic mutation we all went through sometime in the late 90s or early 2000s. Maybe that’s what the real Y2K bug was: a fervent hatred of all things Affleck. Simply muttering his name at a party is likely to bring about reactions ranging somewhere between facial expressions similar to the ones you might see if a wet dog entered the room and loud cursing in a tone usually reserved for Tarantino flicks. He brought it upon himself with retched film choices and a complete disregard for the craft in which he worked but still, it’s uncanny how unanimously hated this guy really is. Well, friends, after taking in “The Town,” I’m about ready to throw my hat into the “Let’s Stop Hating on Poor Ol’ Ben” ring. I never thought this day would come but I’m willing to defend my position. Please hold your questions until after the review.

“The Town” centers around a section of Boston called Charlestown, an area that sees more bank robberies per year than any other place in the world. We open on a well-planned, well-executed bank heist as four heavily armed bandits, disguised in freakish orc-like Halloween masks, methodically grab a bag full of cash and take bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall) hostage. Once safely away, the crew releases Claire with the promise of repercussions if she talks to the cops. Crew leader Doug McRay (Ben Affleck) takes on the task of keeping an eye on Claire, in part because he’s afraid the wild card of the group, James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), might murder her as a precaution. Before long, Doug and Claire become romantically involved, a pairing that leads to some tense moments given the fact that Doug put Claire through the worst experience of her life. Soon an FBI special operations team, led by Adam Frawley (John Hamm,) gets on the case and drives hard toward bringing in the thieves who’ve made quite a name for themselves. As his relationship with Claire deepens, McRay and his crew continue to take scores while the FBI gets ever closer to putting them away, setting the stage for a head-on collision between the three parties.

Going into this movie I had seen a lot of comparisons between “The Town” and “Heat”, the 1995 cops-and-robbers drama that pitted Al Pacino and Robert De Niro against each other. The problem with that comparison is that it sets an almost impossible expectation that can’t possibly be met. “Heat” is a masterpiece which manages to hit a home run in virtually every aspect of filmmaking. Casting, writing, acting, directing, sound mix, conclusion, cinematography, and on down the list, every single part of the movie is perfect. It’s completely unfair to put that kind of pressure on any film. It’s the Michael Jordan of gritty cop dramas. But in all truth, “The Town” might be the closest thing to “Heat” that I have yet to see. It’s not Michael Jordan but it might be Dominique Wilkins.

The cast of “The Town” provides some outstanding support for the main character. Hall plays the vulnerable yet resilient Claire sufficiently and gives depth to what could have been a one-dimensional character. John Hamm continues to prove his strength and versatility as Frawley provides a worthy opponent for McRay highlighted by a few powerful, headlining moments. Titus Welliver, Chris Cooper, and the great Pete Postlethwaite all deliver in limited roles. Even Blake Lively, best known for the awfulness that is “Gossip Girl”, gives a quality performance as a junkie whom McCray has been involved with in the past. And then there’s Jeremy Renner, whose Oscar-nominated turn as Sergeant First Class William James in “The Hurt Locker” catapulted him to stardom. What an absolute talent that guy is. Coughlin is a troubled cat who’s bordering on becoming an all-out sociopath and yet he is a fiercely loyal friend who would (and does) drop anything to stand by his friends. Renner hits the mark perfectly, bringing the proper amount of edge and dark humor to the role which allows Coughlin to be both the driving force of recklessness that eventually destroys the crew and a sympathetic figure at the same time. Renner is quickly turning into one of my favorite actors in the business.

And so we come to Mr. Affleck. The resume this guy put together between “Good Will Hunting” and today is atrocious. Jump over to IMDB, have a look at that list, and try to defend his work, especially the collection of crap between “Armageddon” and “Hollywoodland.” I’ll give you “The Sum of All Fears” as a defensible choice because no one turns down that role at the time. But “Gigli”, “Surviving Christmas”, “Reindeer Games”, “Changing Lanes”, “Jersey Girls”, and the aptly named “Paycheck”…that’s a vile list of films that John Travolta himself would be ashamed of. Affleck took a promising career and buried it in a pile of ill-gotten cash, creating a particularly nasty reputation in the process. What kept Affleck from following in the footsteps of the once great Val Kilmer and the like is a simple yet rare characteristic: humility. Affleck took his medicine so to speak and listened to the criticism. I’ve read numerous interviews with Affleck over the last few weeks in which he basically admitted to taking horrible film roles and expressing a lack of respect for his craft. Instead of continuing on that path, he first got behind the camera, turning himself into a very good director (“Gone Baby Gone”) and then got serious about acting again. The results are on display in “The Town” and as a card carrying member of the Ben Affleck Haters Association (see: straight American male), I feel the need to commend his performance. Affleck nails McCray from start to finish, combining that classic Boston swagger with a bit of fear and a pinch of regret. He delivers his lines with poised power, drawing more than one audible “wow” from this writer. Altogether, I feel it’s safe to say this is the best performance of the man’s career and should serve as his re-introduction to the industry.

“Gone Baby Gone” taught me that Affleck could direct but I wasn’t sure he ever had much talent as an actor. I’m sure now. All told, “The Town” easily jumps into my top ten list for the year and ranks as one of the better cop dramas of the recent past. The ending is a bail-out, a cookie-cutter conclusion to a movie that deserves better, and I think Hamm’s Frawley is underused. So while it isn’t “Heat”, nothing really is. “The Town” is a well-made, strongly written, brilliantly acted film that should find a place to belong during award season.

Grade: A

John Hamm is “Superman”,

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Movie News Today

I should probably just refrain from linking to this stuff until it actually happens but it appears Peter Jackson is mere hours away from accepting the role of director on the upcoming "Hobbit" films.

In "Bait and Switch" news of the day, the supremely talented Emma Stone has been confirmed for the "Spiderman" reboot, but as Gwen Stacy instead of Mary Jane. Booooooo.

Tom Cruise continues his would-be resurgence with a comedic turn as a by-the-numbers secret service agent to Jack Nicholson's moronic former president. Hesitation abounds.

Looks like Tom Hanks will be joining the cast of Kathryn Bigelow's ("The Hurt Locker") next movie. To this I say: ABOUT STINKING TIME! As a good friend of mine says, "Hey Hollywood? You know who people like? Tom Hanks. How 'bout we put him in a movie from time to time." In a world that continues to choke me to death with a Katherine Heigl crap fest every 6 months, how is it that we've seen Hanks on screen in a non-animated, non-"Da Vinci" starring role only once in the last 6 years? Bah.

Mark Ruffalo talked with Empire recently and dropped a little knowledge about the upcoming "Hulk" and "Avengers" films. Still not sure I buy Ruffalo as the Hulk, especially replacing Ed Norton, but I'm trying to come around.

Movie Muse continues a hot streak, bringing an archive review of the WWII classic "The Great Escape." I have a feeling Movie Muse and I would be good friends should we actually know each other.

New DVD Tuesday!

Karate Kid (2010): Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan
A revamp of the classic 80s awesomefest, this time the action is taken to China. New Daniel Son learns from new Mr. Miyagi and eventually triumphs over the Chinese Cobra Kai dojo. I heard this was good and it sure made a ton of money in a very long theatrical run. I'm just not sure how interested I am. We'll see how desperate I get in the coming weeks.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010): Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Thomas Dekker
Apparently it's "unnecessary remake week" at your local Best Buy. Do I really need to sum this thing up or can we all just move on with our day? Good.

Splice (2010): Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley
Two scientists push the ethical boundaries of genetic engineering and end up creating a super beast that threatens humanity. Again I reiterate my disinterest in horror movies. But "Splice" got strong reviews and may end up on the queue at some point.

Bones - Season 5 (2009): David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel
A procedural crime-drama that focuses on a forensic anthropologist, her team of academics, and the FBI agent who handles their cases. I'm not one for procedurals but "Bones" is an exception on my DVR schedule. It's fun, light hearted, and highly enjoyable. Season 5 wasn't its strongest season but it set the stage for what could be a banner year this time around.

New to Blu Ray
Beauty and the Beast (1991): Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach
The classic Disney fairy tale that everyone knows so well. This is isn't my favorite Disney movie but I appreciate it greatly because it brought animated movies into the mainstream. Before "Beast", animated films were just for kids. After the 6 Academy Award nominations this film received (including Best Picture), these movies were taken more seriously. "Beast" changed the culture of film and paved the way for "Lion King," "Toy Story," "Up," and so on.

The Exorcist (1973): Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn
If you haven't seen "The Exorcist" by now, you're probably never going to. This is the best and the most frightening scary movie ever. I know I'm fond of hyperbole but I feel pretty good about that last statement.

Last of the Mohicans (1992): Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeline Stowe
During the French and Indian War, a colonist raised by Mohicans attempts to defend the life of a British colonel's daughter whom he's fallen in love with. Is it weird that I've never seen this movie all the way through? I love director Michael Mann and I greatly appreciate Daniel Day-Lewis and yet I've never bothered to watch more than 20 or 30 minutes of the film. Am I missing out?

Blu Ray Pick of the Week
The Mission (1986): Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons
A Spanish missionary and his partner, a former conquistador, must fight to defend the lives of the Central American tribe they've come to work with when the Portuguese move in to enslave them. "The Mission" was nominated for Best Picture back in 1987 and is truly one of the great forgotten films of the last 25 years.

Other Blu Ray New Releases
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Mad Max (1979)
Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Movie News Today

Zack Snyder ("300") has been tapped to direct the revamp of "Superman." I'm not sure how I feel about Snyder; "300" is amazing, "Watchmen" not so much. But I know this: Christopher Nolan is producing and I trust Nolan implicitly. So I'm willing to buy in.

In other big directing news, Tony Gilroy ("Michael Clayton") has been brought on board to direct the next "Bourne" movie. First question is, will Matt Damon join him?

Sony has picked up the rights to a new children's book called "The Familiars" and secured a former Pixar short guru to direct.

If superheroes were hipsters. That's all I'm sayin'.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"The Pacific"

"The Pacific" is the third part in the history of World War II, as brought to you by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. "Saving Private Ryan" is one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time and I would argue that "Band of Brothers" is the best mini-series I've ever seen. So, "Pacific" had some big shoes to fill. This installment follows three Marines in various stages of their tours in the Pacific and the horrors they had to deal with. One is a war hero, one an idealist whose beliefs are brought into question, and one a disillusioned veteran who has a harder time than most adjusting. Each sees a terrible slice of action that indelibly affects the course of their lives.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, thrusting America into the throes of World War II, the country undertook a two front war, fighting one war in Europe and a much less heralded war that spanned the Pacific ocean. Though both fronts brought their own unique hazards, in many ways the fight in the Pacific was a more difficult battle, yet for some reason it always seems to be the forgotten war. When we studied WWII in school, almost all the focus seemed to drift toward D-Day, the Battle of Normandy, etc. and very little time was put into the Pacific beyond Iwo Jima. To this day, when I think of WWII, I think of the European front.

Unfortunately, "The Pacific," didn't do much to help the disparity. It's really not its fault. How do you follow up one, let alone two, of the best productions of the last quarter century? The answer in this case is you really don't. Don't misunderstand. As far as war movies/shows go, "The Pacific" is still very good and completely worth seeing. It just doesn't measure up to its big brothers. It doesn't transcend the way "Ryan" and "Brothers" did. The stories are still just as real, the cinematography and shot selection are astounding, and the dialogue is great.

Two things hold "Pacific" back. One, for the first time in this franchise, the realism went a step too far. Despite all of the horrible events and details depicted in "Ryan" and "Brothers," never once did I feel like they were anything but authentic. "Pacific" at times almost seems gratuitous, like it wants to be shocking, which is the opposite of what I've come to expect from this collaborative group. Two, there is a distinct lack of brotherhood among this group of soldiers. For me, the predecessors of "Pacific" are what they are because of the bond shared and exquisitely displayed by the cast and the characters they portray. The emotional connection of the audience to the characters is rooted in the fact that there is an even stronger emotional connection between those on screen. The very idea behind "The Pacific," three tales of three different Marines, leads to a disconnect that lessens the impact that the series could have. It still tells a tremendous story and one that desperately needs to be told, but it just isn't as engrossing as the other installments.

Grade: B+

Movie News Today

I saw three movies this weekend. Three. "Easy A" and "The Social Network" on Friday with the Lady of the Box Office, "The Town" on Saturday with some of pals. Excellence all around. Still blown away by the casting, writing, and sound quality in "Social" and "The Town" is the closest thing to "Heat" that I have seen to date. Look for my reviews in the near future. I'm hoping to crank a couple out here shortly but I'm still finding it a little difficult to type 800-1000 words in one sitting with this frickin' arm. Starting to really understand why Darth Vader opted to become more machine than man.

Salon gives us the 10 best TV drama pilots. Solid list though, as a "Lost" fanatic in its early years, I feel it's ranking is FAR too low.

I've been more than a bit skeptical of the upcoming "Spiderman" reboot. However, after witnessing the strength of the soon-to-be lead actor (Andrew Garfield) in "Social Network," I've started to come around. Now comes word that the hilarious, highly talented Emma Stone has been offered the role of Mary Jane.
A smart, inspired choice in my opinion. I may get on board for this thing after all...

The beautiful and talented Emily Blunt has joined Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the cast of "Looper," a sci-fi flick that sounds extremely interesting.

Marshall at the Movies takes a look back at David Fincher's "Social Network" precursor, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", and reminds me of why I gave this movie an A+ back in 2008. Terrific all around.

Since I can't get my review out for another day or two, jump over to Movie Muse and have a look at his take on what has turned into the film of the day, "Social Network." And let me just say that I'm glad I tend to write from a personal, sometimes humorous standpoint instead of the traditional critique because if I did, I would be seriously intimidated by my colleague here. Outstanding writer, this one.

Weekend Box Office Results
1. "The Social Network" - $23 million
2. "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" - $10.9 million ($30 million total)
3. "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps" - $10.1 ($35.9)
4. "The Town" - $10 ($64.3)
5. "Easy A" - $7 ($42.4)
6. "You Again" - $5.6 ($16.4)
7. "Case 39" - $5.4
8. "Let Me In" - $5.3
9. "Devil" - $3.7 ($27.4)
10. "Alpha and Omega" - $3 ($19)

Friday, October 1, 2010

DVR Guide - "Raising Hope"

Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff) is a blue collar nobody from a family of blue collar nobodies, a kid in his late teens with no plans or goals for the future who hates his job cleaning pools. While driving home one night he "rescues" a girl from a would-be attacker, drives her home, sleeps with her, and wakes up the next morning to find that she is wanted for murdering her two previous boyfriends. When he shows up to visit her in prison, his newborn daughter is put into his possession and everything changes.

"Raising Hope" is a quirky little sitcom, full of wit but not above juvenile physical humor. It's dead pan comedy that crosses slapstick with a bit of realism, a formula that has made show creator Greg Garcia successful before. If you've ever watched and enjoyed "My Name Is Earl," then you understand the kind of humor "Raising Hope" brings to the table. The shows are extremely similar. The cast for "Hope" is quite strong, mixing a bunch of no names with "oh that's the guy from..." faces expertly. Jimmy's parents Burt and Virginia (Garrett Dillahunt and Martha Plimpton) hit their notes perfectly. Virginia has accepted her lot in life and displays little passion towards anything while Jimmy is an immature, boy-child who wears band t-shirts and pushes his nephew into bushes. Dillahunt is one of the very best character actors the industry has to offer and I would bet that he'll be an immense asset if this show gets a full season. (Plus I'm always happy to see a "Goonies" alum like Plimpton get back into the act.) Jimmy himself illustrates the disaffected, "gotta be something better" kid quite well and his lack of knowledge on how to care for a baby is only bested by his drive to give his daughter a better life than he had.

The thing that could make this show great is its touch of hope. The over-the-top ridiculousness plus redneck satire could become quite tiresome and depressing without some influence from the other side of the emotional spectrum. The hint of familial love, dysfunctional though it might be, brings balance to "Hope" and sets the table for what could be an outstanding comedy. I'm only holding back my Season Pass endorsement because I don't trust Fox to keep this thing on the air.

Verdict: Week-to-Week

"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time"

When Prince Dustan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his men ransack a rebelling territory, he comes into possession of a beautiful dagger. After a series of events force him to go on the run, he discovers the dagger has the power to turn back time. With the aid of Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and the dagger, he sets about on a quest to redeem his name and get revenge on those who have wronged him.

"Prince of Persia" is one of the biggest domestic flops of the last decade. A $200+ million budget yielded a very poor opening weekend ($35 million) and a total of $90 million here in the States. It gained some real legs overseas and (as almost all movies do these days) still made a healthy profit. Which is quite disappointing. Not because it's a terrible movie; it isn't. As far as video game movies go, it's not so bad. The action sequences are pretty good, it moves at a quick pace, and the story is decent enough to keep from inducing groans. What's disappointing about the total haul of "Persia" is that it only propagates the sort of moviemaking and more importantly, movie marketing, that this movie represents. This entire movie and the corresponding advertising campaign are built around style over substance, flash over content. In true Jerry Bruckhiemer fashion, very little attention was paid to development or even to some elements of the casting while more and more was spent on adding a pointless special effect here or another "that'll look great in the trailer" shot there. You can almost hear Bruckheimer planning out the Disney World roller coaster that would be based on his movie instead of working on the movie itself. I'm not saying "Prince of Persia" could have been an award caliber film but it could have definitely hit a stronger note if a little more attention was paid to the actual movie and a little less to the marketing drive.

Grade: B-