Established May 2010.

Gordie: Do you think I'm weird?
Chris: Definitely.
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody's weird.

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

Member of THE LAMB: The Large Association of Movie Blogs LAMB #1588

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Movie Review: FOOTLOOSE

Director: Craig Brewer
Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Andie McDowell

What do many teenagers do on the average weekend? They party with their friends. Some activties may involve drinking, debauchery, drinking games, music, drinking, and maybe some dancing. Five students die in a fatal car crash after an evening involving all of the above actions. The residents of Bomont, including Reverend Moore (Quaid), come to rash decisions and decide to put a limit on or ban certain activities. There shall be no loud music, no drinking, early curfews, and most importantly, NO DANCING. Clearly, dancing and loud music killed these students. Three years pass by and the town is living a newer quieter peaceful life. Dancing and music may still happen, but it's either under strict supervision or completely done in secret. Ren McCormack (Wormald) moves to Bomont from Boston after his mother passes away to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousins. Soon enough he gets a ticket for playing music in his car too loudly. In the eyes of the Reverend and the other upstanding citizens, he is a rebel and a bad influence. The Reverend's daughter, Ariel (Hough), instantly grows an attraction to Ren. What a bad girl. Being the smooth dancer that he is, Ren grows increasingly irritated by the strict laws caused by the tragic accident. With the help of Ariel and his best friend, Willard (Miles Teller), they set out to stand up to the city council to abolish these strict guidelines.

Quite some time has passed since my last viewing of the original, so I was able to free myself from comparing the two of them. This is one of Kenny Wormald's first starring roles, and he does a fine job. He's cute and charming without being too one-noted. Julianne Hough is new to the film world after having a career on "Dancing with a Stars" and a country singing career. She does a capable job in a role that isn't too dramatically challenging. Footloose is an enjoyable good time. It's full of fun dancing from hip-hop to country line dancing. Some of the music from the original movie like "Footloose", "Almost Paradise", and "Holding Out for a Hero", and others are used in this movie. Some arrangements are the same while some of them are new takes on the songs.

The idea that a town bans dancing seems a little archaic. If you let yourself get over that fact, you can let yourself go and have some fun. You also need to get over the fact that this is a remake or re-imaganing. I'm not sure what the technical term the studio is using for this outing. This is the kind of movie you don't need to think through. Don't go in expecting any sort of Academy Award winning movie. It's not going to be that kind of movie. You have to let your mind go, kick off your Sunday shoes, and have a good time.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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Sunday, October 23, 2011


Paranormal Activity 3
Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Shulman
Starring: Lauren Bittner, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Dustin Ingram

During Paranormal Activity 2, Kristi and her husband believe their house was buglarized. As we know from the previous two movies in this franchise, an evil spirit has followed Kristi and her sister Katie into their current houses. This spirit has traveled with them their whole lives ever since they were children. In Paranormal Activity 3, an old box of VHS tapes from their childhood goes missing after the supposed "break-in". The timeline of the series shifts to the past as we view those videotapes. Kristi and Katie are young little girls living with their mom, Julie (Bitten), and her boyfriend, Dennis (Smith). Like most young kids, Kristi has an imaginary friend, Toby, that she has tea parties with and shares secrets with. Toby threatens her to not tell her parents about of these secrets. One night Dennis and Julie decide to video-tape themselves as they engage in some sexual activities. Before they get too far into it, an earthquake shakes their house and stuff goes flying everywhere. Dennis starts to re-watch the tape and notices, for a brief second, the dust falling from the ceiling takes the shape of a figure before it settles to the ground. He's convinced there was a spirit that walked through the room. Dennis sets up three video cameras around the house to catch whatever is happening. There is one in the girls' bedroom, one in the master bedroom, and one positioned on an oscillating fan that scans the living room and kitchen areas. Is it Kristi's mysterious imaginary friend Toby or something worse all together?

After how many entries into a horror movie can a premise still be scary? I think that the third outing is the least scary in the franchise. I will give the filmmakers credit for choosing the oscillating fan technique over the security camera. There is some suspense as you wait for the camera frame to shift from the kitchen to the living room. You wait to see if someone is standing in the background or if something jumps into the frame. Origin stories are not new to the horror genre. I do think it was a smarter choice than having Katie haunt some new family in the house which easily could have been the route the filmmakers could have taken. While the ending was suspenseful and chilling, there weren't as many jumps and shocking moments throughout the movie as the first two had. Maybe I'm just getting immune to these types of scares. Will Paranormal Activity be the next Saw where each Halloween you get a new entry in the series? It is sure looking that way. Will I still go see a fourth anyway? Probably.

RATING: ** (2 out of 5 stars)

Director: George Clooney
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Stephen Meyers (Gosling) is young hot-shot political junior campaign manager working for Governor of Pennsylvania Mike Morris (Clooney). Governor Morris one of two democratic candidates vying for the presidency. As strong and smart as Stephen is, he can't seem to stay out of trouble throughout the campaign trail. He starts a sexual relationship with an intern, Molly (Evan Rachel Wood). Molly is no innocent young lady. After learning of a secret involving Molly and Governor Morris, Stephen's morals are shaken. Stephen takes a meeting with rival campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Giamatti). Paul suggests to Stephen that he should switch teams and work for the other campaign. Word leaks to the press about the meeting. Stephen learns this his own senior campaign manager (Hoffman) is the one that leaked the news and then fires Stephen from Morris' campaign. Stephen must decide if he wants to exploit the secret that he knows and ruin his own reputation and Morris' campaign , join the other team, or walk away with his head in the air.

You can't help but draw comparisons to the Clinton administration and the Obama administrations when watching this movie. Most of Govenor Morris' advertising is directly in the same style as Obama's. Clooney directed, co-wrote, and is part of the ensemble. Even though he's considered one of the main stars, he appears on screen less than you would have expected. The movie presents a very strong commentary on politics, campaigns, and the backstabbing that goes along with it. It's unfortunate how crooked and shady many keys players can be no matter how likable they seem on the outside. Overall great ensemble work by Clooney, Gosling, Giamatti, Hoffman, and Marisa Tomei. The only weak link is Evan Rachel Wood. She is so wooden and boring in a role that could be more fiendish and devilish. Big props for Ryan Gosling. Three great movies in one year.

RATING: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Movie Review: MONEYBALL

Director: Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt

After losing a postseason game to the Yankees in 2001, General Manger of the Oakland Athletics Billy Beane (Pitt) is forced to face the fact that he's losing three star players. The A's have a salary of $41 million to spend on players compared to the Yankees $120 million. There is the theory that you have to pay to get good notable players. The kind of players that can win championships and the World Series. Having been a player himself, Beane knows the game inside and out. After hiring Peter Brand (Hill) as his assistant, they plan to assemble the team and hire new players using a calculated formulaic system based on the player's on-base statistics. They want players that can get on base and stay on base. They set their eyes on players that can play well, but might be over-looked as they are either past their prime, have a funny pitch, or don't throw the best. They may have the best stats but aren't costing the teams millions of dollars based on their name alone. After ignoring the rest of the recruiting staff and manager Art Howe (Hoffman), Beane hires three new players: Scott Hatteberg (Pratt), Chad Bradford, and David Justice.

The season starts with a grim outlook. The Athletics's can't seem to win a game. Beane's unusual approach does not turn out the way he was hoping. Art Howe is not playing the men the way Beane wants him to. Beane decides to make more drastic changes by trading some of the players and forcing Howe to play the men the way he intended them to be played. Like any motivational sports movie, the team starts to turn around and go on a winning streak.

Brad Pitt gives a strong, comitted performance as Beane. He's always present and truthful in each scene. I think Pitt is very underrated as an actor. He may have done some clunkers along the way, but he's really proven himself time and again. See any of the movies he has done with David Fincher for proof. It's unfortunate that the "Brangelina" media coverage gets in the way of his talent and image as an actor. Jonah Hill was shockingly great in the movie. He plays against his normal doofy Judd Apatow type character, and it really works. As much as I love watching Phillip Seymour Hoffman, he wasn't given the material in this to really show him off. I know he has worked with Miller before, but he seems to be coasting through the movie. Robin Wright has been given the cameo treatment as well playing Beane's ex-wife. I was hoping to be blown away by Moneyball. I enjoyed it but didn't come out thinking it was the best movie of the year or anything like that.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Music of Horror Movies

One of my favorite things about horror movies is how certain musical themes or phrases make those chilling moments even more haunting. When you hear a minor second interval, it's hard not to think about John William's score and a great white shark approaching on an innocent victim. Norman Bates sneaking up on Marion Crane in the shower would not have the same effect without Bernard Hermann's high shrieking violins. John Carpenter composed his own score for Halloween on his synthesizer.

Here are various themes and scores that come from a range of movies in the genre.

Composer: Bernard Hermann

Opening credits

Shower Scene

Composer: John Carpenter

Even though it wasn't written specifically for the Halloween movies. I always think about the movies when I hear "Mr. Sandman". It's used in Halloween II and Halloween H2O

Composer: John Williams

The Exorcist
"Tubular Bells"
Composer: Mike Oldfield

The Shining
Composers: Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind

A Nightmare on Elm Street
Composer: Charles Bernstein

Friday the 13th
Composer: Harry Manfredini

The Bride of Frankenstein
Composer: Franz Waxman

Minnesota Orchestra will be presenting the movie and performing the score behind it on October 28

Rosemary's Baby
Composer: Krzysztof Komeda

Hocus Pocus

Hocus Pocus is not a scary movie, but it's a fun movie from my childhood that usually gets a viewing around Halloween. I love Bette, and I can't help but think of Hocus Pocus when I hear this song.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The first trailer has been released for the The Avengers. Marvel Comics new movie brings together the great super heroes from various comics like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and The Hulk. If you've seen and enjoyed any of the latest Marvel movies, you are bound to enjoy The Avengers.

The Avengers
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury)
Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man)
Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye)
Chris Evans (Captain America)
Chris Hemsworth (Thor)
Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk)
Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow)
Tom Hittleson (Loki)

Release date: May 4, 2012

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Monday, October 10, 2011

"Unleash Your Inner Foodie" Guest Blog: BIG NIGHT

It's time for another guest blog for DeeAnn McArdle and her blog "Unleash Your Inner Foodie". I usually do a theme each month, but the latest post is all about BIG NIGHT written, directed, and starring Stanley Tucci.

One of the best supporting actors working today is Stanley Tucci. You may have seen him in his Oscar-nominated role in The Lovely Bones or in The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia, or Captain America: The First Avenger. He’s not only known for his film work, but also for his work on the stage and the small screen. One of his good friends and collaborators is Tony Shalhoub (TV’s “Monk”). They both starred in one of the ultimate foodie movies, Big Night...

To read to rest of it click here
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Movie Reviews: DRIVE, 50/50

Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman

Being a stunt double in the movie industry can't be easy, especially when car chases are involved. Driver (Gosling) is a stunt double and mechanic by day, and a getaway crime driver by night. He will drop you off, wait five minutes for you to committ your crime of choice, and leave if you are not back in the car. The movie starts with an edge of your seat ride as two men jump back into the car and evade the police right on their tail. After running into his neighbor, Irene (Mulligan), on a couple of different occasions, they strike up conversation and chemistry starts to build. Irene is raising her son while her husband, Standard, is in jail. Even though their relationship is building, Driver still remains pretty elusive about his true profession. After Standard is released from jail, he is threatened that if he doesn't pay his dues, Irene and their son will be harmed. Driver wants to protect Irene so he offers to help Standard out. The goal is for Standard to rob a Pawn Shop of the two million dollars that is being stashed there. If it were only that simple.

Drive is another example where you shouldn't judge a movie by it's trailer. The first time I saw the trailer, I thought "Really, Ryan Gosling? What is that?" Being the hard core fan that I am, I knew I would see it anyways. It had too good of a cast to be a clunker of a movie. On the surface, Drive sounds like your average Nicolas Cage/Vin Diesel movie, but it is not at all like anything they would do. There is a specific style, look, and brains behind it that I loved. The sound mixing really surprised me. All of the gun shots, stabbings, and car crashes were far louder than you normally hear in movies. It literally made me jump numerous times. Talk about putting you right in the middle of the action. Ryan Gosling is one of the best actors of his generation. He makes intelligent choices and oozes chemistry with every one of his current or former co-stars (Rachel McAdams, Michelle Williams, Emma Stone, Carey Mulligan). Every detail from the credits, the sound, the style, and the soundtrack have all been thought out and specifically chosen. Drive is one of the best movies I've seen all year.

Rating: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5)

Director: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston

Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is a perfectly normal 27 year old guy. He doesn't smoke, drink, litter, and he leads a pretty clean lifestyle. I would be pretty shocked too if I lead that clean of a life to find out that I had a very rare kind of cancer. He first informs his best friend, Kyle (Rogen), and girlfriend, Rachael (Howard). Kyle steps up to the plate and is there for him every step of the way. Rachael proclaims she's going to be the good girlfriend and take care of him but crumbles under the pressure. After forgetting to pick him up from appointments and getting caught cheating on Adam, he appropriately dumps her. Kyle's approach to helping Adam involves partying, hooking up with women, and smoking lots of "medicinal" marijuana. Who uses a cancer pick-up line and doesn't score with lots of women, right? Adam tries to go about his new life with as much optimism as he can. He slowly builds comfort with his therapist (Kendrick). Their meetings don't start off smoothly as he realizes she's only a doctoral student, and he's her third patient. He also finds solace with two other men during his chemotherapy sessions.

Cancer movies are hard to do well. You want to treat the situations and people involved with respect. You don't want it to be too weepy that it turns into a Lifetime movie. You want to include humor so it doesn't get bogged down in the drama. 50/50 excels at hitting the right notes and paths along the way. It has a smart script full of funny one-liners, poignant moments, and believable characters. The screenwriter, Will Reiser, based the movie on his own experiences battling cancer. Seth Rogen basically plays himself in the movie as he helped Will during his ordeal. Anjelica Huston is pitch perfect as the nervous, over-bearing mother. She brings out the funny, stern, and caring side without make her a one-note mom. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has proven once again he is far more than just the child star he once was.

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

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