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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Monday, April 30, 2012


Director: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Alison Brie, Chris Pratt

Tom (Segel) and Violet (Blunt) meet at a costumed New Year's Eve party. She was dressed as Princess Diana while he went in a full body bunny costume called "Super Bunny". A year later Tom proposes to Violet on the roof of the restaurant where he works as a sous chef. Everything seems fine and dandy as they start planning their wedding. Tom's best friend Alex (Pratt) ends up sleeping with Violet's sister Susie (Brie) at their engagement party. Don't worry, they keep the baby and get married. Alex gets his act together and becomes a committed dad and husband. Tom is having steady career working as a in a San Francisco clam bar, while Violet can't seem to get a job. One day a thick envelope comes in a mail with a job opportunity for Violet. It's a two year contract with the University of Michigan in their psychology department. This opportunity is too good for her to pass up. Tom and Violet decide to put their wedding planning on hold in order to move to Michigan. Just when Tom tells his boss he is leaving, he is told he was about to be a head chef in a new restaurant she was going to open.

Violet's job could not not be going any better. Her thesis using stale donuts is a hit with the head professor (Ryhs Ifans) and fellow teammates (Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, and Randall Park). Tom doesn't seem to have the same luck. He can't find a job at a fine dining restaurant that fits his skills or monetary needs. In a desperate move, he takes a job at a hit sandwich shop. Fast forward two years, Violet is offered another contract. The contract is for three years this time. A big fight ensues as this was not in the plans. Tom has become extremely unhappy in Michigan. He is going nowhere with his career and has become one with nature. He took an interest in hunting and has let his physical looks go by growing some awful facial hair. Tom and Violet turn to Alex and Susie for relationship help as their engagement is not going in the direction they once thought it was headed in.

This is the third collaboration by Stoller and Segel who previously wrote Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Muppets. The script is very polarizing for me. There were times where I was applauding it and other times where I was frustrated. The dialogue seemed very natural and realistic at times. It made me wonder if they were improving or if it was just written very easy and naturalistic. The relationship between Tom and Violet had lots of ups and downs. I really appreciated that in a romantic comedy that the main couple wasn't all cheerful and hunky dory the whole movie. I got frustrated during their down moments, which made me realize I was caring about them more than I expected I would. When the time frame of the movie spans five years, the audience doesn't want to feel like they are in the movie for five years. Many events and circumstances in their relationship gets covered which leads to a very long movie. The screenplay could easily have been cut down with the same feeling of the passage of time. The whole sub-plot of Tom becoming a Grizzly Adams is easily forgettable and not necessary. There are side characters that are unnecessary as well. Segel and Blunt have previously co-starred together in two movies. Their real life friendship effortlessly comes across on screen. They have great chemistry together which makes this relationship and storyline more relatable than other pairs in your standard rom-com. Alison Brie and Chris Pratt steal the movie as Tom’s dopey friend and Violet’s sister. They seem to be the most realistic and fleshed out characters. The Five-Year Engagement is charming and funny filled with two couples that I seemed to really care about. The big problem with the movie lies in the screenplay. It feels like a first draft that forgot to go through the editing phase.

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

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Friday, April 20, 2012

First Look: MAGIC MIKE

First Look: MAGIC MIKE
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Munn, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Adam Rodriguez, Matt Bomer

The Oscar winning director of Traffic, Contagion, the Ocean's Triology, and Erin Brockovich teams up with Channing Tatum again in a story loosely based on Tatum's pre-Hollywood life as a male stripper.  Tatum plays the lead character as he teaches a young newbie (Pettyfer) the ins-and-outs of the job all while struggling to have a normal life.  Matthew McConaughey portrays the club's owner.  TV stars Matt Bomer ("White Collar"), Adam Rodriguez ("CSI: Miami"), and Joe Manganiello ("True Blood") co-star as fellow workers at the club.

The trailer and poster were just released this past week.  I must admit, the feel of the movie is not at all what I thought it was going to be about.  I guess I assumed it would have this gritty, rough, drug-filled tone to it.  By the looks of the trailer, it seems lighter, funnier, and more romantic than I had imagined.  I also think they should have showed more skin in the trailer.  Maybe that's just me though.

What are your thoughts?  Are you excited to see it?  Does it look like a dud like Striptease, a cult classic like Showgirls, another Soderbergh hit like Ocean's 11, or will it just get lost in a summer of huge blockbusters ?

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Unleash Your Inner Foodie: JULIE & JULIA


Many of you know I contribute a monthly blog to DeeAnn McArdle and her website "Unleash Your Inner Foodie". For April, I decided to write about the Goddess Meryl Streep and her exquisite performance of Julia Child in Julie & Julia. I seem to write quite a bit about Meryl in my blogs for DeeAnn.

Here's a portion of the blog. It starts with an introduction by DeeAnn and goes into my review

Julia Child has inspired so many of us to venture into the foodie world. She not only revolutionized how we cook, she feel in love with the lifestyle that results from good cooking and good entertaining – in other words, she Unleash her Inner Foodie!

I’m so excited that our favorite Movie Critic; Paul McGuire has chosen to review my favorite movie this month - Julie & Julia. You’re going to love his review. I hope it inspires you to not only watch the movie again but gives you the confidence to try a new recipe – maybe the one you’ve been saving for that perfect gathering!

To read the rest click here



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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Movie Review: THE LUCKY ONE

Director: Scott Hicks
Starring: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Jay R. Ferguson

What prompts someone to walk halfway across the country to track down a girl in a photo? I really do mean walk. There was no truck or plane ticket. Logan Thibault (Efron) is back home from his third tour as a marine. He finds a picture of a beautiful blonde by a lighthouse amongst some rubble and keeps it on him. After he is unable to find anyone to claim the picture, he keeps it and it acts like his lucky charm. He has survived while many of his friends and fellow troops have perished. His best friend, Victor, tells him to go find this girl once they get back home. He discovers the lighthouse is located in Louisiana and treks out with his dog from Colorado to go find this mystery woman.

Logan finds the lighthouse in a small town and knows it is only a matter of time before he finds the girl. He goes to various people in a bar and someone recognizes her and says her name is Beth Green (Schilling). Beth is a single mom who runs a dog training and boarding business with her Grandma Ellie (Danner). Logan shows up at the kennel to explain himself to Beth and show her the picture. He clams up and cannot seem to get the words out. She assumes he is there for a job opening. Ellie has a good hunch about him and hires him on the spot. Logan fails to express his true reason for being there but takes the job to get closer to Beth. Beth's ex and father to her son, Keith (Ferguson), is a local cop and son to the sheriff. He still yearns for Beth and likes to play the "My dad's the sheriff so that makes me important" card. He runs into Logan at the kennel and grows highly suspicious of him. He is leery about what this ex-Marine drifter is randomly doing in town and why he is spending time with his ex-wife and son. With time, Beth seems to relax around Logan as he proves to be responsible, talented, and great with her son. Her brother was also a marine but was killed on duty. She was very close to him so Logan is a great reminder for her of his memory. She starts to have feelings for him but can't seem to get out of him to open up around her as the post war trauma still haunts him.

There are some things you know going into any movie adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel. This is the seventh adaptation of one of his books, so there is a bit of a formula to them. There is bound to be a somewhat sappy romance, one of them seems guarded and unsure, there is a villain of some sort, and you might shed a tear or two. The Notebook is by far the best of his adaptations. Every piece of that movie worked. Zac Efron is still branching out from his post-Disney career and tries to take on more gritty adult roles. Unfortunately, this role doesn't quite suit him. He plays the role far too guarded and on edge making Logan very one-noted. He rarely comes out of his shell making the romance between him and Beth a little forced on her end. He could have played him more outgoing and open while still maintaining the mystery of why he is there and the feeling that he is a bit off. Unfortunately, this affects the chemistry between the two characters. I felt like I could never completely fall for them as a couple with him being so shut off. The character of Keith is also written poorly. He comes off as merely the angry ex without any expedition or reason why he acts that way. Taylor Schilling and Blythe Danner make the movie work. Schilling is terrific as Beth. She has a very emotional rollercoaster of a scene in the rose garden as she struggles with the loss of her brother. Danner steals the movie as Grandma Ellie. She has some very funny one-liners and glances directed at Beth. The Lucky One has some great qualities going for it, but there are some stumbles along the way.

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

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Monday, April 16, 2012


Director: Drew Goddard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Kristin Connelly, Richard Jenkins

Like any low budget horror movie, The Cabin in the Woods follows five college aged students as they head to a deserted cabin in the woods for a little rest and relaxation. Naturally, someone knows someone who knows someone who owns the cabin. All of your favorite horror movie characters are represented: the jock (Hemsworth), the brain (Williams), the horny blonde girlfriend of the jock (Anna Hutchison), the smart brunette (Connelly), and the stoner (Frank Kranz). They head out in their camper to find this cabin off the dirt road and off their GPS signal. An eerie stop to get gas leads to an unpleasant encounter with a creepy older guy running the desolate store. The clan drives off and finally finds the cabin. They are ready for some sun, swim, drink, pot, and sex. Later that evening, a game of truth or dare leads them into the cellar to find a haunting display of toys, dolls, writings, and clothing dating back to previous owners. Their weekend of excitement comes to a screeching halt when they realize this cabin is not quite the paradise they were hoping to enjoy as three zombies are released from graves buried on the property.

***SPOILER ALERTS from here on out***

This all sounds pretty clichéd like something straight out of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy. The kicker in this script by Goddard and Joss Whedon is that all of the actions against the students are being controlled and manipulated by a group of media personnel as part of a game/reality show. They are led by two men (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) who seem to be in charge of what happens to the unsuspecting group of students. There are cameras set up all over the cabin and surrounding property so they can manipulate and call the shots as they see it all unfolding. The goal is for the virgin to be the last one standing.

I don't want to give too much more away. The best part of this movie is the element of surprise. It works best, if like the students, you have no idea what is going to happen next. The brilliance behind the movie is that there is something new and fresh happening throughout the whole movie. You never know where the ride is going to take you or what will pop up next. Like Scream, The Cabin in the Woods is one big homage to the horror genre. It plays with standard horror movie characters, styles, and clichés but completely one ups them by taking it to the next level and doing something so completely original in the second half of the movie. Most of your typical slasher films released these days are boring paint-by-numbers gore fests. They are either remakes or sequels of previous movies. It is refreshing when a director and screenwriter dare to make something new and fresh to challenge the audience. I love hearing the audience laugh or jump during a great horror movie. The Cabin in the Woods is definitely that kind of movie. People laughed during the funny stoner one-liners but also jumped and got startled numerous times. Not only does the movie speak volumes about horror movies, it provides an interesting commentary on reality shows. You have the producers and personnel on the show rooting for these people to get attacked or killed. They are having a big party to celebrate how the show is going all the while the heroine is getting the shit kicked out of her in the background. There are so many reality shows out there where the producers manipulate the show and situations so the villain comes as the winner, the tears are flowing like a waterfall, and catfights are normal. They do this because it attracts ratings. Why is it that society is drawn to the dramatic downfalls and craziness of these types of shows and the people involved? Trust me when I say that The Cabin in the Woods is one of the best horror movies released in years. You may think it looks super cheesy, but there is so much more to it than students heading out to some dumpy cabin. It is a fresh, witty, sharp, intelligent ode to a mostly stale genre.

RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)

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Monday, April 9, 2012


Directors: John Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Starring: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Sean William Scott, Eugene Levy

The class of 1999 from East Great Falls is back for the 10 year class reunion only now it's become their 13 year reunion. Internet "sensation" Jim Levenstein (Biggs) and band geek Michelle (Hannigan) are now married and have a two year old son. They arrive back to Jim's childhood home to find that his dad (Levy) is still struggling with being a widow. Jim is also stunned to find that hot neighbor girl Kara (Ali Coburn) is someone he used to babysit and is now a senior in high school. Jim corrals the other guys: Oz (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) for drinks once they all arrive back to town. They purposefully do not invite Stifler (Scott) as they do not want to deal with any of his shenanigans. They have grown up and moved on but believe he is as immature as he was in high school. Low and behold, Stifler shows up and their suspiscions are correct.

Since having a child Jim and Michelle's sex life has hit rock bottom. Michelle is hoping to finally get some alone time with him this weekend in hopes to rejuvenate their marriage. Jim's dad can watch their kid, and everything should go to plan. That sounds easier said than done, but in the end boys will boys. Jim, Kevin, Oz, Finch, and Stifler spend the weekend getting into more trouble than necessary. Crashing a high school party, stealing jet-skis, and a drunk naked Kara prove to be more than Jim can handle. Jim also spends some good one-on-one time with his dad. He offers him tips to get back into the dating scene. It is a bit of role reversal as his dad has offered a handful of advice to him in the past.

American Reunion oddly feels like a reunion in a way. The audience gets to catch up with characters they met years ago and see how they have progressed or if they are still stuck in high school. Sometimes reunions have that surface level feel to them. You talk all night, but the conversation is never all that deep or challenging. The tone and humor feels like American Pie, but it doesn't rise above that to feel 2012. It still feels a little stuck in 1999. Don't get the wrong idea, there are some good laughs along the way. The awkward conversations between Jim and his dad are sure comedic gold at times. Sean William Scott is just as outrageous as ever as Stifler. There are some sweet and charming moments as well as the uncomfortable sexual gags one would expect from this series. If you are a fan of the series, you will enjoy this next helping. There are various nods, jokes, and references to many gags from the first one that could go unnoticed if you are unfamiliar with the series.

RATING: *** 1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars) 

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Movie Review: TITANIC 3D

Director: James Cameron
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Gloria Stuart, Kathy Bates

When treasure hunter Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) goes down to the wreckage of the Titanic, he ends up with more than he bargains for. He is in search for a rare blue diamond called The Heart of the Ocean. If found, it would be worth more than the Hope Diamond. It was believed to have been on the Titanic when it went down. A safe is brought up, but the diamond is not in it.  His crew discovers a drawing in the safe of a woman naked wearing the diamond dated April 14, 1912. Brock receives a phone call from an elderly woman named Rose Calvert who claims to be the woman in the drawing. They bring Rose and her granddaughter (Suzi Amis) aboard their ship to hear her story. Rose recounts the days of her life aboard the Titanic. She (Winslet) was an elite member of First Class who was engaged to Caledon Hockley (Billy Zane) only in attempt to retain her family's social status and marry into money. He is a volatile man who mistreats her at every chance. After an attempt at jumping overboard, she is rescued by steerage passenger Jack Dawson (DiCaprio). He is a vagabond who won his ticket during a poker hand. Even though they have nothing in common, they strike a chord with each other and their love affair begins.

So the big question is, how does it look in 3D? James Cameron and his team spent over a year in the process of converting it from 2D to 3D to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking. The 3D is great, but for different reasons than one might think. You have to remember that it was filmed for 2D. You don't have images flying in your face. You won't have someone falling off the ship and into your lap. It is not that type of 3D movie. There are also plenty of scenes that are not in 3D due to the nature of the shots. I think the 3D works because it elevates the overall feel and mood of the movie when it is used. The costumes appear richer, the hallways appear longer, the water seems more overwhelming, and the ship seems bigger. I also felt like it really enhanced the spacial relationships the characters had with each other. You can feel the tightness as everyone is crammed on a life boat or as they are trying to survive on the top of the stern.

On a technical standpoint, it's a exceptionally well-made movie. Between the use of models, sets, real-life footage, and huge water filled sound stages, the audience really gets a feel for the atmosphere and epic size of the ship. I can only imagine that if it was made today with some other director, everything would be against a green screen with fake looking CGI backdrops. Once the iceberg hits, it is a tight tense second half. I still get nervous when Jack is handcuffed to the piping as Rose finds a way to break him free. Cameron does a fantastic job of incorporating how the "unsinkable" ship started to flood and how the sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic happened. He also uses various real-life passengers like: John Jacob Astor, the Guggenheims, and Molly Brown (Bates) as characters in the movie. I think if the romance between Jack and Rose bothers you, you will find the history portion and technical aspects intriguing. 

Titanic is one grand epic saga of a movie. Seeing it again on the big screen and in 3D proves that this is the kind of movie that is meant to be seen in the theaters. The smaller screen in your living room cannot do it justice. It is by no means a perfect movie. It has become a movie that some people love to hate. Sure, some could say the screenplay is poorly written. Some could even call it melodramatic at times. For me, I can forgive some of those flaws. Winslet and DiCaprio have beautiful chemistry together and are strong enough actors to not let some cheesy dialogue get in the way of the audience falling for Jack and Rose. Kathy Bates is a hysterical treat as Molly Brown. On the other side of the acting range, Billy Zane and Bill Paxton are a little over-the-top at times. I am here to admit once again how much I love this movie. Yes, some of the dialogue can be eye rolling. I will be the first to admit it. That does not stop me from watching it every time I see it on cable despite the fact I have it on VHS and DVD. I will also buy the Blu-Ray when it comes out. I remember seeing it opening night at the Mall of America on December 19, 1997 with my Uncle Bob and Aunt Kathy. I was a young movie lover and was instantly drawn to everything about this movie. I fell in love with Kate Winslet and became an even bigger fan of Leonardo DiCaprio. On the history front, it really was one of my first insights into the tragedy of the real Titanic. It became the highest grossing movie of all time until Cameron's Avatar claimed the number one spot in 2009. People flocked to the theater countless times. It went on to win 11 Academy Awards out of 14 nominations. It tied Ben-Hur for winning the most Oscars. If you liked it the first time or numerous times since then, you will love it again back on the big screen.

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

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Monday, April 2, 2012



Director: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Lilly Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane

The fair Snow White (Collins) is stuck living her life in her bedroom. Her stepmother and guardian The Evil Queen (Roberts) sits upon her throne while the servants wait upon her. The Queen has stolen the thrown away from Snow White and has left the town in disarray. After sneaking out of the castle, Snow runs into Prince Alcott (Hammer) in the woods. A spark ignites between the two of them even though they do not know each other's secret identities. When Prince Alcott arrives at the Castle, the Queen becomes infatuated with him purely for financial reasons. She is determined to marry him for his wealth. She is so broke she can't even afford to throw him a ball to woo him over. She raises the townspeople's taxes and throws him a lavish affair. Snow White sneaks downstairs and eyes the Prince and their identities are revealed. The all-knowing Queen witnesses their connection and banishes her from the castle to live out in the woods. Along with the help of seven dwarves she encounters, Snow is determined to take down the Queen, regain the throne, and win her prince back.

There are two Snow White movies coming to theaters in 2012. The other one is Snow White and the Huntsman, which is a gritty darker version starring Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen and Kristen Stewart as Snow White. Mirror Mirror is supposed to be the lighter, comedic tale. The key phrase there is "supposed to be". There are so many problems with this version of Snow White. For a PG rated family friendly movie, there does not seem to be much life and fun to it. The story is flat, boring, and not funny enough to keep young children entertained. The acting is all over the place in style. Julia Roberts is bland and boring. She does not have the over-the-top wickedness that could make her Evil Queen a fun villain. Nathan Lane is typically the king of being over the top but falls flat and useless. Armie Hammer seems to be the only actor that is having fun. He's not afraid to be silly and goofy. He shines when he is struck by a puppy love potion.

Tarsem Singh is known to be a very visual director. The look of the movie is about the only thing that works here. The costume design by the late Japanese designer Eiko Ishioka is gorgeous. The bright reds and yellows help give the movie the fairy tale feel. I found myself more engrossed by the dresses Roberts was wearing over any of her acting choices or lack thereof. Unfortunately, one good actor and a fabulous costume design can't save a movie. What could have been a beautiful fairy tale movie for children and adults, Mirror Mirror is boring and lackluster for any age audience.

Rating: ** (2 out of 5 stars)
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