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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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Movie Review: LAWLESS

Director: John Hillcoat
Starring: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman

Bootlegging was the term for the illegal smuggling of alcohol during the Prohibition era. The Bondurant Brothers left their mark on Franklin County, Virginia as moonshine bootleggers. Forrest (Hardy), Jack (LaBeouf), and Howard (Clarke) have their turf and are not to be messed with unless you want to end up a bloody mess. They are known to have an "invincible" status. A group of lawmen led by Charlie Rakes (Pearce) from Chicago have stepped in and threaten the brothers in an attempt to share in their moonshine profits. While the brothers and the rest of the locals are living a shabby, dusty, and dirty life, Rakes comes in dressed in his finest clothes, gloves, and finely styled hair. His eyebrows have been so finely plucked they are barely noticeable.

Your standard bar brawl turns vicious one night at the Bondurant's saloon. Forrest wins the fight between the men and drags them out of the saloon. Along with his bar maid, Maggie (Chastain), he closes up the saloon for the night and heads out to his car. The gentlemen from the fight retaliate by attacking him and slashing his throat. Maggie happens to drive back to the saloon not knowing the fate of Forrest and gets bruised and beaten herself. Forrest stays true to his invincible self and survives the attack. Jack vows for revenge on the men and Rakes all the while trying to carry on the family business and wooing the local preacher's daughter (Wasikowska).

The movie is based on the book "The Wettest County in the World" by Matt Bondurant who is the grandson of Jack Bondurant. Like most movies based on real life figures, there is an antique photo of the real brothers that starts the final credits. Singer/Songwriter Nick Cave wrote the screenplay and composed the score for the movie. The storytelling is a bit choppy at times. The beginning of the movie feels very slow. It seemed as if Cave didn't know how to set up the characters or how to start the story before the catalyst that drives the rest of the movie happens. I get irritated when I feel like I don't know where the story is going. There could be far more depth and urgency with the story as well as the characters. The characters could have been written with more specificity instead of seeming like stereotypes. You've got the strong but silent brother, the young anxious brother, the flamboyant villain, the Tommy Gun toting gangster, the bar maid, and the quiet church girl.

Despite weak writing, the acting is fairly strong overall. I am not sure if Tom Hardy filmed this before or after The Dark Knight Rises but he still has his Bane body and uses that to embody his invincible status. Guy Pearce borders on over-the-top at times as the flamboyant Charlie Rakes. You definitely grow to hate his character. Gary Oldman is a perfect chameleon of an actor. Unfortunately, he is in the movie all too briefly. I would have loved to see more of his character. Hillcoat has directed a very violent and grisly movie. The added sound effects make every gun shot and throat slashing all the more graphic. While the movie has some good things going for it, it is done on a very simple surface level.

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

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Monday, August 20, 2012


Director: Tony Gilroy
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach

Aaron Cross (Renner) "Number Five" has been secluded up in the Alaskan mountains as part of a training program for Operation Outcome. He has been given a special pill regimen of a green pill and a blue pill to enhance memory and strength. Aaron comes across operative Number Three and they commune in the lodge Number Three has been living in. After Jason Bourne exposes Operation Blackbriar and the Treadstone Project, Eric Byer (Norton) is called in to cover up the CIA initiatives. While Cross is out surveying the land around the lodge, a missile is shot and blows up Number Three. It has become apparent to Cross that the members of Operation Outcome have been targeted for elimination. He dislodges the tracker that has been implanted in him and forces it into a wolf that tried to attack him.

Dr. Donald Foite (Zeljko Ivanek) has been brain washed to kill his fellow scientists at Outcome who have been making the green and blue pills. The lone survivor of the rampage is Dr. Marta Shearing (Weisz) who hides until Dr. Foite pulls the gun on himself. Later at home, Dr. Marta is attacked again by the same CIA agents that were in charge of the rampage. Aaron Cross mysteriously shows up killing the agents and rescuing Dr. Marta. They escape and head to Manila, Philippines where the pills are manufactured. Byer learns of their plans and sends a team to Manila to capture them. Naturally, this leads to many more chase sequences and high brow stunts.

Tony Gilroy wrote and directed this Bourne reboot. He had previously written the other three Bourne movies, but decided to take over the director's chair after Paul Greengrass decided not to return to the series. With Matt Damon also deciding not to return, Gilroy had a couple of options if he was going to make another movie. He could recast the role of Jason Bourne, create a new spy in a new adventure, or create a new spy but incorporate him into the Jason Bourne story line. Gilroy chose the latter choice, which has its ups and downs. Jason Bourne is referenced in the movie, andmany of the supporting characters have returned like Joan Allen's Pamela Landy and David Strathairn's Noah Vosen. I think it is important to have recently watched the first trilogy before going into The Bourne Legacy. You won't fully understand the subplots or relationships if you don't remember the events from the other movies. While it is great to tie it into the series, the movie does not succeed in standing on its own. We get introduced to the new Aaron Cross character, but we do not know much about his history or how he got into the program. The majority of the movie is Aaron and Marta on the run. There is no real conclusion as it is merely set up to feel like the first movie in a brand new series. Do not be surprised if the ending comes out of nowhere.

If you can get passed the notion that there is no definitive plot structure with a beginning, middle, and end, the movie is still highly enjoyable. You might also sit through the first thirty minutes confused as to what is going on. Once Aaron and Dr. Marta are on the run, the film narrows in on the main chase and it takes off. The action sequences and chases are edge-of-your-seat. I found myself audibly gasping during the final chase. I think it was a great casting choice to have Rachel Weisz playing Marta. The Academy Award winning actress is used to appearing in heavy hitting dramas, so it is a refreshing choice on her part. She is completely believable as the scientist and tough enough for the action sequences. She is no wimpy babe running around screaming. Jeremy Renner is proving to be quite the little action star. This is his third big action movie recently following Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol and Marvel’s The Avengers. I do not know how many of his stunts he actually did, but he can sure run over rooftops, ride motorcycles, and scale down buildings like other action stars. He is more than capable of continuing this series if the studios want it. Will I go see a sequel? Yes, of course.

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

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Movie Review: HOPE SPRINGS

Director: David Frankel
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Elisabeth Shue, Jean Smart

Kay (Streep) and Arnold (Jones) celebrate their thirtieth anniversary like any other day. Kay makes Arnold's standard breakfast of two eggs and one slice of bacon as he sits and reads the paper before heading to work. They have a pretty uneventful dinner with their grown children and admit their gift to each other was a cable subscription. At the end of the evening, they head into their own separate bedrooms. Yes, they have spent the majority of their marriage having separate bedrooms leaving their sexual relationship in the distant past. Kay is desperate for a change. She can no longer take the standard boring routine they have been stuck in for thirty years. She heads to the self help/marriage section of the local Barnes & Noble. A book by Dr. Bernie Feld (Carell) seems to be of some interest to her. She navigates his website, watches an introductory video, and decides he may be their only hope. Without warning to Arnold, she books a week long intensive couples therapy session for the two of them with Dr. Feld.

Arnold does not take this news well. He refuses go and thinks Kay has lost her mind. Kay tells him that she has paid for the plane tickets and that they are leaving in the morning. She packs her bags and takes off in the taxi the next morning and heads for the airport. Arnold is being stubborn and does not hop in the cab with her. Kay settles into the plane seat and is surprised to find Arnold walking down the aisle right before the plane takes flight. A giddy gleeful smile comes to Kay's face. Arnold is still not too keen and is not completely open to letting some stranger dissect their sex life. They arrive in a quaint Maine town, and Arnold is not impressed. He complains about the shutters on the windows and the lack of service on his cell phone. There is some apprehension at first during their sessions. The frank sexual talk seems to overwhelm Arnold. Kay is a little bit more willing to be open and honest than he is with her. Dr. Feld gives them sexercises to try with each of their sessions in order to put the spark back in their marriage.

The ending came and I was surprised that it was over. The movie seems fairly short, but there is nothing wrong with that. It centers mainly on Kay and Arnold with a dash of Dr. Feld. Jean Smart, Elisabeth Shue, and Mimi Rogers are in the movie as well, but their roles are left mainly as cameos. You begin to wonder why they cast great actors in such bit parts. Were there side plots left out or scenes left on the cutting room floor? I guess we will never know unless the DVD/Blu-Ray is full of special features and deleted scenes, which I highly doubt it will be.

It is no surprise that Streep and Jones give two touching performances. You have two Academy Award winning legends that have given countless of great performances. The movie works so well because of these two. Streep can have chemistry with any actor she's paired up with: Stanley Tucci, Kevin Kline, Jim Broadbent, and now Tommy Lee Jones just to name a few. The story is not all that original, but it does not have to be. These two actors have given these characters a very real, three dimensional feeling that makes the characters all the more relatable. Jones is not just a grizzly, stubborn older man. Streep is not just the helpless whiny wife. Even if you are not in the same predicament that Kay and Arnold are in, you can relate to something about their marriage. I completely understand Arnold's morning routine. There are times when both of the characters are trying to be intimate and their glasses are getting in the way. I have been there as well. Hope Springs is funny, sweet, and touching. Maybe it is my love of Goddess Meryl Streep, but it is a feel-good movie that will help you unwind after a long day.

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

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Movie Review: TOTAL RECALL

Director: Len Wiseman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bill Nighy, Bryan Cranston, John Cho

The world has been left with two territories after a chemical warfare, The United Federation of Britain and The Colony (the land we know as Australia). Citizens can travel between the two territories using an underground portal called "The Fall". Doug Quaid (Farrell) is factory worker living on The Colony but works in the UFB. Night after night, he is awoken by the same reoccurring nightmare. Rekall is a company that can implant memories into your mind giving you a life you actually have never had in order to escape the monotony of your real life. Doug has heard mixed reactions to Rekall. His friend, Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), recounts a story he heard of a man needing a lobotomy after his experience with Rekall. Another coworker says he has used Rekall numerous times with wonderful results.

Doug bites the bullet and heads into Rekall. Rekall employee, McClane (Cho), explains to him that he can have any sort of imaginary life he wants. He decides to be a secret agent/spy. He sits down and goes through the standard tests and procedures before the memories can be implanted. The alarms go off and McClane stops the machine and accuses Doug of being a real life spy. Memories cannot be implanted into people of a life they already lead. Doug freaks out not knowing what is going on as he is not a spy. A SWAT team enters the room and Doug suddenly uses martial arts skills he didn't know he had knocking them all out. He heads back to his apartment to tell his wife Lori (Beckinsale) about what happened at Rekall. Lori tries strangling him revealing to him that she is not the wife he thought he had. She is an undercover agent sent to monitor him. He flees the apartment in a high energy chase sequence and gets rescued by Melina (Biel) who is the girl that has been appearing in his nightmares. While on the run, he recovers messages from his former self left for him regarding his previous life. He was once an agent working for Chancellor Coohagen (Cranston) until he was captured for secretly working with the resistance movement against him.

Total Recall is a remake of the 1990 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Farrell role and Sharon Stone as his wife. It has been many years since my last viewing of that one, so I can't really compare the two but this one does not seem very similar to the movie I remember the original being. The characters have the same name, but there is no journey to Mars in this one. In case you were curious, the three breasted woman does make an appearance.

The movie feels more like a video game than a sci-fi/action movie. Doug and Melina always seem to be on the run making the movie feel like one giant chase sequence over and over. The story is left on the back burner to pay more attention to the countless action sequences. The special effects and design of the two territories make the sequences look great and are definitely high in energy. Kate Beckinsale is one fierce kick-ass action star. I give the movie credit for not being a complete knock-off of the original, but I think it could have gone way further with the story. If you are going to remake a sci-fi/action movie, it should be remade with a purpose. High octane action sequences with quick editing can make for a good movie, but this should have been a great movie.

RATING: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Unleash Your Inner Foodie: NO RESERVATIONS

I always enjoy writing for DeeAnn McArdle and her lovely website "Unleash Your Inner Foodie". I get to jot down my thoughts on my love of movies and food! This month's foodie movie of choice is No Reservations featuring the beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones and the always charming Aaron Eckhart.

Here is the beginning of the article:

In honor of Julia Child’s upcoming 100th birthday, we’re going to feature some of my favorite foodie movies through the end of August. A big thank you to our favorite Movie Critic – Paul McGuire for sharing his review of this weeks movie! To view the rest click "here"



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Monday, August 6, 2012

Movie Review: TED

Director: Seth McFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth McFarlane, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi

Who doesn't love a good Christmas miracle. For a young John Bennett, he knows all about Christmas miracles. At a young age he was a lonely kid without many friends. For Christmas one year he received a teddy bear aptly naming him "Teddy". Teddy came alive overnight and went from a stuffed bear to a talking bear becoming John's new best friend. He is not an imaginary friend as his parents can see and hear him. He even becomes a world-wide sensation after appearing on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. John (Wahlberg) grows up with Teddy (voice of McFarlane) by his side. They have become roommates and Teddy is still a huge part of John's life despite the fact John is now in his thirties. They both live a lazy, pot-smoking, junk food eating lifestyle.

The only person in John's life that seems to have an issue with this lackadaisical living is his girlfriend, Lori (Kunis). As their four year anniversary approaches, Lori starts questioning their relationship. Will John propose on their date? She believes that their relationship is not moving as naturally as it should be due to Ted's presence in John's life. John agrees to try to distance himself away from Ted without fulling giving him up. Lori and John head to a work party given by Lori's lustful boss, Rex (McHale). Rex is fully determined he would be a better match for Lori than immature John. The night takes an interesting turn when Ted calls John luring him to a party he is having. Their hero, Flash Gordon himself Sam J. Jones, is at the party. John is pretty confident that he can sneak out of the party for fifteen minutes to say hi to Sam J. Jones and get back without Lori noticing his absence. If it were only that simple. John must also deal with a crazy fan of Ted's (Ribisi) and his son who will stop at nothing to steal him away from John.

Seth McFarlane is best known for creating "Family Guy" and doing many of the voices on there. This is his first full length feature. If you've seen "Family Guy", you are very familiar with the raunchy, outrageous, often times politically incorrect humor McFarlane writes. You will find all of that here with some references to "Family Guy" and many other aspects of pop culture. The movie opens with that jolly Christmas feel and a perfection narration by the Patrick Stewart behind it. The story seems to wander at times. I thought the Giovanni Ribisi story line was unnecessary and made it feel longer than it needed to be. I am also wondering why Mark Wahlberg used an over-the-top Boston accent and Mila Kunis barely even tried using one. Despite it feeling a bit long, McFarlane has written one of the funniest movies released all year. I applaud him for his sense of humor and not being afraid of going too far or offending anybody.

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

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