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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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Movie Rewind: HALLOWEEN

Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, Nick Castle

"I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face and, the blackest eyes... the devil's eyes."

A simple score of just a couple of notes plays as the opening credits roll. The audience can start to feel the tension for the movie that is about the start. Don’t let a simple score fool you. The John Carpenter penned theme perfectly sets the mood for the opening sequence. The camera is eye level for someone’s point of view, but we do not see who this character is. He watches two teenagers run upstairs giggling as they are about to have sex. We see a hand reach into a kitchen drawer and pull out a big butcher knife. The figure continues to walk around the house and picks up a clown mask. He puts it on and now the audience has the limited vision of our figure. He proceeds to stab the teenage girl numerous times as she yells, “Michael!”. After the figure is outside and sees the parents, they lift up the mask. It is revealed that our figure is a six year old boy named Michael Myers who has just killed his sister, Judith. The night was October 31, 1963.

Fifteen years pass and on October 30, 1978 Dr. Sam Loomis (Pleasance) pulls up to check in on his patient, Michael Myers, at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. He has not spoken in these fifteen years. This night will forever change history for our tragic characters as Michael escapes Smith’s Grove. Dr. Loomis watches him escape but cannot catch him in time. He knows Michael all too well and knows he is headed back to his home of Haddonfield. Dr. Loomis tries to convince the deputies of Haddonfield that Michael is a force that cannot be taken lightly.

“You've got to believe me, Officer, he is coming to Haddonfield... Because I know him! I'm his doctor! You must be ready for him... If you don't, it's your funeral.”

The infamous Myers house has now been vacant and is on the market by Strode Realty. The realtor’s daughter, Laurie Strode (Curtis), is our heroine. Laurie and her friends Annie (Loomis) and Lynda (Soles) walk home after school on Halloween and discuss their evening plans. Laurie must spend the evening babysitting little Tommy Doyle (Andrews). Annie is babysitting across the street from the Doyle’s for Lindsay Wallace (Richards). Lynda is the lucky one that gets to screw around with her boyfriend. The evening starts off a little eerie for Laurie. She is convinced she sees someone by the bushes and standing in her backyard. Annie simply tells her she's a "wacko". There is a break-in at the hardware store and Annie’s dad, Sheriff Bracket, tells the girls that it is probably a bunch of kids screwing around on Halloween night. Laurie passes the majority of evening entertaining Tommy by carving Jack-O-Lanterns and watching scary movies on TV. As the night progresses, Tommy is determined that he sees the Boogeyman outside. Laurie tells him there is no such thing as the Boogeyman. After Annie and Lynda go missing in action, she knows someone is definitely lurking around the neighborhood.

John Carpenter was a young filmmaker right out of USC film school when he made the movie. He had his hand in every aspect of the film. Not only did he direct the movie and compose it, he co-wrote the screenplay with his then girlfriend and producing partner Debra Hill. They originally titled the screenplay “The Babysitter Murders”. He said he would make the movie with an insanely small budget of $300,000 which was actually considered too small of a budget for the time. Many actors wore their old clothing in the movie to help keep within that modest price tag. He fashioned himself like many of his heroes like Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder, so he wanted his name above the credits to prove himself to the industry. It was a pretty risky thing to ask from someone so young and inexperienced. The movie originally opened to fairly bad reviews, but audiences flocked to it. The fan base grew and grew with each week it was in theaters.

Halloween was groundbreaking for the time period and for independent movies. It paved the way for future slasher movies like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream. Kevin Williamson wrote many references in his Scream screenplay to Halloween going so far as to have the characters watch the movie and the action of the movie mirror the action in Halloween. His character Billy Loomis is named after Donald Pleasance's character. Seven sequels and two remakes came to follow over the years following Laurie Strode or her daughter Jamie Lloyd. Donald Pleasance would continue to play Dr. Loomis for Halloween II, 4, 5, and 6. Jamie Lee Curtis would return for the sequel Halloween II as well as reviving the character 20 years later in Halloween H20 and finally killing her off in Halloween: Resurrection. Rob Zombie wrote and directed both remakes that focused on the back story of Michael Myers and how he became a six-year-old killer. Don't look for Michael in Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Carpenter and Hill wanted to tell a different type of story. The film was widely panned and Michael was brought back for each sequel after that.

I think the movie is a perfect example of the idea where "less is more" in regards to how you go about scaring the audience. Nick Castle, who plays Michael, moves very slowly and typically just tilts his head giving him very minimal emotion. You do not know why he kills his sister or why he is after Laurie. Those reasons come in the sequel. He is just this mysterious force lurking around. Laurie seems to be the only one that sees him throughout the beginning of the movie. Take notice of how little blood is actually used in the movie. Current slasher movies, including the Halloween remakes, use copious amounts of blood thinking that idea makes the movies scarier. I disagree. The movie is lit perfectly giving off the eeriness that is Michael Myers. His dark presence is always felt no matter if he is in the background or in fore front of shot especially during the nighttime sequences. Sometimes you can only see his mask or the outline of his frame. Carpenter's minimalist score elevates the thrills. Between the opening theme or the slow tones used as he is approaching, it makes the movie even scarier. The score is one of the best horror scores since Bernard Hermann's Psycho theme. You cannot help but think of Michael Myers whenever you hear the score.

No matter how many times I have watched Halloween, it never gets old. I am pretty sure I have watched it every Halloween season as well as numerous times throughout the year ever since I was a teenager. Along with Hocus Pocus, it is a staple and must be watched. I will even sit down and watch the many sequels. There have been numerous behind-the-scenes retrospectives made over the years when the 20th, 25th, and 30th anniversaries happened. I have seen all of those as well. The movie was restored and shown in theaters again for one night only on October 30, 2012. It was great to finally see it on the big screen for the first time. There were little touches that I hadn't picked up on before. I was still a little tense during moments despite knowing every line of dialogue and knowing exactly when and how the kills happen.

Laurie: Was it the boogeyman?
Dr. Sam Loomis: As a matter of fact, it was.

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Monday, October 22, 2012


Directors:Henry Joost, Ariel Shulman,
Starring: Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Katie Featherston

Let's do a quick recap. A possessed Katie (Featherston) was last seen, according to video camera footage, killing her boyfriend Micah, sister Kristi, her brother-in-law, and kidnapping her nephew Hunter. Katie and Hunter have not been seen since that night in California in 2006. Paranormal Activity 4 picks up in 2011 in Nevada. A little boy named Robbie is seen walking the streets alone and hanging out by himself in neighbor's tree houses. There seems to be some sort of family emergency with Robbie's mom that forces him to spend some time living with the family across the street. Due to the weirdness, the audience is supposed to believe that Robbie is Hunter and his mom must be Katie.

The family seems to welcome Robbie with open arms. Alex (Newton) is the teenage daughter with a goofy and somewhat horny boyfriend, Ben (Shively). Alex's brother Wyatt is Robbie's age so they seem to get along together quite well by playing games in Wyatt's bedroom or playing out in the tree house. Alex and Ben are the types of young lovers that are constantly talking to each other on the phone or Skyping. Alex is convinced that ever since Robbie moved in there is an eerie presence and feeling in the house that seems to be getting worse. Ben sets up the cameras on their various laptops and places them around the house to record what might be happening at all hours of the day and night. Alex and Ben spend many hours watching the footage as things start to go bump in the night. Wyatt seems to be acting stranger and stranger under Robbie's influence. To make matters worse, bizarre happenings seem to be going on over at Robbie's house. Alex goes to investigate and Robbie's mom appears out of nowhere and is revealed to be Katie.

The original Paranormal Activity was groundbreaking in the way of providing scares through the idea of "found footage". The audience would watch video camera footage and wait for something to happen in the background. Now that we are onto the fourth movie in a series the idea is not original anymore. The filmmakers are left trying to drum up scares in a new and original way while keeping the feel of what made the original so successful. I give the series credit for continuing the same story through all four movies. We are still learning more about the history of Katie and Hunter. The mythology aspect that we learned about in the third movie is touched upon loosely here but not fully woven into the plot. Neither movies took the time to develop this mythology plot line. Maybe that will be how the whole series will wrap with part 5 or 6 or 7.

Is the movie scary? I wanted some bigger scares and jumps in the middle. With all of the these movies, the big scares come in the grand finale. The end definitely delivers in a big way. Once the audience knows it is coming, you just cringe in your seat as you wait to see how the next victim is going to go. We did not have a very full house when we saw it, but there were plenty of screams to fill the theater. Like the Saw movies, we seem to be getting a new entry in this story each Halloween. I would sit through Paranormal Activity 5, but I sure hope that it would be the last in the series. Maybe if I am lucky, they probe into the mythology aspect and wrap it up in a big way.

RATING: ** 1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Movie Rewind: HOCUS POCUS

Director: Kenny Ortega
Starring: Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Omri Katz, Thora Birch, Vinessa Shaw

"Oh, look. Another glorious morning. It makes me SICK!"

In my household, one of our must see Halloween movies (outside of Halloween) is Hocus Pocus. Quite frankly we watch it all year round. We even quote it all year round. Like many people of my generation, the love of this Bette Midler Halloween classic goes back to when I was a wee lad. Confession time. I was a little ten year old boy obsessed with Ms. Midler. I do not know if it was this movie or Beaches that laid the foundation for my life-long diva love. I do remember seeing the Divine Miss M Tour as a child. She did the tour right after Hocus Pocus came out and I remember getting excited that she mentioned the movie in her opening bit. I am getting somewhat off track. This is not going to be another blog devoted to my past. Let's get back to the movie at hand.

Poor Max Dennison (Katz). His family moves from Los Angeles to Salem, and now he is stuck with no friends in a town where Halloween is treated like the best day of the year. Salem comes alive on Halloween night due to the legend of the Sanderson sisters. As the legend has it, Winifred (Midler), Mary (Najimy), and Sarah (Parker) were three witches that feasted on the souls of the children of the town. The townspeople rallied together and hung the sisters thinking they were killing them and ending their horror once and for all.

Max is too pessimistic to believe in any of this hocus pocus. He just cannot seem to give into the town’s holiday rituals and festivities. To make matters worse, his parents force him to take his annoying younger sister, Dani (Birch), trick-or-treating that evening. One of their stops includes a nice mansion that is throwing a party. They sneak in to steal some candy where they meet Allison (Shaw). She just happens to be Max’s school crush. Upon noticing Dani’s witch costume, Allison asks her if she knows about the Sanderson legacy. Her family used to run the now-closed museum in the original cottage of the Sanderson sisters. Dani gets all too excited by this and the three of them head out to the museum. Max is basically going along to spend time with Allison as he is way too cool to actually believe in the spooky Sanderson sisters.

Dani, Max, and Allison scope out the various artifacts and supposed belongings as a pair of eyes watch from outside. Those eyes belong to a talking black cat. The cat is Thackery Binx whose sister was killed by the witches. Winifred turned him into a cat when he tried to save her. He stands guard making sure no one brings the sisters back to life. The legend has it that if a virgin lights the black flame candle, Winifred, Mary, and Sarah will come back to life. Leave it to Max to be the doofus of the group. He lights the candle and, true enough, the sisters are arrive with a vengeance! With the help of Thackery and Billy the Zombie, they use various methods like “The Burning Rain of Death” and Daylight Savings Time to stop the witches. The sisters have until sunrise to create a potion and suck the souls of the children to last forever.

Being a huge Bette Midler fan, I have seen her interviewed many times on talk show appearances and once in person. Like I said previously, I have seen her in concert two times as well. She has repeatedly said that Hocus Pocus is her favorite film she has ever worked on and has been the most fun she’s had while making a movie. I think it is easy to tell that the ladies are having a great time. They have wicked chemistry together. Outside of Carrie Bradshaw, I think this is Sarah Jessica Parker's next best performance. She is funny, flighty, and flirty. It is her job to lure all of the children into their cottage. The costume and make-up design is perfect for this kind of movie. Not every witch character needs to be dark and morose in appearance. Each of the three witches has a different color palette and look. The script is quite clever and funny at times. Midler and Najimy have some fun zingers that are instantly quotable. For a movie brought to you by the Disney company, it is quite daring with some of the topics described like the witch mythology or even mentioning that only a virgin can bring the witches back. I do not think that this movie could have been written the the same way if made today.

Even though it may seem like the target audience is for younger children between the ages of 5-13, it appeals to many generations. I do not think parents need to worry if their child will play this movie over and over again. I guarantee you won’t get sick of it. I cannot finish writing this without mentioning my favorite scene. Dani, Allison, and Max drop in on a party to find their parents and tell them that the sisters have come back. Low and behold, the sisters drop in as well. Winifred takes over the mic and performs the show-stopping "I Put a Spell On You". Mary and Sarah join her as back-up singers. Every time I see Bette in concert, I desperately hope she sings a version of this. It hasn't happened yet, but maybe someday. Now available on Blu-Ray and DVD.

"Hello, Salem! My name's Winifred. What's yours?"

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Monday, October 15, 2012

AMC Theatre's Q&A with Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis

Lincoln hits theaters November 16th and this Spielberg fan will be there opening night. I started reading "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin and am hoping to finish by the film’s release date. For anyone new to Lincoln, screenwriter Tony Kushner based her screenplay on portions of Goodwin’s book.

AMC Theatres hosted a live Q&A with director Steven Spielberg and star Daniel Day-Lewis after a screening of the film. They give an insightful look into the preparations of making this huge movie. Don’t worry, there are no spoilers discussed.

Here’s the video:

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Movie Review: ARGO

Director: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan

Ben Affleck is back to the director's chair with a remarkable true story. In 1979, The US embassy in Tehran, Iran is taken over by Islamic militants. While many of the staff were taken hostage, six people evade capture and are taken into hiding in the home of the Canadian ambassador (Garber). Now the US must figure out how to bring those six people out of hiding and bring them back to the US safely. Tony Mendez (Affleck) is the CIA agent that takes control of the situation and comes up with a brilliant plan.

While on the phone with his son one night, they flip to Battle of the Planet of the Apes showing on TV and watch it together. Sci-Fi movies are all the rage especially after the release of Star Wars. His plan is to go to Iran and claim they are making an exotic sci-fi picture and they are looking for shooting locations. The ruse will include the escapees as members of the film crew. The plan is very risky and can only be done if it is planned and executed down to the smallest minute detail. Mendez hires movie producer Lester Siegel (Arkin) and Oscar winning make-up artist John Chambers (Goodman) to help shape their plan. They rummage through unproduced scripts and find a winner called "Argo". They meticulously plot out everything from a fake studio, storyboards, design concepts, and they even have a fake table read of the fake script. Sci-fi/horror buffs will get a kick out of seeing Adrienne Barbeau in the table read. Like any good thriller, not everything can go smoothly to plan for Mendez and his crew.

If someone would have told me years ago that Ben Affleck would go on to be an accomplished, respected director, I probably would have laughed and made them re-watch Gigli or Reindeer Games. After winning an Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting, Ben chose to make bigger Hollywood blockbusters instead going for more serious movies. Within the past couple of years his career has taken a turn into the directing field. I was taken aback by how smart and gripping his directorial choices have been. His previous movies Gone Baby Gone and The Town both win critical and audience praise. Affleck assembles an excellent company of actors for all three of the movies he has chosen to direct. Amy Ryan and Jeremy Renner both garnered Oscar nominations for their performances in those movies.

Argo is another prime example of the skill Affleck is showing as a director. Sharp story-telling and editing keep the momentum going at a quick pace to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. There are plenty of witty lines allowing some laughs in between all of the suspense. I was consistently eyeing the costume and hair design. The look seemed authentic and real without it feeling to "costumey". Affleck has another excellent cast including Clea DuVall and Tate Donovan as two of the escapees as well as Philip Baker Hall, Bryan Crantson, Kyle Chandler, Zeljko Ivankek, and Titus Welliver. Arkin and Goodman are fantastic supporting actors and bring out the humor in each of their characters. As a rule, I don't like to throw the Oscar word around willy nilly. I am making an exception here. I think the Academy will definitely take notice of Affleck's job as a director as well as giving nominations for picture and screenplay. Possible nominations could go to Arkin and costume design. Argo will appear on many Top 10 Lists at the end of the year. Including this critic.

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

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Movie Review: LOOPER

Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Paul Dano

What is a looper? That may be the question on everyone’s mind as they step in to see the latest film by Rian Johnson, the creative mind behind Brick and The Brothers Bloom. A looper is a trained assassin whose sole job is to kill a person sent back in time from the future. In 2074, time travel will be invented and outlawed. The city is overrun by crime and corruption and humans have trackers in them. For these crime bosses, it has become nearly impossible to dispose of a body without it being found by the tracking device. For each victim, they tie the person up, cover their head, and attach a plate of silver bars to them and send them back to 2044. The looper will shoot the person the moment it arrives before they have a chance to escape. They will then properly dispose of it by dumping it into an incinerator. The silver bars are their payment. A looper’s job is all in the hands of the crime bosses. At any moment the loop can be closed if the crime boss sends the future version of the looper back to the past to be killed.

In 2044, Joe Simmons (Gordon-Levitt) seems to be an expert at his job. He is at the corn field, weapon in one hand, time piece in another, waiting for the moment the body shows up. He spends his spare time at an exotic club and fools around with one of the dancers (Perabo). The future of his job comes into question one night when his best friend Seth (Dano) comes to his apartment in a scared frantic panic. Seth explains to Joe that his future self showed up to close the loop. Seth freaked out and didn’t shoot his future self in time and he escaped. Before he escaped, he revealed that there is a future crime boss known as The Rainmaker that is closing all of the loops. Their boss Abe (Daniels) sends out his hit men to Joe’s apartment looking for Seth.

Things get further complicated for Joe when his next assignment shows up and it is revealed that it is the future version of himself (Willis). Joe panics and Future Joe escapes. They eventually meet again in a diner to discuss what is going on in the future. Future Joe describes his capture by The Rainmaker and how his wife was killed in the process. Now that Future Joe is back in 2044, he is intent at killing The Rainmaker as a child in order to save his wife. Joe traces a map back to a farmhouse where he meets Sara (Blunt) and her son Cid who could potentially be The Rainmaker. Romance becomes another kink in the plot the more time Joe spends with Sara.

Time travel is a tricky genre to get right for the audience. I feel like if it starts to get convoluted, you will lose the audience as they get more and more confused. If it is too simple, the audience will see right passed the story and predict the outcome. It has never really been my favorite genre for these reasons. Looper gets it right by setting its own time travel rules and sticking to them all the while throwing in some curveballs to keep you guessing on what will happen next. Johnson allows the film and story to have some fun at the same time. The idea of the future of technology includes paper thin cell phones and computers, hover craft style motorcycles, and heavy duty ammunition. The violence and gun shots are stylistically over-the-top.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one fantastic young actor working in Hollywood today. This is his third of four movies released in 2012 following The Dark Knight Rises and Premium Rush. His next, Lincoln, will be released in November. He consistently picks different genres and styles of projects and excels at each one of them. He completely nails the Bruce Willis vocal and physical mannerisms making the connection between the two of them completely believable. The make-up work is fantastic at turning Gordon-Levitt into the younger version of Willis. Emily Blunt goes outside her usual romantic comedy genre and transforms herself into the dowdy look of Sara. It’s a far cry from the elegant and posh Blunt I imagine her to be. Don’t let the time travel concept turn you away. Looper is an original thrill ride in the same way The Terminator was for its time. The concept is stylish and jaw-dropping and will keep you guessing until the end. Plus, it has Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. Win and Win.

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

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Movie Trailer: HITCHCOCK


Director: Sacha Gervasi
Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock
Helen Mirren as Alma Reville
Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh
Jessica Biel as Vera Miles
James D’Arcy as Anthony Perks

I am always intrigued to hear and read about the making of Hollywood classics. I am one of those cinephiles that watches the bonus features on the blu-ray and reads books about the movies. What were the stars and directors at the time like? What did it take to get a picture made in those days? Earlier this year I read an intriguing book called “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello. I knew of some of the mysteries behind the movie, but this book delved deep into the Hitchcock classic. The book has now been adapted for the big screen, simply titled Hitchcock. Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins plays the titular character with fellow Academy Award winner Helen Mirren as his wife, Alma. He definitely seems to have the physicality of Hitchcock down.

I think if you are a fan of Hitchcock and his work, you will want to check this one out. From what I can tell, the studio seems to be rushing the release of this in order to be in consideration for this Oscar season. HBO is airing another Hitchcock based movie called “The Girl” starring Toby Jones as Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren. “The Girl” premieres October 20th.

What are your first impressions of the look of the movie and Hopkins portrayal of the legendary director?

Hitchcock opens in limited released on November 23, 2012

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Movie Review: ARBITRAGE

Writer/Director: Nicholas Jarecki
Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker

Robert Miller (Gere) is celebrating his birthday with wife Ellen (Sarandon), daughter Brooke (Marling), and plenty of grandchildren. What they don't know is that after the cake, he will claim to be going back to work when in reality he will sneak off to be with Julie (Casta), the young beautiful artist he is having an affair with. He met her as he is one of the investors in her gallery. She is the kind of mistress that wants the man to be solely with her. She begs him to leave his wife to be with her instead. He is a billionaire running a huge investment corporation. His daughter happens to be the CFO of the company. Robert and Brooke are heavily involved in a massive merger with another company. A smart person would wonder why Robert would get himself involved in a girl like Julie that could seriously go wrong at any point. Oh that's right. Many of these Robert Miller types think they are invincible and can have it all in life: money, family, and a mistress on the side.

The pieces start to crumble for Robert. Business is not going well for the merger. Brooke realizes there is a huge portion of money that is unaccounted for in the books that could have disastrous repercussions. Julie is furious on how absent Robert is in their faux relationship. In order to please her, he decides he shall run away with her. Their plan takes a sudden turn for the worse when Robert falls asleep behind the wheel and the car runs into the side rails. It completely rolls over numerous times leaving Julie dead and Robert injured with some cuts, bruises, and potential internal bleeding. Robert knows that if anyone were to find out he was involved with Julie’s death it would be damaging to his family and career. The car explodes just as Robert is walking away from the scene. He tries taking all of the right steps to not get caught. He knows not to use his cell phone that could trace him back to the scene. Instead he uses a pay phone to call Jimmy Grant (Parker), a young man who is connected to some favors Miller has performed in the past. Jimmy picks Robert up and takes him back home.

Officer Bryer (Roth) is the lead investigator in the explosion and quickly traces it back to Robert as he is one of Julie’s investors. He knows all too well that Robert is involved and believes he killed her. He questions Robert, Ellen, and Jimmy desperately trying to uncover all of Robert’s corruption. Robert knows he is in way over his head and that his career and family are in severe jeopardy. When you let money and greed completely mess up your life, you have to ask yourself who knows what and who can you trust.

In what easily could have been your standard legal thriller, Arbitrage raises the bar to become a sharp and complex story filled with characters that should not be taken for granted. Roth consistently plays the evil, sinister bad guy. On the outside you could easily take Officer Bryer for that, but he really is playing the good cop trying to uncover the corruption behind Miller. In most movies, you want to root for the main character, but the twist here is that the main character is a disgraceful human being. Gere brings a multi-layered approach to Miller asking the audience to have sympathy for him when you know you should not. He is the whole reason for the crash and corruption. He completely ruins his family and company. Sarandon gives another solid and strong performance. You do not find the standard naive wife with her character. Jarecki has written and directed a smart story with enough turns to keep you guessing but not too many that make it seem outrageous and gimmicky. Arbitrage is now playing in theaters as well as on video on demand.

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

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

First Listen: "SKYFALL" by Adele

"SKYFALL" by Adele

Multi-Grammy Award winner Adele is the PERFECT choice to sing the latest Bond theme. Named after the title of the film, Adele and Paul Epworth have written the perfect title track for the new Bond movie. She infuses a sultry, smoky, mysterious sound to the song that fits right along the list of previous Bond theme singers including: Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner, Carly Simon, and Sheena Easton. The release of Skyfall cannot come soon enough!

Take a listen to the song below. What are your first impressions?

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Making Memories at the Movies

When I first started this blog two and a half years ago, it was not solely focused on movies. In between writing about the movies, posting little reviews, and giving my Oscar predictions, I also wrote about my general thoughts and rants regarding my chaotic life at the time. In my second post, I wrote about my grams. She was an amazing woman that left us last December. Today, October 3, would have been her 88th birthday. I feel like I have come to handle death fairly well. These memories I have with her helped me get through her funeral, and I hope my positive disposition helped some of my other family members on that day as well. She was pretty witty and funny, often times in the end saying something somewhat inappropriate.

I will never forget all of the memories I have with Grams that involved us going to the movies when I was a child. I swear, I made her take me to some of the dumbest movies and some of the best movies that came out and really everything in between. Somehow she went along with it. These trips to the theater often came on the days I didn't have school. I would call her up a day or two before to see if she was interested and she would always say, "Oh, sure. We can do that." On the morning of, I would scour the movie selections with a pen or highlighter to find whatever was playing at the Northtown 4, Apache 6, Pavilion Crossroads, or Har Mar Theaters. Unfortunately, all of those movie houses are now torn down and have become something else. To this day, I can still smell the popcorn at the Northtown 4 and close my eyes and visualize what all of those theaters looked like to a "T".

She made quilts for my brother and I one Christmas when we were young. If I remember correctly, Adam's quilt was decorated in football themes. My quilt consisted of movie titles stitched into every square. Sister Act, Star Trek, Mr. Holland's Opus, and of course, Stand By Me were just some of the titles. The quilt is now worn down and sits in the linen closet. I have a newer one currently adorning the guest bed.

Like I said, we saw a variety of movies. I have distinct memories of seeing Jack the Bear with Danny DeVito at the Apache 6. We were two of probably six people total in the theater. I remember getting so scared during the ending that she held my hand to get me through it. We went to the department store Banks afterwards to make up for it. After we saw Mission: Impossible at Har Mar, we got ice cream at Lunds on Silver Lake Road. Both Har Mar and Lunds are no longer there. We sat through some dreadful movies like Waterworld and Spawn. My brother,Adam, picked out Spawn and I will never forget how he loved it and Grams and I were severely disappointed. Needless to say, he didn't have a say in the next movie after that. One of our favorites was Mr. Holland's Opus, a beautiful movie starring Richard Dreyfuss as a high school band teacher who had a massive impact on his students. I am pretty sure I cried at the ending of that one. Now comes the movie that I was so embarrassed I brought her to see. I'm sure we all have those movies that we were so uncomfortable watching with our parents or grandparents.....Drum roll, please.....EYES WIDE SHUT. Yes.Yes.Yes. You read that correctly. The infamous Cruise/Kidman/Kubrick movie. Kubrick had died before the film was released. I was just dying to see it even though I knew very little about it, apparently not enough to know it most definitely was not a good choice for a grandmother/grandson trip to the theater. We went to the very first showing on opening day at Wynnsong 16 in Mounds View and I will never forget it. I mean, how do you forget seeing a movie with your precious grandmother that has a masked orgy sequence in it.

As I grew older and moved on in life, our trips to the theater became less and less. Her health began to decline, and she was no longer able to drive. In college, I remember taking her and my mother to the theater here and there during Thanksgiving or Christmas breaks. Even into the later years, she would always join us for the traditional movie and dinner to celebrate my birthday. She was one hell of a fighter, but it was her time. On those days when something random will trigger a memory of Grams, I take a moment think about these memories at the movies or even one of her witty one-liners. I have a good chuckle and carry on.
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Monday, October 1, 2012


Writer/Director: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Mae Whitman, Paul Rudd, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Nina Dobrev

Charlie (Lerman) is only a freshman and he has already had a life most high schoolers have not experienced. On the outside, he seems to come from a traditional family with normal parents (Walsh and McDermott), his older sister Candace (Dobrev) who is a senior, and an older brother who is off in college. On the inside, he believes his parents do not understand him, his one and only friend has recently committed suicide, and he is continually flooded by memories of his Aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey). He has also spent time in a treatment facility for mental illness. His only way of dealing with his troubles is by writing letters to an anonymous "Dear Friend".

For a student like Charlie, his first day of freshman year is awkward and frustrating. He wants to lay low and blend in, but all the while he feels like he stands out for being the crazy one. In his English class, he knows all the right answers but won't participate. Mr. Anderson (Rudd) sees the spark in his eye and pulls him aside after class. A connection is formed between the two, even though Charlie is apprehensive about having his English teacher be his one and only friend. At lunch he gets rejected to sit with any groups, even the table with his sister. He meets seniors Patrick (Miller) and his half sister Sam (Watson) and they seem to be the only ones to accept him. Patrick is an extroverted out gay man who is not afraid to be who is he is despite what his fellow classmates think about him. Sam is another outsider even though she is sweet, fun, and has great taste in music.

The rest of freshman year seems to treat Charlie fairly well. He starts to feel more comfortable with himself thanks to being welcomed by Patrick, Sam, and the rest of their clan. They form a tight bond and keep each other sane and grounded. They participate in live action midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, exchange Secret Santa gifts, drink, experiment with pot, and have mindless games of Truth or Dare. Charlie continues to be challenged by Mr. Anderson as he exchanges books with him opening his mind to the likes of "Walden","The Catcher in the Rye", and "The Great Gatsby". Even with all the good around him, Charlie cannot fully escape the past as memories of Aunt Helen still linger and sit with him.

It may seem like your standard teen flick, but rest assured there is so much more behind it. This is not a story about angst-filled, whiny teens complaining about their lives. There is a depth and honesty to it that we don't always see with these types of movies or television shows on the CW. Chbosky has written and directed the movie based on his own book. Rarely do we see an author write and direct a film adaptation of one of their works. The script is full of sharp dialogue and witty humor perfectly matching the tone and mood of each of the characters. Many of your standard teen sagas can often seem trite and boring with unbelievable characters. They are either too rich, too smart, or too dumb for their own good. Chbosky's characters feel like they are real people. They feel like friends I had in high school. With great characters comes great performances. Ezra Miller gives Patrick a good mix of exuberance and flamboyancy without feeling like your typical gay movie teen. He is proving to be a stellar young actor with this and his phenomenal portrayal as the title character in last year's We Need to Talk About Kevin. The Perks of Being a Wallflower may not be everyone's type of movie but it definitely had a lasting impression on me. If you have ever felt like a wallflower yourself, I think you will feel touched as well. It is one of my favorite movies of the year so far.

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

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