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, March 26, 2012


Director: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanely Tucci, Woody Harrelson

The reaping is upon the citizens of District 12 once again. One young boy and girl will be chosen to be the tributes to represent their districts as part of The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is a survival of the fittest style competition set to a reality-type show run by The Capitol. Due to a lottery system, any name could be picked. Some have their names in there more than once. You do not want your name to be drawn. Two members from each of the twelve districts of Panem will fight and kill each other until one lone survivor comes out the victor. Twelve-year-old Primrose Everdeen has nightmares of her name being drawn. Unfortunately, the nightmare comes true. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) is the Capital representative who pulls Primrose's name. Her sister, Katniss (Lawrence), shocks the crowd as she volunteers to take her place. Representing the boys is Peeta Malark, the baker's son. Katniss leaves behind her mother, sister, and best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) without knowing if she will ever see them again.

Katniss and Peeta head to The Capital and realize they are no longer in the drab world of District 12. A new world of color, joy, and exuberant life awaits them. People are cheering as they arrive. For four weeks they will go through a series of training sessions and make-overs to get them ready. Along with Effie, they are equipped with a team of experts and advisers including: drunken mentor Haymitch (Harrelson) and stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). If they appear to be a winning team and draw audience appeal, they can receive bonus gifts throughout the competition. A love connection between Peeta and Katniss arises after Peeta "confesses" his love for her during an interview with Caesar Flickerman (Tucci). Katniss is not too pleased. The audience eats up this idea of star-crossed lovers, and they become a fan favorite. The games begin and the tributes are set out to fend for themselves. Like any survival type challenge, allegiances are formed within the tributes and the slaughter begins.

Ross, his creative team, and cast do an exceptional job at delivering the proper tone and feel. The movie knows when to be dark and gritty or bright and humorous. The contrasting worlds of District 12 and The Capitol are distinctly shown through the drab greys and browns of District 12 versus the lavish bright colors, textures, and fabrics that enhance the society of The Capitol. That palette is ironic due to the nature and brutality of the Games. Strong acting overall led by past Oscar-nominee Jennifer Lawrence. She is one tough teenager without being too whiny or obnoxious. Harrelson is perfectly cast as the drunken Haymitch. Banks and Tucci are fabulous character actors that bring enough depth to their characters to make you suspect there is more to them than bright outfits or blue hair. Wes Bentley comes back to the big screen as the head gamemaker, Seneca Crane. It is a pleasure to see him working again. I feel like he hasn't had the career he should have after American Beauty. I have read all three of the books, so I think I had a better understanding for some of the finer details of why it is all happening or specific rules or allowances that can happen in the games. The movie jumps right into the thick of it without a lot of time given to the expedition. Whether you've read them or not, I think you will still have a good time at the movie.

The pressure was to make a faithful adaption of a hugely successful young adult series. There are legions of fans that nitpick the casting, costumes, and design in order to fully accept the world they so vividly imagined while reading it. When you have smart material, it should hopefully fall into place. You can successfully create fantastic adaptations like the Harry Potter movies. You can also fall in the world of The Golden Compass or Eragon where the movies more or less failed in comparison to the book. Subsequent movies never got made in those cases. Twilight falls into the middle of the continuum. The Hunger Games boasts an accomplished director, Academy Award nominated actors, and thrilling source material. Even though they are young adult books, that doesn't mean the movie is for kids. Parents should take caution as it is quite violent involving children/teens slaughtering others their own age.

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

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Monday, March 19, 2012



Next up for Tim Burton is Dark Shadows. I’m sure you’ve already figured out that in Tim Burton style, Johnny Depp is the lead as Barnabas Collins and Helena Bonham Carter collaborates as well. When the idea of Burton directing this re-imagining of the TV show "Dark Shadows" came along, it sounded promising. I really loved the promo shots that were released acouple of months ago. It seemed to be a darker return to form to the older Burton we all grew up on. Based on the new trailer, it seems he is playing it safe again. There is more humor involved than the goth feeling I had hoped for. I will admit to a love of Michelle Pfeiffer. She was iconic as Catwoman in Burton's Batman Returns. I am far more excited to see her in this than Johnny Depp.


Ridley Scott is a pioneer in the sci-fi genre for both Blade Runner and Alien. He is definitely back to his home turf with Prometheus. Some insiders are loosely saying this could be a prequel of some sort to Alien. It definitely has that feel to it. Whether it is a prequel or not, it doesn't really matter. With a stellar cast including: Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, and Michael Fassbender, I will definitely be seeing it opening night.


The very long awaited adaptation of the classic novel by Jack Kerouac. Walter Salles directs Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, and Viggo Mortensen.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Movie Review: 21 JUMP STREET

Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Dave Franco

It's 2005 and the rapping styles of Eminem are loud and present making a statement for the high school life. Schmidt (Hill) is an overweight, bleached hair, braces-wearing nerd who can't seem to catch a break. Jenko (Tatum) is your average jock that is short a few brain cells. Schmidt tends to be the target of side sneers and looks from Jenko. Let's fast forward to present day. Schmidt and Jenko recognize each other as they sign up for police academy. They have grown up and no longer hold grudges against each other. They decide to team up and coach each other throughout the training process. Jenko will help Schmidt with the fitness portions, while Schmidt will tutor Jenko with the academic tests. They both pass the training academy and think they will become big time cops. Their big time attitude is quickly deflated as they become your average set of park patrols riding around on bicycles. During a routine ride around the park, they notice some ZZ-Top looking biker dudes smoking some marijuana. They are pumped to finally bust some guys and make their big arrest. Schmidt finds some cocaine on them as well, and the bikers flee the scene. A funny chase sequence leads to the arrest of one of the bikers only to be thrown out as the guys forget to read him his Miranda Rights.

Jenko doesn’t even know the Miranda Rights as proven by the meeting with their chief officer (Nick Offerman). Schmidt and Jenko have been given a new assignment. They must report to an abandoned church at 21 Jump Street to get the details of their undercover mission. No-nonsense Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) is in charge of a team that must uncover the supplier in a high school synthetic drug ring. Schmidt and Jenko are told they will be living as brothers and going back to high school to track down the dealers and suppliers of this acid-like drug. They have been given new identities, class schedules, and extra-curricular activities to participate in as a way to blend in. Schmidt has trepidations as he did not have the best high school experience. Jenko discovers what was cool and hip in 2005 is no longer the fad. Apparently wearing your backpack on one shoulder is SO 2005. Their fake identities end up getting mixed up. Jenko needs to pretend to be the science nerd, while Schmidt has to partake in the drama club. The drug is very popular and Schmidt gets the lead pretty earlier on who the dealer is. He becomes friends with the dealer and gets in with his crowd all the while trying to hone in on who the supplier is and not blow their cover.

Loosely inspired by the late ‘80s TV show, 21 Jump Street is one of the best comedies of 2012. Granted, it’s only March but I think it will be remembered as one of the funnier movies of 2012 overall. Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall came up with the story and Bacall wrote the screenplay. I am sure there was plenty of improvisation as well. While the idea of undercover cops and action/comedies is nothing new, the humor seems fresh and downright hysterical. The actors have no fear with going to the extreme to get the laugh. I don’t mean to say that they are desperately trying to be funny. They know how to play some laughs over-the-top but not too far that it reaches obnoxiousness. It has been a great year for Channing Tatum. He’s already had three diverse movies come out and Magic Mike comes out later this year. He is proving to be far more versatile than the romantic hero that he has played before. He has great comedic chemistry with Hill and they know how to play off each other. **SPOILER ALERT** They left the audience with an ending that hints at a sequel. I HATE when movies do that. The Hangover Part 2 is a prime example of a comedy sequel that literally used the exact same formula and premise and was not funny the second time around. Look for cameos from some of the actors from the TV show including Johnny Depp!

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

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz

Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon star in this adaptation based on the extremely popular book by Sara Gruen. Jacob Jankowski (Holbrook) is found wandering around on the circus grounds confused and disoriented. He comes to find out he missed the spectacular. He escaped from the senior home he was staying at and missed the greatest show on earth. As he waits in the offices with one of the workers, he opens up about the time he joined the circus and the downfall of the great Benzini Bros. Spectacular. The story flashes back to a young Jacob (Pattinson) jumping a train late at night. He is desperate to escape from the life he had after his parents were killed in a car crash. He instantly realizes it is by no means an empty train car. Come morning, the trains stops and Jacob discovers he has landed on a circus train. Being the former veterinarian student that he was, he takes a job as the care giver after caring for a horse with laminitis. August (Waltz) is the circus director and head animal trainer. He has his prize animal performers and milks them for every performance they can give no matter how sick and diseased they are. He is married to Marlena (Witherspoon) even though their marriage is less than healthy. Marlena is the beautiful blonde performer who rides the elephants and horses. Jacob struggles with his growing feelings for Marlena and tries to the give the animals proper care when August could care less about either of those two things.

I did not really care for the book, but I thought the movie might be able to deliver the story for me. Maybe the right cast and performances could make me care about the characters that I was not getting from the book. Unfortunately, I was still left unsatisfied. The movie is so terribly miscast. Robert Pattison does his best at not being his Twilight character, but is not a strong enough actor to pull off the romance suggested by this story. He also seems too young to be paired with Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon can be great actress with the right material. With a bad wig and a bad script, she just struggles here. The pair has zero chemistry together. Witherspoon also seems too young to be with Christoph Waltz. Maybe that is the point with that troubled couple, I don’t know. Back to the script, it feels so flat and unmotivated that it leaves the actors with very two-dimensional characters. Waltz is left playing “the villain”. We saw him do that so well in Inglourious Basterds, that here it just feels forced. The dialogue also leaves the relationship between Marlena and Jacob very boring without passion or drive. The elder Jacob appears at the beginning and end without narrating the whole movie. You don’t even see him during the movie talking to the employer. Without this through line, you don’t feel the connection that the tragedy and Marlena had on the rest of his life. What could have been an interesting love story set against the dark gritty circus life, now feels flat, lifeless, and boring.

RATING: * (1 out of 4 stars)

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Sunday, March 11, 2012


Director/Writer: Jennifer Westfeldt
Starring: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, John Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudoloph, Chris O'Dowd

"Love.Happiness.Kids. Pick Two." is a perfect tagline for the movie. Maybe in real life you can have all three. For the couples in the new script by Jennifer Westfeldt, you can't be too greedy. Jason (Scott) and Julie (Westfeldt) are two best friends who know everything about each other, but they don't have a sexual attraction to each other. Their close friends are two couples (Kristen Wigg & John Hamm and Maya Rudolph & Chris O'Dowd) who each have kids. As the kids reach toddler age, their friends are not the same as they once were. They don't go out as much, their relationships are crumbling, and they don't seem happy. Jason and Julie both want a kid but don't want to fall into this unhappiness that their friends have fallen into. An idea comes to mind to have a child together but raise their child as friends and not force a relationship upon it. Their friends are very skeptical that it can work as smoothly as Jason and Julie make it out to sound. Julie gets pregnant and Jason vows to raise the child like another other normal father would. Due to the fact that are not in relationship, Jason starts dating a Broadway dancer (Megan Fox) who could care less about the child. Julie carries on a relationship with a recently divorced man (Edward Burns). While they are both enamored with their new flings, there is still something missing.

The movie is fairly predictable throughout but that does not translate to being a boring story. I was curious to see how it all unfolded. The ending does not come as a surprise, but happens so abruptly that I needed another scene or moment afterwards to process the final line. It does bring up some interesting points about how important a sexual life is in a relationship and how relationships change as children enter the picture. All three couples in the movie are faced with different challenges while trying to make their marriages work. Adam Scott typically plays supporting roles (“Parks and Recreation, Step Brothers) so it is a great treat to finally see him carry a movie. The story is completely about Jason and Julie which makes the other couples seems left in the dust at times. Even though there are a couple of ensemble scenes, I would have liked to see more of Hamm, Wigg, Rudolph, and O’Dowd. Friends with Kids is a great adult “dramedy” about relationships that feels different than your average Judd Apatow flick.

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

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Movie Review: GAME CHANGE

Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Julianne Moore, Ed Harris, Woody Harrelson, Peter MacNicol

Is being a celebrity in the people’s eye more important than having the experience and competency to run a nation? Many people considered Barack Obama an instant celebrity when he started his presidential campaign. In the world of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets the world was quickly captivated by this potential president. Steve Schmidt (Harrelson) was one of John McCain’s (Harris) campaign strategists and advisors going into the 2008 presidential election. McCain and his team seemed at a loss on who to run as vice-president with McCain. The RNC campaign in St. Paul, MN was coming up and they were losing steam as Obama was gaining momentum. Schmidt declares that none of the gentleman like Tim Pawlenty had that “celebrity” feel to them like Obama did. They needed the “game change” to get them back in the lead. They envisioned someone who had the celebrity feel yet could still relate to the average voter. McCain was also trailing with the female voters. Schmidt and fellow campaign manager, Rick Davis (MacNicol), suggest a female vice presidential. After going through a list of potential governors, they pick Sarah Palin (Moore). They believe they have hit the jackpot with the governor of Alaska. She may not have the experience like some of her male counterparts, but Schmidt feels like she can get vetted in five days and be ready for the campaign run.

The key was to keep the announcement of Palin as the Vice President a secret right up until the moment John McCain announces it. If word were to leak, the Obama campaign could run with it. After giving an exceptional speech at the Republican National Convention, Palin proved she was great with the crowds and instantly became the “celebrity” they wanted her to become. After an interview with Charlie Gibson, Schmidt realized that Palin does not handle one-on-one interviews well and her knowledge on foreign policy is less than impressive. Flashcards and mock interviews do not seem to bode well for Sarah. The pressure seems to escalate as interviews with Katie Couric and a spoof on "Saturday Night Live" paint her as a laughable idiot who doesn't have a clue of what she's talking about. Schmidt and fellow campaign advisers decide to treat her like she's an actress. As long as they feed her the lines and answers to say, she seems to stay on course.

With many presidential movies, you have to wonder if the filmmakers are going to put a political statement in there. Is it going to be for or against one political party or the other? Sarah Palin has not seen the movie yet, but seems to be against it. I think the filmmakers do a pretty good job of not taking sides. They stay on pretty neutral ground for the most part. While some of the dialogue or situations seem absurd, it comes straight from the transcripts of the interviews. Even when they talk about her inexperience, the script does mention various accomplishments of Palin’s to make up for it. At times, you do feel very sympathetic for her for getting thrust into a world she clearly wasn’t ready for. Game Change has stellar performances from everyone. Ed Harris nails John McCain especially aging him as he is much younger than McCain himself. Julianne Moore is absolutely stunning as Palin. She has nailed the very distinct accent and physicality without going into a comedic version like Tina Fey did. You definitely notice the shift in stature and attitude the further Palin gets into the campaign run. I would not be surprised in the slightest if she wins the SAG, Golden Globe, and Emmy for Best Actress in a TV Movie.

It premieres Saturday, March 10 on HBO. I'm assuming they will re-air it numerous times and have it on OnDemand if you miss it that evening.

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

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Movie Review: WANDERLUST

Director: David Wain
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux, and Ken Marino

There are three very different ways of living that are presented in Wanderlust. George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) live in the super busy go-go-go world of living in a New York City “microloft”, aka studio. There is the glamorous Atlanta mansion where George’s older brother (Marino) lives. On the other end of the spectrum is a hippie commune. Linda is a down on her luck documentarian who presents a movie about penguins with testicular cancer to HBO. Due to a lack of vampires, sex, and violence HBO turns her movie down. On the same day, George was let go from his job as the Feds come in and cease the joint. Even though they just bought a tiny New York studio, they realize they can longer afford it as they are out of work. Their only plan is to leave New York and stay with George’s obnoxious brother and his family in Atlanta. George can work for his brother at a porta potty business while he searches for work.

On the way there, they pull over down a dirt road to rest thinking they are going to a bed and breakfast called Elysium. A naked man walks out of the woods causing them to be in shock and lose control of their car. The car overturns and they realize they are now stuck with this perfectly nice nudist. The nudist leads them up to the grounds of Elysium which is more of a hippie commune over a cozy bed and breakfast. It is comprised of a tribe of people and animals that have given their lives over to a far more peaceful, spiritual, and relaxing state of mind. The herbal aromas are thick in the air, mantras are being spoken, guitars are being played, and the pot is freely being passed around. George lets loose and opens up to this new lifestyle. Linda seems lost without her blackberry and triple latte. They decide to stay for two weeks to be free spirits away from the hustle and bustle of a big city.

Wanderlust is a very funny movie. The sense of humor, however, is a very specific style that is definitely not made for all audiences and age ranges. It can be very crass, vulgar, and obnoxious at times. It also has a satirically bite to it. Some of the jokes and moments come out of sheer awkward moments that are funny because they are embedded in truth. Other jokes come from the world of bathroom humor. The script was written by Wain and Marino who frequently collaborate together (Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models). It provides an interesting commentary on the hippie/free-spirit lifestyle. Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston lead a great ensemble of actors including: Justin Theroux, Alan Alda, Malin Akerman, Lauren Ambrose, Kathryn Hahn, and Michaela Watkins. I think Paul Rudd is one of the best comedic actors working today. He knows how to be funny without always being over the top. So many “comedy” actors play the same shtick over and over and become caricatures of themselves which gets old far too quickly. Rudd knows that the comedy will come out of being honest in the moment with that specific scene. He knows when to be over-the-top and knows when to play it seriously. Plus, he’s completely charming and adorable.

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

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Thursday, March 1, 2012


Adventures in Babysitting
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Elisabeth Shue, Anthony Rapp, Keith Coogan, Vincent D’Onofrio, Penelope Ann Miller

“Don’t FUCK with the babysitter!”

After watching The Artist again this past weekend, I was reminded how much I miss Penelope Ann Miller. I know that sounds totally random, but she was an INTEGRAL part of Adventures in Babysitting. She plays Brenda, the best friend of Chris (Shue), who runs away from home and ends up at a bus station. I was flooded with memories of that movie. I first saw it while doing a sleepover at my cousins’ (Mike & Missy) house when I was a pre-teen. I was instantly hooked to this amazing movie from 1987. Being the little innocent angelic kid at the time, I didn’t even understand half of the jokes or references.

The movie opens with Chris Parker (Shue) getting ready for her date with Mike “So Cool” Todwell (Bradley Whitford). She is seen dancing around her room in her dress with “Then He Kissed Me” playing in the background. Come date time, Mike pulls up to Chris’s door in casual dress. He pulls the sick card and turns her down. Chris gets a call to babysit for Sara (Maia Brewton), and she accepts the offer. She has been warned that Sara’s brother Brad (Coogan) will be over at their neighbor Daryl’s (Rapp) house so he won’t be a problem. Chris gets a phone call from her best friend Brenda (Miller) that she has run away from home but now is stuck at the bus station as she has more money. Chris, Sara, Brad, and Daryl pile in the station wagon to go rescue Brenda. If it was only that easy. Sure enough, they blow a tire on the freeway. That is the first domino that falls in a series of unfortunate events for Chris and the gang. Damn that Mike for claiming he is sick. In the meantime, Brenda becomes even more crazed as she has to put up with homeless people and jumbo sized sewer rats. Just when they think they are in the clear and are able to get back home before the parents arrive, something else happens to them. Between a shoot-out, mistaken identity for a Playmate, a blues club, a subway stabbing, and a frat party, Chris realizes this is not the easy night of babysitting she signed up for.

Elisabeth Shue had a successful run of movies in the ‘80s also appearing in Cocktail, The Karate Kid, and Call to Glory. You should also recognize some other familiar faces making an appearance. A skinnier/pre-“Law&Order” Vincent D’Onofrio pops up as a mechanic that resembles the comic-book superhero Thor. Anthony Rapp (Mark in Rent) appears in his first on-screen appearance as Daryl. If you look real closely, Andrew Shue (Elisabeth’s brother) appears as an extra in the frat party scene. Adventures in Babysitting is full of one-liners that still make me laugh. I may or may not have been quoting it as we were waiting for The Artist to start. For me it’s one of those movies that is perfect to pop in the DVD player on a rainy day or if you need a good laugh. There had been rumors of a remake starring Miley Cyrus or Raven-Symonoe, but I pray to God that it does not get the green-light. That would just be wrong and sacrilegious to anyone who loves a good comedy from the ‘80s.

There are far more cult ‘80s movies than your standard John Hughes movies. What are some of your picks for a nostalgic ‘80s movie night?

The Babysitting Blues Scene

The Trailer

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