Established May 2010.

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

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Movie Review: MAN OF STEEL

Director: Zach Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Christopher Meloni, Richard Schiff

One of the most highly anticipated movies of 2013 is Man of Steel, the latest take on DC Comic's Superman. 2006's Superman Returns sought out to be a return to the franchise. After a chilly reception of the oddly cast film, the franchise was dead in the water again. Fresh off The Dark Knight Trilogy, screenwriter David S. Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan give us their take on the DC Comic superhero.

The planet Krypton is in grave danger. Jor-El (Crowe) fears the take over by General Zod (Shannon) and his followers will lead to its complete destruction. In order to save his newly born son Kal-El, he launches him off in a pod headed toward Earth. Jor-El infuses his son's body with a genetic code that will in turn preserve the Kryptonian race. Zod witnesses the escape of Kal-El and claims, "I will find him!" vowing to one day get his hand on the genetic code.
Kal-El is rescued and raised by Jonathan (Costner) and Martha (Lane) Kent in Smallville, Kansas. At a young age, he realizes that he is different than the other kids in his class. The Kryptonian genetic codes have given him a super strength and speed that he struggles to understand. He wants to use his abilities to help others, but is advised by his father to keep them harnessed for a later date. If the world finds out how special he is, they will only use it against him. Clark (Cavill) finds it harder to sustain his powers as an adult. He works odd jobs, lives in various places, and uses different names to stick to a mysterious life. He risks his true identity after rescuing workers near an Arctic plant. An archaeological dig has discovered space crafts that have been buried for thousands of years. Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Adams) has been sent in to cover the discovery but turns her fascination toward Clark. The discovery of the spacecrafts marks the return of General Zod who has finally found Clark.

Previous Zach Snyder (Watchmen, 300) films have had similar issues with structure regarding the action versus character development. Man of Steel falls into that trap. The story digs into the origins of the Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman story. You will not find Lex Luthor or Jimmy Olson in this version. One would think that an origins story would enrich the characters we know and love. I feel like the best scenes in the movie involve Clark, Jonathan, and Martha. There is a humanity and warmth to them that make the origins story more credible as Clark learns how to deal with his inner struggles. Unfortunately, the story should have utilized more of these scenes in the beginning and middle sections to further the origins story line instead of treating them like flashbacks. Lois Lane is given a different spin on how she approaches Clark Kent and Superman. Amy Adams portrays her as a tougher, no-nonsense reporter over the ditsy damsel in distress type character. Henry Cavill fills out that Superman suit very well, but stays pretty brooding throughout most of the film. The script does not give him enough to play around with in this portion of the story. I have faith he will only get better with each film as he settles into the different mindsets of Clark Kent versus Superman. The film seems to rely too heavily on cutting to the action sequences and the need for the Superman costume before delving into the heart of these characters. The audience sees the suit pretty early on in the film, and he stays in combat mode the majority of the movie.

I had high hopes knowing that David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan were involved. I am a massive fan of The Dark Knight Trilogy, so I was hoping for that same feel and tone. This is by no means a bad film. It has that first movie in a series syndrome where the filmmakers want to kick the series off into high gear with big action sequences but neglect key elements and flow of making it a standalone film. The ending of the movie is sure to please fans as it sets up the next installment well. You get the sense that the actors will really be able to play around more with their characters. I wish we would have seen more of that in this movie instead of waiting for the next.

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

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Monday, June 17, 2013


Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Ethan Suplee, Rob Reiner, Spike Jonze, Joanna Lumley, Christine Ebersole

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are teaming up for their fifth collaboration. They are bringing Jordan Belfort's memoir of the same name to the big screen with an adaptation by Terence Winter ("Boardwalk Empire", "The Sopranos").

The film is a biographical boiler room drama that follows the notorious Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), a Wall Street stockbroker who was flying high on drugs, money, and women. This bad business included a "pump and dump scheme" of money laundering and security fraud against Wall Street and the mob.

I am a huge fan of Martin Scorsese's work, and while some naysayers like to claim that no new film of his could ever live up to Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, or Goodfellas. While I agree that those are cinematic works of excellence, The Departed is one of my favorite movies. I may also be one of the few that has a soft spot for Leonardo DiCaprio and don't understand why the Academy continually ignores him. The first trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street definitely showcases the look of luxury and the more comedic tones the film will have. It does not have that gritty, rough feel of your traditional Scorsese film. I have read up on the life of Jordan Belfort and I have faith the film will showcase the darker or crazier sides of his life.

What are your first impressions?

In theaters: November 15, 2013

Here's the trailer:

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Movie Rewind: TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL (2011)

Director: Eli Craig
Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss

Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine) are two simple guys headed up to a cabin (aka vacation home) to do some fishing. They pop open a few beers in their truck to celebrate the good life. Their innocence and stupidity leads to a stream of unfortunate events. To start, their unkempt hillbilly appearance at a gas station scares off a group of college friends going to their cabin. Dale tries to turn on the charm to the ladies of the group, but he inevitably scares them off. They pull up to the cabin, and it is about as dilapidated as it gets. Always looking at the positive side, they just call it a “fixer-up” and continue on in their fun. They also happen to ignore all of the newspaper clippings hanging up regarding a brutal massacre of a bunch of campers years ago.

This same scary story is also told by the college friends around a camp fire. Later that night they all go for a swim in the same area Tucker and Dale are doing some late-night fishing. Tucker and Dale notice Allison (Bowden) stripping as she prepares to jump in the water. They get too excited and start causing a commotion. She hears them lurking in the water, screams, and slips off the rock. Tucker and Dale go and try to rescue her, but Allison’s group hears them say “We’ve got your friend” and think the dimwitted hillbillies are kidnapping her. That is by no means their intention. They are simply taking her back to their cabin to rest and heal. Gee, aren't they nice!

The next morning Allison wakes up and realizes she has not been kidnapped. Dale makes her a breakfast of bacon and eggs and a quick game of Trivia Pursuit ensues. Her friends sneak up to the cabin in an attempt to rescue her but are all too scared to go in based on the rundown appearance. Who knows what could be lurking inside? Each of Allison’s friends start meeting their untimely and gruesome deaths in their attempt to rescue her, but their deaths are not at the hands of Tucker and Dale. It appears bad luck and misfortune keep following Tucker and Dale as they are being mistaken for the deaths of these college kids. Unfortunately they are too stupid to know how to get out of this sticky situation they have gotten themselves in.

The premise of a group of college aged folks going to a deserted cabin in the woods is about as old of a plot device as it gets when it comes to horror movies. If filmmakers are going to keep using this premise for the movies, they better come up with an original spin or twist to keep their movie fresh or original. Low and behold, writer/director Eli Craig has taken a satirical approach that is fresh and funny, yet still full of blood and gore spraying all over our victim’s faces. He embraces these standard characters like the hillbilly idiots, the blonde, and the tough guy but shines a different perspective on them. Instead of seeing the film through the eyes of the victims, Craig tells the story through the eyes of the two buffoons who are mistaken to be the killers. Like Scream before it, this “horror” movie relies on plenty of laughs throughout using some of the oldest forms of physical comedy as the gags. This time around there is deadly consequences instead of a simple bump on the head. Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil would be a great starter for any scary movie marathon. It’s bloody enough for your true scary movie fans without being too gruesome or shocking for anyone with a queasy stomach.

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

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Evangeline Lilly, Hugo Weaving, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Orlando Bloom

As we saw at the end of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the dragon Smaug (Cumberbatch) has awoken in the Lonely Mountain. The second part in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy continues on with Biblo (Freeman) and his adventure with Gandalf (McKellen) , Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage), and the rest of the dwarves to take on the Smaug (Cumberbatch) and reclaim The Lonely Moutain.

This film will also see the return of Orlando Bloom as the Elven Prince Legolas. Evangeline Lilly joins the cast as Tauriel, a female elf, who has been created by Peter Jackson and Philipha Boyens as the character does not appear in the original Tolkien story.

Like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the second part will also be shown in the followings formats: Read D 3D, HFR 3D, and IMAX 3D.

RELEASE DATE: December 13, 2013

Here's the trailer:

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Movie Rewind: END OF WATCH (2012)

Writer/Director: David Ayer
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera, Cody Horn

South Central Los Angeles seems to be as rough as you can get. It takes a certain type of police officer that would want to assign themselves to that area. Knowing that you are putting your life on the line with every phone call into 911 is heroic to say the least. Every day they are faced with guns and rifles pointing back at them with every house call they respond to. Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Peña) are partners in the LAPD. They have a brotherly love with quick witty banter and report often degrading each other or calling each other out on their own stereotypes. They are wise asses who seem to do things their own way only adhering to official police rules if they feel like it.

Taylor is shooting a documentary for his film class, so the rest of the film is shot documentary style primarily using the footage shot with their body cameras as well as the cameras mounted on their patrol cars. Their daily calls and inquiries are for a variety of reasons: drive-by shootings, drug and alcohol overdoses, gang rivalries, and domestic disputes. One call comes in claiming two children have gone missing. Taylor and Zavala show up to a heavily influenced set of parents living in a crack house whose children are tied up and duct taped in the closet. As they say, “Money and guns are the lifeblood of their organization.” Their biggest and most dangerous threat involves a Mexican cartel known as the Curbside Gang.

Outside of their job, Zavala is married and his wife is pregnant with their second child. During one of their many rides throughout the neighborhood, Taylor confides in Zavala about his desire to settle down with the right girl. He thinks he may have met the right one with Janet (Kendrick), the latest girl he is seeing. She seems to be sweet, funny, smart and even accompanies him to a quinceañera for Zavala’s extended family.

End of Watch is the latest from David Ayer who wrote Training Day and S.W.A.T. This is by no means an easy film to watch. The documentary style filming adds to the intensity making you feel like you are watching footage of real raids. The graphic violence and the living conditions of the people in this neighborhood take a strong stomach to handle. The raids and confrontations seen throughout the movie lead up to one final showdown that can be severely stressful. If you have issues with the “f” word or any of its derivatives, take note that that is used very liberally. Is it used as the vernacular with cops in this situation? Most-likely. It does not make it any less jarring with the copious amount it is spoken or yelled.

The relationship between Taylor and Zavala is the heart of the movie. It is easy to get wrapped up in the violence, but their camaraderie and friendship make the film a little more relatable and approachable than your standard buddy cop movie or street gang story. Gyllenhaal and Peña give exceptional performances. It is clearly evident that the film was no walk in the park to make. The banter between Gyllenhaal and Peña is hysterical at times which helps off-set the gritty tone the rest of the movie has. America Ferrera and Cody Horn have strong supporting roles as back-up officers who respond to any of Taylor and Zavala’s cases. If you can stomach the strong violence, shaky camera, and the language, End of Watch is definitely worth a viewing. It puts that whole world and life of a police officer a little more in perspective. I know that I would never be strong enough to take on that career.

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

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