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, April 30, 2014


Director: Nick Cassavetes
Starring: Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Taylor Kinney, Nicki Minaj

Movies like The Other Woman are the types of movies that usually get flak from the critics, but draw big audiences to the theaters. The stuffier critics will turn their noses and point out the obnoxious characters, cheap jokes, and unrealistic situations in which the characters find themselves. The audience sometimes just wants a fun movie during which they can kick back, enjoy themselves, and not have to think too hard. Let me tell you, you don’t have to think too hard about The Other Woman, but does that make it a bad movie?

Kate (Mann) and Mark (Coster-Waldau) live in a nice big house with a massive dog and seem to have it all. What Kate doesn’t know is that Mark just started seeing Carly (Diaz), a successful hotshot lawyer. Guys like Mark can’t keep their affairs hidden for too long. He gets his schedules mixed up and has to cancel on Carly citing working issues as his reason for bailing on her. She decides to show up at his house in a sexy plumber costume to change his mind. Much to her surprise Kate answers the door, and Carly realizes that Mark is a married man. When she realizes that she is the mistress in this situation, she vows to stop seeing Mark as she doesn’t want to be attached to that label. Oddly enough Kate keeps appearing in Carly’s life wanting to become friends with her. Instead of being mad and scornful at each other, they bond over the fact they were played by the same man.

Kate catches Mark on the phone flirting with another woman and confronts Carly about it. Carly swears she stopped seeing Mark, and the two of them realize there must be a third woman involved in Mark’s life. They head out on a reconnaissance mission to spy on Mark when he is “on business” down in the Bahamas. It’s not long before they spot Mark lounging on the beach with the much younger Amber (Upton). Kate and Carly confront Amber about Mark’s cheating ways, and the three of them join forces to get back at the conniving man who has deceived them all.

Cameron Diaz seems to be the face and center of the movie, but I think this is just a marketing ploy as she is a bigger name than Leslie Mann (This is 40, Funny People) or Kate Upton. The story really centers on Mann’s character as the wife with Diaz and Upton as the “other women” in Coster-Waldau’s (Game of Thrones) life. Diaz isn’t stretching herself as we’ve seen her in countless movies like this before, but I do appreciate the fact that her character is ready to leave her boyfriend behind and move on when she finds outs he is a married man. Mann is the reason to see this movie. She is absolutely hysterical delivering a majority of the comedy in the film. She is excellent at all of the physical comedy bits that are thrown at her character. I have been a fan of hers for quite some time now as she pops up in the movies of her husband, Judd Apatow. Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised by Kate Upton. She was not nearly as bad as I expected from a Sports Illustrated cover model. She plays someone referred to as “The Boobs”, so it’s not like she’s playing a huge range in terms of character development. However, while her character is dumb and a bit naïve, she is still fun without being annoying. Upton is not the only random casting choice in the movie. Don Johnson pops in for a couple of scenes as Diaz’s dad and I suppose I should mention Nicki Minaj, who plays Diaz’s assistant. Minaj comes across exactly how you would think she would. I really wanted her to open her mouth more as her voice can be a bit grating at times when it’s so closed off. Maybe I’m getting a bit too technical for The Other Woman.

I was quite surprised to learn that Nick Cassavetes directed the movie as he has never attempted a broad comedy like this before. He has chosen a variety of genres and stories to tackle, like The Notebook, Alpha Dog, and My Sister’s Keeper, which also starred Cameron Diaz. The film does have its funny moments, but could have been a bit tighter with a better script and under the direction of someone more experienced with comedy. Since the film is light, fluffy, and entertaining, it makes for a good “girl’s night out type” of movie. However, it doesn’t bring anything new to the “female friends getting revenge” genre that was done much better in movies like 9 to 5 or The First Wives Club.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? It succeeds at what it sets out to do, but doesn’t really strive for anything more than that.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Starring: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine, Stellan Skarsgård, Tanroh Ishida, Sam Reid

In any given year, there are a couple of war themed movies released. They tend to be focused on stories set inside the trenches as the soldiers are fighting for their country. The Railway Man offers a look not only at the events of the war, but also the impact it had on one individual for the rest of his life. Eric Lomax (Firth) has been fascinated with trains and railway maps his whole life. One day while riding the train, he strikes up conversation with Patti (Kidman) and she becomes smitten with his eccentric personality. They eventually marry, even though she was not aware of his past. As a young man, he was a British officer who became a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp. Their marriage starts to unravel when Patti realizes the psychological affects Eric’s past has had on him.

He has a hard time opening up to her and his best friend Finlay (Skarsgard), who also was a POW, about the torture he had endured. During his time in the camp, he (now played by Jeremy Irvine) was captured and tortured after being caught building a radio to listen in on the events of the war. The Japanese soldiers subjected him to extreme torture methods believing he was transmitting secrets and information. Fifty years have passed, and Eric learns that Takashi Nagase (Sanada), one of his captors, is still alive and now running a museum on the same grounds of the prison camp. With the help and guidance of Patti and Finlay, he finally goes to confront Nagase and the haunting past he has not been able to overcome.

The film is based on the remarkable true story as told by Eric Lomax in his memoir of the same name. The story goes back and forth between the time Eric spent in the war and Eric’s life as an adult unable to move on from his past. There is a slow and steady build up of tension until it is revealed what exactly he went through at the hands of Nagase and the other Japanese officials. I think director Jonathan Teplitzky purposefully chose this idea of a slow burn in regard to the pacing, but it will inevitably deter some moviegoers who prefer a fast-paced, nail-biting ride. While there are some extremely violent scenes, this is more of a character focus than a look at the brutality of war.

Colin Firth is one of those actors who can speak volumes with just a simple look on his face. I like to call that “eye acting”. There are quite a few moments when the camera is still and captures him reflecting on his past. Firth mentioned in an interview that he is drawn to these types of characters who have difficulties with communication. Firth shows control and restraint with his facial expressions, yet behind his eyes, you can see all of that bottled up anger, frustration, and fear that is festering inside of him. We first saw Jeremy Irvine in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. He is quite impressive here as the Young Eric as it is a physically demanding part with all of the torture scenes involved. I hope producers take note of Irvine and continue to cast him. He is the kind of young actor who should be on people’s radar, and hopefully future projects will get him there. Nicole Kidman and Stellan Skarsgard are strong in small, but vital roles. I wish Kidman would have been given more as her character seems to be such an important part of Lomax’s journey.

We don’t see many movies made about the effects war has on its soldiers. I find these character studies to be important teaching tools about the war. As you watch Eric Lomax’s story, you continue to question if he will seek revenge on his captor or somehow become the stronger man and forgive Nagase. It’s hard not to think about what you would do if you were in his shoes.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? Yes, even though it is currently in limited release, I hope it reaches a wider audience, as it’s an important reflection on the effects of being a prisoner of war.

RATING: 4 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE--April 23, 2014

April 23, 2014

It was another great day today at Twin Cities Live with Elizabeth Reis and guest co-host Ben Leber, a former player for the Minnesota Vikings.

Today's movies:
-Transcendence starring Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, and Morgan Freeman
-Heaven is for Real starring Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Margo Martindale, and Thomas Hayden Church
-The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, and Shirley MacLaine

Video courtesy of Twin Cities Live and ABC

Thanks for watching!
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Director: Randall Wallace
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Thomas Hayden Church, Margo Martindale, Connor Corum, Lane Styles

There seem to be quite a fair amount of faith based movies out in theaters right now. Between Noah, God’s Not Dead, Son of God, and now Heaven is for Real, there is a market for this genre as they seem to be doing well at the box office. I haven’t seen all of these movies, but they each seem to take a different approach and angle. Heaven is for Real is based on a remarkable true story that first caught people’s attention as a book by Todd Burpo recounting his son’s story.

The Burpo family lives in the kind of small Nebraska town where everyone knows each other and is willing to help each other out when in need. Todd Burpo (Kinnear) is the local pastor and a volunteer fireman, and his wife Sonja (Reilly) is a stay at home mom to their two kids, Cassie (Styles) and Colton (Corum). After a family trip to Denver, four year old Colton is rushed to the hospital due to a ruptured appendix. Their friends and other people in town gather for group prayers as Colton’s outlook looks grim. He survives the surgery and goes through a miraculous and unbelievable journey in the process.

When he starts to get his energy back up, Colton describes to his dad about his trip to heaven. The odd thing is that he never died while in surgery as his heart never stopped beating. Even as a man with a strong faith, Todd starts to question how any of this is even possible. Colton starts telling stories of seeing angels and how he met Jesus and sat on His lap. Todd starts to believe Colton when he starts opening up about meeting people like his great-grandfather and sister who died before she was born. Word spreads about Colton’s supposed trip to heaven after a reporter interviews them for the local newspaper.

Director Randall Wallace (Secretariat, We Were Soldiers) co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Parker. The film plays it far too safe and simple without delving into some of the meatier themes and questions it poses for the characters and its audience. There is a lack of tension and conflict throughout that really slows down the pacing of the movie. One of the odd angles the movie seems to spend so much time on is how broke the family is throughout their whole ordeal. Was Colton’s spiritual journey supposed to remind them that everything was going to be alright? For a pastor, Todd starts to have a crisis of faith when Colton starts recounting his time in heaven. The same thing happens with many of the townspeople who seem devoted to their religion, yet they have a hard time believing in Colton. The film could have delved more into the mixed emotional and spiritual responses these people have, yet we only get one insightful scene involving Todd and a few parishioners discussing why this subjects strikes a nerve inside them. The film also shies away from discussing any of the medical and scientific explanations for what happened to Colton during the surgery. There could have been thought-provoking opportunities to discuss the role faith has in people when science can’t be explained.

When you have spiritual films regarding any sort of divine intervention, you have to go in with a bit of an open mind that this story could actually be true. If you don't, you have a hard time connecting with the story. It’s up to a good director and a smart script to turn those skeptics into believers. If you don’t strive for that, you are essentially preaching to the choir. I can understand why good actors like Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets), Kelly Reilly (Flight), and Margo Martindale (August: Osage County) were interested in this story. Unfortunately, this film seems to only scratch the surface and misses many opportunities along the way. I’ve heard the book goes into far more detail, and I would be interested in reading it to see if it answers some of those questions the film glosses over.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? The film will appeal to many people, but it won’t win over any skeptics.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Director: Wally Pfister
Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy

When rumblings started coming out that Wally Pfister would be making his directorial debut, I got pretty excited. He is an Academy Award-winning cinematographer for his work on Christopher Nolan’s Inception , and I think his work on Nolan’s Batman trilogy is exquisite, especially the IMAX sequences. As the technology continues to grow, there is an ever growing debate on whether films should be shot using digital cameras or on film. His continues to champion the use of 35mm film over digital, but has acknowledged he would consider using digital if the technology improves. He has enlisted the help of Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, and Rebecca Hall, who have all appeared in Christopher Nolan films, as well as Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, and Kate Mara.

Dr. Will Caster (Depp) is considered a celebrity in the field of artificial intelligence. His wife, Evelyn (Hall), and best friend, Max (Bettany), are his principle researchers as he works toward creating a computer program with the emotional and intelligent capabilities of a human. An anti-technology group named R.I.F.T. (Revolutionary Independence From Technology) shows up at one of his lectures and shoots Will. At the same time, explosions occur at numerous artificial intelligence labs across the country.

Will initially survives the shooting, but later dies due to complications from the bullet. Before he dies, he attempts to transcend himself by connecting his brain into P.I.N.N. (Physically Independent Neural Network), the massive processor behind their entire work. Evelyn and Max question the ethical, and potentially dangerous, repercussions this could have. Will’s intelligence survives inside the computer even though his body dies, and Evelyn continues on with his dream of transcendence. Will continues to advance through P.I.N.N., and this new power for him proves far more dangerous than Evelyn or Max ever imagined.

Unfortunately, I think Pfister may have bitten off more than he could chew here as a first time director. I don’t know if it’s the premise behind the film, the special effects, or the science fiction aspects, but the combination appears to be too much for someone who is new to the director’s chair. The script is from first time screenwriter Jack Paglen and apparently sat on a “black list” of unproduced screenplays for years. I can understand why it sat for so long. The basic premise about trying to add emotional capabilities into computers so they can become more advanced than human life provides some interesting debate regarding the ethical ramifications of trying to play God. The film addresses that idea of continuing to advance technology to help us grow and survive, but questions how far is too far. I don’t think this is an entirely new concept or as original of an idea as they want us to believe it is. There are plenty of movies out there about this idea of computers that become more powerful than their human counterparts.

Another problem seems to be the mixed bag of acting and character development. Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany are standouts as they seem to be the only two that have some depth and dimension to their characters. I was excited to finally see Johnny Depp step away from those Tim Burton or Disney movies where he is always playing some sort of silly character with exaggerated make-up and costumes. His acting has the potential to lend the same interesting qualities to this type of character, yet he seems stale and boring here. I didn’t see enough of a shift in character after he becomes transcended. I wonder why Pfister wanted him to stay fairly neutral or if that was Depp’s choice, but he could have gone so much further to a similar vibe to HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Part of the film is the love story between Hall and him, yet the chemistry between them was lacking. Morgan Freeman’s character isn’t anything we haven’t seen from him before.

It’s a shame that with the pedigree of everyone involved with Transcendence that it misses the mark. I have seen the movie twice now, and both times it felt stale and stagnant. The ideas behind the movie are intriguing, but in the end, it isn’t saying anything new that we haven’t seen before although I appreciated the addition of the anti-technology group. I still think Pfister has potential as a director so I am curious to see if he will continue to direct. Hopefully, he can find a better script for his next project.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? It’s not an awful movie; it’s just disappointing.

RATING: 2 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

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Friday, April 18, 2014

My Criterion Collection: BADLANDS (1973)

Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates

My first experience with Terrence Malick was in high school when I saw The Thin Red Line in theaters. I remember really disliking it at the time, but I don’t think I knew exactly what I was getting myself into with that film. I wouldn't mind revisiting it now as I would probably have a different opinion about it. Malick is a very particular kind of writer and director. He has made six films since his first film, Badlands, was released in 1973. I have seen all but one of them and have really grown to have a respect and admiration for his work.

Holly (Spacek) is an innocent fifteen year old that can be found twirling her baton in her front yard of a small South Dakota town. Kit (Sheen) is a local garbage man that is a bit flirtatious with Holly in his dingy white t-shirt, jeans, and jean jacket. His James Dean looks and charm quickly wins her over, and they embark on a relationship. There is this aura about him being from the “wrong side of the tracks”. Her father (Oates) wholeheartedly disapproves of their relationship as he is twenty-five and significantly older than Holly. After Father threatens Kit to stay away from her, he shows up at Holly’s house and shoots her dad. Oddly enough, Holly doesn’t seem as phased by it as you would think for someone that watched her dad get shot by her boyfriend.

Kit and Holly decide to fake their suicide by burning down her house and leaving a suicide message behind. They leave town and begin their new life as nomads while on the run. While living in a treehouse, Kit kills some men that find them as it becomes apparent that people are now looking for their whereabouts. Holly continues to put this blind faith and trust in Kit. It’s only after his seventh kill that she starts to get nervous around him, not knowing what to expect next.

The film was inspired by the true life killing spree of Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate. Malick was fascinated with them but didn’t want Badlands to be their story. He didn’t want Spacek to do research on Caril Ann Fugate. Malick wanted these two characters to feel like everyday people. Kit was portrayed as a likable guy. He was not treated as a maniacal psychopath with mental issues. Instead, he is your average boy next door with charm and sense of humor about himself. Sheen credits all of those decisions about his character to Malick. Holly is this light, airy, and innocent young girl who falls smitten with him like any normal girl would do. There is a decent into panic with both of them, but Malick writes their shift in character so smoothly and naturally that you don’t quite realize the breakdown until the end. You never see that sudden shift into a crazy maniacal killer that typically occurs halfway through these types of movies.

Sheen and Spacek were relatively unknown at the time. This film came three years before Carrie made Spacek a household name. To enhance this idea of a slow progression for the characters, she carefully ages her character the longer they are on the run. In those first few scenes she definitely looks like a young wide-eyed girl, but she starts to mature and grow up in this new life of hers. She is no longer daddy’s little girl twirling the baton. Sheen mentions in the “making of” documentary that it was “by far the best script I had ever read”, but felt he was way too old for it. He apologized to Malick for having to turn it down, but Malick was so insistent on Sheen playing Kit that he ended up writing the character a bit older to make it work.

It’s been forty years since Badlands’ release. For being Terrence Malick’s first feature film, it is apparent that his artistic choices and style were already in place. Art director Jack Fisk, who later married Sissy Spacek and has worked on all of Malick’s films, stated that other members of the Badlands crew weren’t as familiar with Malick’s way of working. They wanted to blame his inexperience as reasons for a disastrous shoot and lack of focus, but that was actually his way of working. If you have seen his latest films like 2011’s The Tree of Life or 2013’s To the Wonder, you are familiar with Malick’s vision. Some may find those films hard to watch as they require a different kind of focus or patience for the moviegoer. I would like to say that this film is a bit more accessible than those are. You can easily draw parallels and see similarities in his work despite the decades that have passed. Holly’s neighborhood seemed oddly reminiscent of the town used in the flashback scenes in The Tree of Life. Malick has a way of incorporating nature into his films and makes it a vital aspect to the characters and world of the story. The cinematography in Badlands is quite exquisite at capturing that desolate and dusty atmosphere. There is a beautiful shot of Sheen holding his rifle against the sunlight. I also love his close-ups on the animals in each of the movies. Another Malick trait is the use of voice-over in his films. He was very much influenced by Truffaut’s The Wild Child. In Badlands, he has Spacek narrating Holly’s thoughts on her relationship and journey with Kit.

Malick is no stranger to The Criterion Collection. His films are perfect for their mission. The director approved blu-ray special edition includes a new, restored 4K digital transfer. Spacek, Sheen, and Fisk are featured in a “Making Badlands” documentary. There are interviews with associate editor Billy Weber and executive producer Edward Pressman. There is an episode of the television show American Justice about Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate. The last feature worth noting is an essay about the film written by Michael Almereyda.

There are many films about a couple on the run from the law, yet I was completely drawn into Badlands. Sheen and Spacek are so young in the movie, yet are perfectly capable of carrying the film while taking us on this strange journey of these two people who seem fairly ordinary on the outside yet have this complacency about killing people. Like I mentioned in my review of Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket, I always find it fascinating to go back to a director’s first film. Both of these artists are writers and directors who have a specific look and feel to their films. When you are more familiar with their later works, it’s fun to go back to see where it all started and to notice a distinct voice already taking shape.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? This may just be my favorite Malick movie.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

You can find more films in the My Criterion Collection series HERE!

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Thursday, April 17, 2014


April 16, 2014

As I mentioned in last week's Dear Readers column, I am the new movie critic on "Twin Cities Live". Today marked my fourth appearance and it has been a complete joy. Today's movies include:

- Draft Day starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary
- Philomena starring Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
- The Sixth Annual Minneapolis Hitchcock Festival presented by Take-Up Productions

Here's the video for my appearance this week:


video courtesy of "Twin Cities Live"/ABC
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Movie Review: DRAFT DAY

Director: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Josh Pence, Chadwick Boseman, Terry Crews, Ellen Burstyn, Arian Foster, Tom Welling

2014 seems to be the year of Kevin Costner. It’s only April and he has already been featured in three releases, though I must admit I didn’t see either Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit or 3 Days to Kill. I am happy to witness this Costner resurgence – he seemed to have taken a break from acting – since his performance in last year’s Man of Steel was one of that film’s better aspects. We have seen him in numerous baseball films, one golf movie, and one about bike racing. Now he tackles the game of football. As my dad said to me, “He does really well with sports movies.”

When it rains, it pours for Sonny Weaver, Jr (Costner). He is the manager of the Cleveland Browns and nothing seems to be going well in his life. His current quarterback (Welling) has been having knee issues and his father, the previous coach of the team, recently passed away. His girlfriend, Ali (Gardner), just happens to be the salary cap manager for the team, so they are trying to keep their relationship a secret, but she chooses the morning of draft day to inform Sonny she is pregnant.

The clock counts down the twelve hours leading up to that vital moment when the draft picks are announced. The pressure is all on Sonny as the general manager to get the team back in shape because they haven’t been the same since his father stopped coaching. Sonny and the team’s new coach (Leary) don’t always see eye to eye. Sonny starts trading pick positions with various teams in the NFL, giving up spots in the future that could be the key to their growth. It should go without saying that the coach and the team’s owner (Langella) wholeheartedly disagree with his decisions. Sonny must decide who his first pick is going to be. There is the all-American quarterback Bo Callahan (Pence), who has an impeccable record, Vontae Mack (Bozman), the dark horse with a bad reputation due to his loud mouth, and a running back (Jenning) whose father (Crews) used to play for the Browns. The images and reputations of these young gentlemen come into play as Sonny must decide on the fate of his team.

I should just point out that this is not your average football movie. This is not about some scrappy team full of misfits who can barely play and end up in the hands of an alcoholic coach who then turns them into a winning team. We have seen that movie over and over again, and it’s refreshing to see them take a more original approach to a sports movie. Draft Day takes a look into the business aspect of the game. Football fans should be happy to know Costner has stated that the NFL was in full cooperation with the film. They use real teams in the film and professional players make cameos in the film. I know nothing about football except what I’ve seen in Varsity Blues, Jerry Maguire, and “Friday Night Lights”. However, while I know very little about the game, I was still able to follow along and enjoy the movie. Despite the short time period the film covers, screenwriters Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph do a decent job of setting up where Costner’s character is coming from and why the stakes are so high for him. That being said, I wish they would have written more for Ellen Burstyn, who plays Costner’s mom. She is such a terrific actress who is only left with a couple of scenes that don’t get to show her off.

You might be surprised to find out that Ivan Reitman directed a sports movie. Yes, the man who brought us both Ghostbusters films, Dave, Stripes, and three Arnold Schwarzenegger comedies is taking a stab at football. While there is some humor in it, I wouldn’t consider this a comedy nor do I ever feel like his comedic skills as a director are used. The film tries to take this serious, edge-of-your-seat tone as there is a countdown clock that appears throughout as we get closer to draft time. The use of split screens for phone conversations and the way one “slides” in after the next seem like tactics to keep the pace and tension up, but are frankly used far too often. Reitman has gathered himself a pretty decent cast who for the most part, seem believable in this world. Frank Langella can easily play the hot-shot owner. Costner has this way of making so many of his characters likable and relatable. He is one of the reasons why this movie works so well. His character is flawed and has problems, but you still end up rooting for him and understanding him. The character could have easily been this jerk in someone else’s hands. It’s nice to see him in this sort of role again as he clearly anchors the film. Speaking of jerk characters, Denis Leary wears that hat easily as the Browns football coach. He’s really the only cast member I go back and forth on. I don’t know if I necessarily buy Leary as a football coach, but he can easily play the angry bad guy who everyone is rooting against.

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Like I admitted earlier, my knowledge of football is very limited, and I have never paid attention to the NFL draft. I was concerned if I would understand this movie or if it would be way over my head. Draft Day succeeds at making it accessible to those who don’t know the sport as well as keeping it enjoyable for those die-hard fans who know the sport inside and out.

Is it worth your trip to the movies: It will definitely appeal to football fans, but those that haven’t a clue about football won’t feel completely left out of the game.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014



Take-Up Productions is a local non-profit film company that screens classic, foreign, and independent films in multiple venues catering to a wide range of moviegoers. The majority of their programming is at the Trylon microcinema, located in Minneapolis' Longfellow neighborhood. They also partner with The Riverview Theater in Minneapolis and The Heights Theater in Columbia Heights.

Part of their programming includes marathons/retrospectives devoted to various actors, directors, and themes. Coming up soon is their sixth annual Hitchcock festival. My mom and I try to go to a couple of them each year, and it makes for great mother/son bonding time. Take-Up tries to showcase a mix of Hitch's well-known films as well as some that you may not have heard of from earlier in his career. It's great seeing those old classics back up on the big screen. Even if you’ve seen Psycho numerous times, there may be things you notice for the first time once you see it blown up in a theater as opposed to the TV in your living room. Some of them are shown in 35mm while others will be shown digitally. I recommend getting there 30-45 minutes early to be sure you get a ticket and a good seat. The series has a big enough following now that each screening typically has a strong turn-out.

Here's the line-up
1. Psycho, Monday April 21 7:00 at The Riverview
2. Suspicion, Thursday April 24 7:30 at The Heights
3. Young and Innocent, April 25-27 at The Trylon Microcinema
4. The 39 Steps, Monday April 28 7:00 at The Riverview
5. The Trouble with Harry, Monday May 5 7:00 at The Riverview
6. The Lady Vanishes, Monday May 12 7:00 at The Riverview
7. Family Plot, Monday May 19 7:00 at The Riverview

Tickets are $8 apiece or you can buy a punch card with five punches for $25. I recommend the punch card! If you don't use all of the punch card for the Hitchcock festival, you can use it at other Take-Up screenings later on. I have gone through many punch cards over the years.

For more information on the festival or their other programming, go to their website at www.take-up.org

I hope to see you there!

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Movie Trailer: GONE GIRL

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Missi Pyle, Tyler Perry, Patrick Fugit, Scoot McNairy, Sela Ward

When it was first announced that David Fincher would tackle Gillian Flynn's bestseller novel "Gone Girl", I got a giddy excitement inside of me. I am a huge fan of Fincher's work, and he is perfect at those dark, mysterious stories. He completely nailed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If you have read the book, you know you will be in for one hell of a ride. Amy (Pike) and Nick (Affleck) Dunne seem like the perfect gorgeous couple. On their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing and Nick becomes the number one suspect. What follows is a twisty ride of deceit, deception, and mystery that was their marriage. It should be known that author Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay for the movie. In an article in "Entertainment Weekly", Ben Affleck mentioned how she rewrote the whole third act of the movie that takes it in a different direction than the book. Who knows if that is true or a ploy to keep the movie a mystery, but I am intrigued to see what these changes are going to be like.

RELEASE DATE: October 3, 2014

Here's the trailer

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Friday, April 11, 2014



It has been a few weeks since the last time I wrote a "Dear Readers" piece. Life has been pretty hectic, what can I say. For those that may not know, I have a new gig as the movie critic for a local Minnesota based talk show called "Twin Cities Live" doing some movie reviews. I had my first appearance on March 26th and have done three segments so far. It airs 3:00-4:00 pm CST every day on the local ABC affiliate, and I will be on every Wednesday. If you are interested in watching them, but don't live in the area, the videos get posted on their website at www.twincitieslive.com shortly after it airs, and I hope to post them each week on the blog.

People have been asking me for the links to the segments, so I thought I would post the first three videos here. The idea behind the piece is catered around the concept of my blog as to whether a certain movie is worth your trip to the movies. I try to review two that are currently playing in the theater and one home release choice. I may throw in a special home release if a film seems topical or having an anniversary. The experience has been extremely rewarding and everyone who works on the show has been a complete joy to work with each week. Here are the segments as well as links to my original reviews of each film:

March 26, 2014
Movies Discussed: Divergent, Muppets Most Wanted, Saving Mr. Banks

April 2, 2014
Movies Discussed: Noah, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nebraska

April 9, 2014
Movies discussed: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Blue Jasmine, Field of Dreams

all video courtesy of "Twin Cities Live" & ABC

Thank you again for reading my blog and watching me on "Twin Cities Live". I hope you can tune in each week!
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones

For those who may not know, we we are in the middle of Marvel Phase Two following Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World. These are the films and stories that happen after the events in New York that unfolded in Marvel’s The Avengers. We got introduced to all of our super heroes in the Phase One movies, and now we can have even more fun as we don’t need to worry as heavily about exposition and the set up of these universes. The Phase Two movies have been bigger and more explosive than their first outings, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is no exception. There are so many twists and turns here involving key characters and plot details that I will try to remain as spoiler free as possible.

At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers (Evans), aka Captain America, finds out he has been “asleep” for the last seventy years after he awakens in the present day despite being a World War II fighter. Steve is still having troubles adjusting to the modern era as it is far different than the 1940s he remembers. There is a fun bit where he makes a list of things he is told to check out, like Marvin Gaye, Steve Jobs, and Star Wars/Trek. He continues to do missions for S.H.I.E.L.D alongside fellow director Nick Fury (Jackson) and agent Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Johansson).

S.H.I.E.L.D is working on a secret project involving three massive helicarriers involving spy satellite technology and weaponry to combat incoming threats. When an attack on the S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters occurs, the agency becomes compromised and one of their own is gunned down. Steve witnesses the attack and is warned not to trust anyone. Captain America teams up with Black Window and  their new partner in crime, Falcon (Mackie), to take down The Winter Soldier (Stan), the Soviet Assassin who seems to be the face of the organization behind the attacks.

One of the things that Captain America: The Winter Soldier proves is how versatile this character is and how he works in numerous settings and time periods. Screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus who wrote the first film, as well as Thor: The Dark World, are back under the direction of brothers Anthony and Joe Russo. Producer Kevin Feige wanted each of the Captain America films to feel completely different. He wanted the first film to be this World War II story told through the perspective of a superhero saga and for this one he turned to the idea of it being set in political, espionage, and conspiracy thriller.  These are two completely different tones and genres to tackle for these characters, yet it completely works for Steve Rogers/Captain America. Part of the fun of his story comes with him feeling a bit out of place in this modern technological world.

Many of the other Marvel sequels work fairly well on their own if you hadn’t seen the others that came before it. They feel connected to the overarching series and universe, but each film’s story could be taken out of context and make sense for anyone coming in new to it. I feel like it is pretty imperative to see Captain America: The First Avenger before you see this one. I think it’s impressive that the screenwriters were able to successfully connect the two films despite the numerous decades that have passed and considering how different they are in style. While this has a new story with new villains, so much of this film is in direct correlation to the events, relationships, and people of the first film. I don’t mean a slight reference or nod to those from the past. The film centers around this connectedness to Steve’s past and the loyalties and friendships he had back in the 1940s.

Marvel really lucked out with its casting choices. Each one of these actors fits right in and feels comfortable with the responsibility that comes with playing these comic book characters. Chris Evans has that all-American, boy next door charm that is vital to Steve Rogers. This is Samuel L. Jackson’s sixth time popping up as Nick Fury. Luckily for the audience and for Marvel fans, it’s more than just a cameo. Sebastian Stan makes for a fantastic villain. There is a force and menacing look behind his eyes. Joining the series is screen legend Robert Redford as one of S.H.I.E.L.D’s senior directors. Apparently, he took the job because his grandchildren are big Marvel fans, and he wanted to do a film for them to see. Anthony Mackie is another excellent addition to the cast. Not only is he a great actor, but he gets a kick-ass costume. Here’s hoping we have not seen the last of Falcon.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
boasts a run time of over two hours which may seem excessive, but it never feels long. The Russos keep the pacing and energy up without ever letting the action scenes feel too long or drawn out. The camera is so tight in on many of the action sequences. This tends to be a common trend lately especially after The Bourne series. I get the effect it has when the camera is that close up, but I would rather see the whole picture. Anthony Mackie has mentioned that they wanted to keep the action sequences as realistic as possible without relying too heavily on CGIed effects. This is an artistic choice I can definitely get behind. I have seen all of the Marvel films, especially the ones based the Avengers characters, multiple times, and I recently noticed how family friendly they turned out to be. The action and violence can be heavy duty without ever feeling gratuitous or relying on excessive gore or torture. The profanity is used at a bare minimum. Like the other Marvel films, make sure to check for the Stan Lee cameo and stay after the credits start to roll for two additional scenes.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? It seems like the summer blockbuster season has come early and it marks another win for Marvel. Make sure to see the first film first. You may feel a bit lost without a lot of that back story.

RATING: 4 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Movie Rewind: FIELD OF DREAMS (1989)

Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Starring: Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Gaby Hoffmann, Ray Liotta, James Earl Jones, Timothy Busfield, Burt Lancaster, Frank Whaley

In honor of baseball season, I wanted to look back at one of my favorite baseball movies. I asked my Facebook and Twitter followers for their opinions on this topic and A League of Their Own, The Sandlot, and Field of Dreams were, by far, the most common titles given. As much as I love those first two films, I feel like I have watched them quite frequently as they always seem to be airing on ABC Family or some other cable network. It has been many years since I last saw Kevin Costner build a baseball diamond in a corn field, so I thought Field of Dreams would be the perfect choice to revisit as its central message seems very relevant in my personal life right now. Plus, the film is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Baseball has always been an important part of Ray Kinsella’s (Costner) life. Many of the memories of his dad all center on that American pastime. Ray’s father had idolized Shoeless Joe Jackson (Liotta), who was suspended from the game after the baseball league blamed him and seven of his fellow players of intentionally throwing the 1919 White Sox World Series game for money. At the age of 36, Ray, his wife Annie (Madigan), and their daughter Karin (Hoffman), move to a farm in a small Iowa town. One day while out in the corn fields, Ray hears a mysterious voice whispering, “If you build it, he will come.” He had heard an urban legend about hearing voices in the cornfield, but Annie and the locals think he’s a bit crazy.

This phrase permeates in his head until he believes he solves the mystery of what he is supposed to build and for whom. He believes the voice is telling him to build a baseball diamond for Shoeless Joe and his teammates so they can return to the game. Ray is scared of turning into his father who never did anything daring, never fulfilled a dream, or carried out some spontaneous mission. He explains this all to Annie over a bedtime heart to heart talk. While the idea to build a baseball diamond to host some dead ball players is a bit far fetched, she fully supports him. Ray cuts down a huge portion of the corn crops and builds a full-scale field with lights, white chalk outlining the bases, and a few wooden bleachers. Months pass until the night when Shoeless Joe finally arrives. His entrance onto the field marks the beginning of a longer journey Ray finds himself on as he lives out his mission in life, which also includes a reclusive author (Jones) and the influence baseball has on so many individuals.

The film is written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson (Sneakers, The Sum of All Fears) based off the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. The title of the film was originally the same as the book, but test audiences reacted poorly to it, so it was changed to Field of Dreams. Terrence Mann is a fictionalized version of J.D. Salinger, whose real name was used in the book. Since Salinger disapproved of the use of his persona, the character’s name was changed for the movie. I have never read the book, but it seems to be one of those cases where the movie will be remembered more than its original source material. It has a terrific cast led by Kevin Costner. Amy Madigan is a funny spitfire as his wife. Ray Liotta has some beautiful moments with Costner when he first appears as Shoeless Joe Jackson. Their first moments are dialogue-free while Shoeless Joe is reunited with his love of baseball. The film also marks the last major screen role of the legendary Burt Lancaster as Doc “Moonlight” Graham, who played one single game of professional baseball as a young man and never had had a chance to go back to the game.

Field of Dreams went on to be nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Score for James Horner (Titanic). The film is listed as #28 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years 100 Cheers list and the classic line, “If you build it, he will come” landed the #39 spot on the 100 Years 100 Movie Quotes list. The film was shot near Dyersville, Iowa, and the owners of the farm kept the field intact and turned it into a tourist attraction, which is visited by thousands of people every year.

It is easy to think about the movie as a great baseball movie. There is something sentimental about the good old days of baseball where the players all played due to their love of the game and their fans. It wasn’t about endorsement deals or signing with whatever team paid the most. Instead of scandals about performance enhancing drugs, you get a glimpse into the real-life 1919 Black Sox Scandal, which naturally led to more research after watching the movie again. While it involved the 1919 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds, those eight players were referred to as the “Black Sox” due to their potential involvement in the conspiracy to lose the game in order to win money from gamblers. The film also features the theme that the good old American past time of baseball is passed on generation after generation. “The one constant through all the years, Ray, is baseball”, says Doc “Moonlight” Graham.

While I enjoy the game of baseball and have fun sitting through nine innings of the Minnesota Twins, I don’t think I would say I have a passion or deep knowledge of the game and its history. What draws me to this movie and tugs at the heartstrings after this particular viewing is the concept that you are never too old to stop dreaming or carry out one last wish in life. I am, by no means, old, but this idea has been floating around in my head lately. Ray Kinsella meets people throughout the film who are of different ages, backgrounds, and walks of life and he encourages them to fulfill that last wish or dream they have yet to pursue. I wrote a piece for my work department newsletter about how you are never too old to stop dreaming or live out your passion in life. While many people, like me, would never claim their “day job” as their passion, I think many people get stuck in their daily routine as it pays the bills. For me, it is my passion for acting and movies that keep me going in life. Being an actor is a hard can be frustrating, but no matter how many auditions I have gone to where I get rejected, I keep going back. I keep trying because when I get to perform, I love it. The same goes for writing about the movies I see. I feel a drive and energy whenever I talk about movies to my friends and family. Someone may disagree with my perspective, but I don’t let that stop the conversation because part of my joy is learning the different reactions people have to the same experience. Some may see Field of Dreams as just some wholesome baseball film. I see it for the deeper message about carrying out that dream you have in life no matter how you old happen to be. I think this message is why it has had a lasting impact and why moviegoers continue to re-watch it year after year.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? It continues to inspire moviegoers year after year and seems personally relevant in my life as the film really teaches you that no matter where you are at in life, it is never too late to pursue a dream, be spontaneous, and live out one of your passions in life.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

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