A BLOG DEDICATED TO MY LOVE OF THE SILVER SCREEN
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.
-STAND BY ME

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Movie Trailer: INTO THE WOODS

INTO THE WOODS
Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Penn, Johnny Depp, Christine Baranski, Tracey Ullman, Billy Magnussen, Frances de la Tour


We have seen some production stills recently and now the first trailer is here for the highly anticipated new movie, Into the Woods, based on the Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine musical. I must say this is my favorite musical of all time and cannot contain my excitement when it comes to this movie. Rob Marshall is no stranger to directing musicals after his work on Chicago and Nine. He has another all-star cast led by Goddess Meryl Streep as the Witch who makes an offer to a baker (Corden) and his wife (Blunt) that they can’t refuse. The two of them must face other fairy tale characters like Cinderella, the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel and steal some precious items for the Witch in order for her to reverse the curse of infertility that has been placed over their home.

If you know the staged version, you are already familiar with the beautiful music and insanely creative word play in the lyrics. You also know how dark and grim the story can be at times. I am curious with this being a Disney property how faithful they stay to the original story. There have been rumors floating around that specific numbers and side plots have been cut from the movie that would potentially make it more family friendly. We shall see come Christmas Day how it all turned out. Lapine wrote the screenplay and Sondheim was involved in the process so I am going to remain optimistic about it and not give those rumors too much thought.

RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2014

Here’s the trailer:

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Movie Trailer: THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Richard Armitage, Cate Blanchett


Fans have been a bit hesitant when it comes to The Hobbit movies. I can understand the frustration as Peter Jackson and his writing team of Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens took one book and turned it into three movies by adding characters and taking details from the appendices. So far, they are nowhere near as good as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I feel like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was heading in the right direction.

It's Comic-Con time which means we get the first glimpse at the new "teaser" trailer for the final installment, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. I have a strong inclination that this will be the best of this trilogy. Jackson may redeem himself from how the series started. I haven't read the book yet which I am embarrassed to admit, but I think that makes it a bit easier to judge the movies without any preconceived notions of what Tolkien's story originally had in store.

For all the LOTR and Hobbit fans out there, what are your thoughts? Does this third one have promise?

RELEASE DATE: December 17, 2014

Here's the trailer

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Friday, July 25, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE- July 25, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE
July 25, 2014












Is Sex Tape as bad as people are saying? Could Boyhood be one of the best of the year? Plus, my home release is devoted to the late great Elaine Stritch in Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me.

1. BOYHOOD, starring Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, and Lorelei Linklaer
2. SEX TAPE, starring Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz, Ellie Kemper, Rob Corddry
3. ELAINE STRITCH: SHOOT ME, starring Elaine Stritch

Here's the video:




Video courtesy of Twin Cities Live/KSTP

You can find all of my past segments HERE.

As always, thank you so much for watching and your continual support. I truly appreciate it!
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Movie Review: BOYHOOD

BOYHOOD
Writer/Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Marco Perella, Libby Villari


For the last twelve years director Richard Linklater, along with actors Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, have been filming scenes for this incredible movie. They play a divorced couple and the story is centered on their son Mason Jr, played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane. The story captures the evolution of this young boy from the age of six through eighteen. At the beginning of the movie, we witness how Mason and his sister Samantha (Lorelai Linklater) deal with spending their coveted weekends with their dad. You could think of Mason Sr. as that parent that still needs to grow up and take responsibility. He wants to show them what tough love is, but there is that relaxed spontaneous side of him. Their mother, Olivia, goes back to school in order to provide for both of them. She later remarries and now they have a blended family with two new siblings. The years pass and Mason hits the awkward stages of adolescence. He experiments with pot and alcohol like any teen with his background probably would do. He finally grows into his own identity while in high school and finds a passion for photography.


There is all sorts of buzz behind the movie regarding the fact it has literally been in the making for the last twelve years. Richard Linklater (the Before Sunrise trilogy) wanted to tell the story of a child growing up and set out to do something we have never seen a movie do before. Linklater, Arquette, and Hawke all continued to work on other projects, but every year they came back to shoot portions of this movie. There are plenty of movies where we have seen characters age, but with Linklater’s approach behind filming one scene per year spanning those twelve years, the audience watches the actors grow up before our very eyes. There are no make-up tricks or stunt casting. There is a seamless and graceful transition as we move through the timeline the film progresses. There are no fade outs or a date giving the year each scene was filmed. It never seemed jarring or disruptive to think that in one scene he’s eight years old and now he’s ten or thirteen or eighteen, etc… While the story is focused on Mason, Linklater duly felt the importance of giving the other characters their arcs, problems, struggles, and triumphs.


The story draws you in, not due to some overly complicated plot or edge of your seat action, but by Linklater’s delicate storytelling. You slowly find yourself invested with an emotional connection to these characters and their journeys. It would seem implausible for a moviegoer not to connect with someone in the film. As I sat and watched Mason grow up, it brought me back to various aspects of my childhood. While my story isn’t exactly like Mason’s, I have had those similar moments. I am a product of divorced parents so I can easily remember those days of spending weekends with my dad or what it was like having my wonderful step-sister join our family. I remember those fights I had with my brother in the car that ended up with a pillow barrier between us. I hit those early teen years and went through my awkward stages of feeling left out or not part of the group of cool kids. Even if you don’t relate to Mason, someone’s story will hit you. You may empathize with Olivia’s fight to give her children the best life they can have.


It is clear that Linklater wrote the movie as the years passed. Each scene reads as a pop culture time capsule of what was going on at the time it was filmed. The music spans the likes of Sheryl Crow, Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, and Family of the Year. Mason and his friends geek out over the midnight release of one the Harry Potter books. Mason Sr. gets his kids wrapped up in the political atmosphere when Barack Obama and John McCain ran for president. It may even drum some of your own memories surrounding a particular toy, gadget, movie, or book.


When you think about the talent needed to pull off this sort of task, Linklater really found the right ensemble. He has worked with Ethan Hawke multiple times, so I’m assuming that was one of his easiest choices. Patricia Arquette shines in a maternal way that I have not seen from her before. Linklater’s biggest risk came with newcomer Ellar Coltrane. He had no idea what Coltrane would grow up to be like, if he would grow to be a better actor, or grow up to detest acting. I can only bet that Mason grew around the kind of man Ellar became. The same can probably be said about any of the characters in the film and the actors that portray them. I applaud the risky endeavor Linklater took on as there is no way he knew when he started this project how it would end up turning out.


As I was watching Boyhood, it reminded me of when you spend years watching a television show and how invested you get in the characters. You feel like you know them inside and out and don’t really want to leave them once it’s over. It has been a couple of days since I experienced this movie and it still permeates inside of me. It’s rare when a film that seems so simple and basic has that affect on you. Some moviegoers may roll their eyes at the run time of almost three hours, but I always felt connected to every moment. It never feels too terribly long as each scene feels like its own mini episode. There is an overall purpose to the length to give this thorough look at Mason’s life. I am typically pretty patient with long movies, but at the same time, I can point out when a writer doesn’t know how to edit his own work.


If you are sick of seeing the same kind of movies in theaters over and over again, Boyhood is your kind of movie. It will be one of the most unique and thought-provoking films you will see all year or of any year recently. I applaud Linklater for attempting something different, and I love hearing that audiences are flocking to this movie and giving it the time of day. It is by no means your cookie cutter, run of the mill summer movie. Yet at the end of the day, it is extremely accessible and powerful. It doesn’t have that abstract stuffiness some indies can have over their audience. Is it too early to hope and predict that the Academy will shower it with the nominations and potential awards it deserves?

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? I absolutely loved Boyhood, and it will no doubt be on my best of the year list.

RATING: 5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS


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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Movie Trailer: FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Starring: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Max Martini


I'm pretty sure that if you have never heard of the book Fifty Shades of Grey, you are probably living under a rock. Maybe that's harsh, but that little book known as "mommy porn" became an international bestseller and was talked about to death. It was only time before they rushed the movie version into production. Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson (Don and Melanie's daughter) were cast as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, respectively. The first trailer was released today on The Today Show, and I have to admit, it looks better than I had anticipated. I haven't read the book yet, so you will have to fill me in. Is this perfect casting? Will it be as "steamy" as the book? Feel free to sound off below!

RELEASE DATE: February 13, 2015

Here's the trailer

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Movie Review: SEX TAPE

SEX TAPE
Director: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe


We’re on the second of three Cameron Diaz movies slated for release this year following The Other Woman and the Annie remake which is set for a Christmas release. I am predicting right here and now that this will be the best one of the three. What does that say about her choice in film roles? For Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Segel), the peak of their sexual adventures occurred early on in their relationship. They were not afraid to have sex whenever and wherever they wanted. They had a few solid years of pretty hot and heavy action until she got pregnant. After having two kids, they fell into that trap like many parents where their sex drive became non-existent. Sure they think about it, but at the end of the day they are just too tired and exhausted. She’s a mommy blogger with a bit of an edge who has an opportunity to sell it to a larger website and make a load of money on it. He works at a radio station and takes his job of finding new music and creating playlists very seriously.


With Annie’s potential job offer, they decide to send the kids over to grandma’s house in order to have a wild night all to themselves. They come up with the grand idea to make a sex tape as a way of spicing things up. The next morning Annie demands that Jay delete the evidence of their three hour romp. We all know that doesn’t happen because we wouldn’t have the rest of the movie if he actually listened to his wife. Jay learns his lesson the hard way after receiving some anonymous text messages regarding the footage. He realizes the video was saved to the Apple cloud and accidentally synched to various iPads he has given out as gifts to friends and family. They team up with their friends Robby (Corddry) and Tess (Kemper) to track down those tablets and delete the video before the wrong eyes see it.


Sex Tape is a reunion for director Jake Kasdan, Cameron Diaz, and Jason Segel. You may remember they worked on 2011’s Bad Teacher, another rom com with a super creative title. Diaz and Segel have made multitudes of these kinds of movies, so you already know what you’re getting yourself into with this one. Even though Diaz has tried other material that is edgier and harder, this is her niche as these are the types of movies she does best. She gets to be wacky and kooky and be the comedic actress we as an audience have come to embrace. Sidekicks Rob Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine, The Way Way Back) and Ellie Kemper (Bridesmaids, The Office) have some of the best scene stealing moments. Leave it to both of them to amp up the humor in some of the more uncomfortable moments and make them hysterical. Rob Lowe plays a potential business backer for Diaz’s character. He starts off very much like his character on Parks and Recreation, but there are a few surprises in store for him. I feel he is the result of some stunt casting due to the fact that he actually made a sex tape that leaked in the ‘80s. If that’s the case, why didn’t they also get the likes of Pamela Anderson, Kim Kardashian, or Paris Hilton? There’s no way a Kardashian would have turned down a chance to make money and be in the spotlight.


This is a short light fluffy 90 minute comedy, which is a bit of a rarity these days in this genre especially when you think of how long Jason Segel movies tend to be. The script was penned by Kate Angelo (The Back-Up Plan), but with Segel and Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement) given co-writing credits. I think it’s safe to assume they did some heavy rewrites on the original draft. For a movie about a sex tape, I was surprised by how tame it was in its approach. Maybe I am just getting a bit desensitized in this day and age, but I feel like it really could have pushed the boundaries when it comes to the raunchy factor. Yes, we see the bare butts of Diaz and Segel and there is some talk about the various positions found in “The Joy of Sex”, but if you compare it to other comedies like this, it feels quite innocent. Maybe some moviegoers will appreciate the toned down approach knowing they chose not to go to the extremes, but I feel like it is actually warranted with this plot.


At the end of the day, Sex Tape achieves what it sets out to do. There are a decent amount of laughs to stay entertained and take your mind of a really crappy day at work. It’s a mindless light romp with a simple plot as it takes a look at what happens to some couples after many years of marriage and kids. Sometimes you just need to add a little spark back into the relationship, but it doesn’t always go to plan. I think there is something relatable there that I’m sure many moviegoers could attest to in some way or another.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? While it won't be winning any awards anytime soon, it's better than some of the other comedies released this summer.

RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Movie Review: DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Nick Thurston, Judy Greer


2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes ended with the apes attacking the Golden Gate Bridge. The movie as a whole was rather dull and full of bad acting, but it culminated to a rather intriguing ending that left me wanting more. I was optimistic that this series still had some life left to it. Ten years have passed since those events and the Simian flu has wiped out a majority of the human population. There is a small group of humans that are immune and sequestered in a small colony in San Francisco. The exact opposite has happened to the ape population. They have grown, evolved, and populated. Caesar (Serkis) is seen as the authority figure amongst all of the apes. They believe the humans have been destroyed as there has been no trace of them since the outbreak of the virus. While walking through the forest, Caeser’s son Blue Eyes (Thurston) encounters a small group of them who have entered the ape territory.


It’s not long before Malcolm (Clarke), Ellie (Russell), and the others are surrounded by a legion of apes. Malcolm learns right then and there that the apes are far more advanced than they had expected. Caesar demands that they leave and never return. Back on the colony, Malcolm informs their leader (Oldman) that the apes can talk. The humans are in a bind as they are running low on energy and there is a dam in the ape territory that could be resourceful. Malcolm decides to face Caesar again and claims he only wants peace between the humans and apes. They come to an agreement, and Caesar allows Malcolm and his small crew to use the dam. Some of the apes including Koba (Kebbell) are not so pleased with Caesar’s decision to trust the humans. He proceeds to betray Caesar and disrupts the peace that has been building between both sides.


In a way, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is like X-Men: Days of Future Past or The Amazing Spider-Man 2. You could consider it a sequel to a reboot or just look at it as the latest in a longer series of movies. It definitely feels like the second part of what will end up being a new trilogy as Rise of the Planet of the Apes set the groundwork for this storyline. With the time frame jumping ahead ten years, we get a whole new set of human characters played by Jason Clarke, (Zero Dark Thirty), Keri Russell (Felicity), Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight trilogy), and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In). With these new characters, I would have liked a bit more in terms of character development in the script. There is a bit of background given in random lines just to add a bit of context, but it is sparse. Am I asking for too much here? I suppose so as the story really belongs to evolution of the ape characters. The team of screenwriters including Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver continue to push the line of how advanced the apes are and how they are continually becoming closer and closer as a species to humans. I was intrigued by the choice to have the language of the apes be a basic form of sign language with broken English added into it as they continue to learn how to communicate.


The use of motion capture technology brought a whole new vision to the series as we no longer had actors in ape costumes. The actors wear full body suits with censors and cameras to capture the actor’s complete performance including their movements and emotions. In post-production, Weta Digital uses those images and replaces the CGI ape design over it. It’s a technology that continues to evolve and is proof that you can have a CGI driven film but still capture the acting and emotional arch involved. The technology has come so far that the actors can shoot their scenes on location with the other human actors involved instead of being stuck in a studio or sound stage. Every ape character seen in the film has a human performance behind it. While it may be easy to think of Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, or Gary Oldman being the faces of the movie, the true life and breath of the movie belongs to Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell (Wrath of the Titans) as Caesar and Koba, respectively. Serkis was the perfect actor to bring Caesar to life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he is a master craftsman. He has been a leader in this work ever since using it as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He should have been given some sort of award for his work in that series, and he continues to prove he’s more than just that character. These reboots wouldn’t be the same without him. There is a cartoonish feel to the other movies, but he brings a depth and emotional connection to Caesar like he would for any other human character he would play. I have never seen Toby Kebbell in anything else, and I was mesmerized by the menacing qualities of Koba and how truly evil he becomes toward the other apes.


Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) keeps the pace and action up throughout the whole movie. I thought the first one was a bit slow, but that is not the case this time around. The central conflict between man versus ape and ape versus ape is set in place fairly early on and the tension continues to escalate until the final battle. That battle is epic and quite frightening at times. The camera is kept pretty panned out throughout a majority of the action scenes which gives a clear scope and magnitude of the bigger picture at hand. I get so sick and tired of action films that are shot so up close and fast that you can’t see what’s going on. I think it proves far more stunning and visually cinematic seeing the hordes of apes ascending into the colony and fighting with a wide shot. Michael Giacchino’s score is present and drives the intensity even further. There is a vintage feel to it which is an interesting juxtaposition to the futuristic world of the movie.


When a film series continue on and on you sometimes get a bunch of movies that are rehashes of the same crap we’ve seen before (ahem Transformers: Age of Extinction). They are made with the pure intent of making money over quality. I think there was a lot riding on this movie to keep the series going by pushing the boundaries in a thought provoking way. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a pleasant surprise by doing just that and rises to the pile of being one of the better movies of the summer. The closing shot of the movie is the perfect bookend for how the movie opens. It makes me even more excited to see what direction they take the next film.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Who would have expected that the eighth movie in the Planet of the Apes series would be so riveting?

RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Movie Review: BEGIN AGAIN

BEGIN AGAIN
Director: John Carney
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corden, Mos Def, Cee Lo Green


I always enjoy a good movie inspired by music or when the music ends up being a driving factor of the story. It adds another dimension to the emotional arch I go through as a moviegoer. Greta (Knightley) is that kind of bashful singer/songwriter that writes great music and wants to be a performer but can’t muster up that “throw caution to the wind” type attitude needed to perform at an open mic night. Her buddy Steve (Corden) drags her up onstage after his song, and she sings one of her original pieces with her guitar. Watching from the back of the bar with a drink in his hand is Dan (Ruffalo), a music executive who internally hears a variety of instruments behind her and envisions her being the next Norah Jones.


The first portion of the film goes back and forth in the timeline of events leading up to this night. We learn more about her relationship with Dave (Levine). He is an actor and singer that has just made it big and is learning how to deal with being recognized in public. Dan is separated from his wife (Keener) and is trying to have a better relationship in their daughter (Steinfeld). When Dan and Greta meet, they are both at a crossroads with their life and career. He pleads with her to trust him and let him produce an album of hers. She reluctantly agrees, and he gathers a group of random musicians to start recording her album in various outdoor locations around New York City.


Irish director John Carney is probably best known for directing the wonderful film Once which later went on to become a Tony Award winning stage musical. With Begin Again, he is clearly working with a bigger budget and with Ruffalo, Knightly, and Levine has a broader appeal than Once did when that opened. There is a smooth and mellow vibe to all of the original music that was written for the movie by Gregg Alexander of The New Radicals. His frequent collaborator Danielle Brisebois co-wrote some of the songs with him along with Rick Nowels and Once’s Glen Hansard.


I admire any actor willing to learn how to sing or play an instrument for a part. It’s no easy feat and Keira Knightley does it justice. While she doesn’t have a big booming voice, the tone of it is perfect for this kind of music. We’re so used to seeing her in period films like Atonement and Pride and Prejudice that it’s a pleasure to see her step outside of her comfort zone. Adam Levine (Maroon 5, NBC's The Voice) is making his big screen debut playing Knightley’s boyfriend. He was so excited to delve into acting that he apparently he did the movie for little to no pay just so he could be a part of it. He makes a smooth transition as he seems quite natural and comfortable on camera. Yes, he is playing a singer/actor so he doesn’t have to stretch his acting chops too far. Some other musicians who have attempted this have not been as successful. Musicians Mos Def and Cee Lo Green also appear in the film. Def is credited under a different name and plays the other executive at the record company Ruffalo works for. Green plays Troublegum, an artist under their label that owes his career to Ruffalo. Speaking of Ruffalo, I really admire the choices he makes in his career. I love that he alternates between big studio pictures like Marvel’s The Avengers and little indies like this one or Thanks for Sharing. He was phenomenal in HBO’s The Normal Heart which premiered back in May. It’s available on HBO Go now and will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD in August.


One of my life philosophies is that things happen in life for a reason. This story highlights that idea and about following your instincts. Our two main characters were in the right spot in the right time and let spontaneity, openness, and trust guide them to a new beginning. Begin Again has some elements of a romantic comedy as the music provides the emotional release for our characters’ feelings. However it’s not so syrupy and saccharine that you roll your eyes. It makes some smart choices that don’t fall into the standard rom com clich├ęs. This is a great choice for a good date night movie, and you may be find yourself humming along to some of the music on the car ride home.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? It’s a feel good summer movie that is great for anyone that needs a break from some of the stupid blockbusters out there.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS


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Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Criterion Collection: A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (1964)

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (1964)
Director: Richard Lester
Starring: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfrid Brambell, Norman Rossington


The Fab Four are seen hopping on a train after running away from hoards of screaming fans. While John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are playing themselves in the film, you immediately get the feeling that this is an exaggerated look into the life of the Beatles as they are getting ready for a performance. They allow themselves to show the goofier sides of their personalities. Where else would you see John taking a bubble bath playing with bath toys? From the first main scene upon the train, their sense of comedic timing is already apparent. The humor is further enhanced with the introduction of Paul’s grandfather (Wilford Brambell) who travels with them. He causes all sorts of trouble for the boys by goofing around at a casino table, passing out photos with the boys’ forged signatures, and convincing Ringo to go outside to take in nature instead of reading his book. Ringo’s disappearance causes all sorts of anxiety with the theater’s tech crew as it happens right before their final rehearsal. “All My Loving”, “If I Fell”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “I Should Have Known Better” are just some of the songs featured throughout the film.


A Hard Day’s Night marks The Beatles’ first full length movie. United Artists record company wanted to capitalize on Beatlemania and brought the idea of doing a movie to them. They wanted to release a soundtrack to accompany the film, so the Beatles had to write at least six new songs for the movie. George Harrison has mentioned they had been given offers for movie appearances before but were never interested until the right project came along. They knew this was the right one after meeting with director Richard Lester. They wanted to do a comedy and knew he was the right choice after his work on “The Goon Show”.


The film has that realistic documentary feel due to the nature of the story and how the film was conceived. Even though the Beatles play themselves, everyone else in the film are all actors. Alun Owen was brought on as the screenwriter and spent time with the boys to capture the right tone, Liverpool idioms, and ways of speech. Despite the scenes feeling like quick improv moments, all of it was scripted out that way with the dialogue consisting of short little bits and quips. There was hesitation when filming first started as they had never acted before. Irish actor Wilford Brambell was cast to have a seasoned actor play off them in many of the scenes. It became apparent early on that the Fab Four felt quite comfortable on camera. They each bring a charming, charasmatic, and natural energy to the screen. There was a common goal that they wanted each one of the guys to be showcased individually and thus you'll notice that each Beatle has their scenes to shine outside of the group scenes. Their goal paid off as the film was a huge success and everyone got to know them as individuals instead of just seeing the group as a whole entity. Their movie went on to be nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Screenplay for Owen and Best Original Score for George Martin.


2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the movie as it was released shortly after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The movie is now available in a brand new three disc Blu-Ray/DVD edition thanks to The Criterion Collection. This is a must have for any Beatles fan. There are a wealth of special features that you can easily spend hours of your time diving into without even realizing it. There is a new 4K digital restoration approved by director Richard Lester with three different audio options. The picture transfer is so clear and crisp you can see the sweat glistening off of John’s face during the final concert scene. There are numerous behind the scenes documentaries. You Can’t Do That: The Making of “A Hard Day’s Night” from 1994 celebrates the films 30th anniversary and is narrated by Phil Collins and includes interviews with Lester, Owen, outtake scenes, and a musical number cut from the final edit. The 2002 documentary Things They Said Today features Lester, George Martin, and other filmmakers. There is a brand new interview for this Criterion Collection edition with author Mark Lewisohn conducted in February 2014 discussing the Beatles career prior to the film. We hear from the Beatles themselves in a 1964 audio interview discussing how the film came to be and writing the title track. Plus, we get the collectable booklet with an essay by critic Howard Hampton and excerpts from a 1970 interview with Richard Lester.


It’s easy to see why this film has a lasting legacy. There is a timeless feeling to it for Beatles fans of old and new. I consider myself a big fan of theirs, so this was a joyful fun time in every way. Even if you’ve heard these songs a hundred times before, they never get old. A Hard Day’s Night would also make the perfect starting point for any young moviegoer or musician who isn't as familiar with the group. Not only do we get their classic music, but we get to see the silly sides of their personalities.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? A pure delight for fans of The Beatles.

RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS

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

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE- July 9, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE
July 9, 2014












We've got two movies inspired by music with Begin Again and A Hard Day's Night and my favorite film of the year so far, Life Itself.

1. Life Itself, starring: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Martin Scorsese
2. Begin Again, starring: Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightly, Adam Levine
3. A Hard Day's Night, starring: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

Here's the video:




Video courtesy of Twin Cities Live/KSTP


You can find all of my past segments HERE.

As always, thank you so much for watching and your continual support. I truly appreciate it!
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Movie Review: LIFE ITSELF

LIFE ITSELF
Director: Steve James
Starring: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, A.O. Scott, Richard Corliss, Gene Siskel


In 1994, Roger Ebert was a huge champion of the documentary Hoop Dreams by director Steve James. He included the film in his top ten of 1994 list and later placed it in the top spot on his favorite films of the 1990s list. It is only fitting that James is the man behind the camera for a documentary about Ebert. As a film critic and movie lover, my days of reading Roger’s reviews and watching him spar with Gene Siskel go back as far as I can remember to when I was a little kid watching movies instead of playing outside with the other neighbor kids. I actually do remember watching the episode where they discussed Hoop Dreams.


When this documentary was in its early stages, it was going to be an adaptation of Roger’s memoir “Life Itself”. I knew the potential of how fascinating and inspirational this film could be after devouring every page cover to cover. The film took a slightly different angle after he died five months into production. Like many documentaries covering someone’s life, it traces back to his early days. We get introduced to his family via old photographs and recalls his days as a student at University of Illinois. He was a young journalist that always seemed to be in control and was far smarter and arrogant than most people in his position. Many nights were spent drinking with friends and colleagues in the bar that led to his bout with alcoholism. As most people know, he later went on to become the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and gained notoriety with his TV show with fellow Chicago film critic and “rival” Gene Siskel.


Throughout this look back at his life and career, the film cuts back to Roger and his wife Chaz in his final months and weeks as he struggles to survive despite the many years of battling cancer and the numerous surgeries that he underwent as potential treatment options. You wouldn’t be able to tell Roger’s story without talking about his courageous and loving wife Chaz whom he met later on in life at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. There is no denying the love they had for each other and the love Roger gave to her children and their grandchildren. Some of the hospital scenes may be too hard to watch for some viewers as it can be a bit graphic. I give him and Chaz credit for being so open, honest, and raw about what he went through and allowing it to be shown on camera.


As a film critic, Roger Ebert was a critic for the people. He had a way of dissecting a film and commenting on it in a way that was easy for anyone to understand. You didn’t have to be a film scholar to understand his writing. He had a passion for film that he effortlessly displayed in his writing. He was known to crank out his reviews that felt personable and honest in under thirty minutes. I wish I could do the same thing. Another admirable trait that seems to be forgotten with other critics is that he knew out to review a movie in context. There is a wonderful episode of Siskel & Ebert & the Movies when Gene and Roger have one of their sparring matches over their reviews of Full Metal Jacket and Benji the Hunted. Gene was appalled that Roger gave thumbs up to Benji the Hunted and dismissed Full Metal Jacket. Roger went on to discuss reviewing them in context and that you can’t compare these two polar opposite movies. It’s a must watch episode for any fan of theirs. Other film critics like A.O. Scott and Richard Corliss discuss his legacy and the power he had over the art of film criticism. He even became friends with many filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Werner Herzog and other independent filmmakers who also share the influence Roger had on their lives.


For someone that has been a huge admirer of Roger’s, his death touched me like it did for so many people that grew up aspiring to be like him or anyone else that loved going to the movies. Every Saturday night I sat down with my notebook and jotted down which way the thumbs went for every movie they reviewed. It didn’t matter if it was the big studio movies I was familiar with or the random independent films that I had never heard of. They all made it into my notebook. I remember going on strike with them after Independence Day came out. I was thirteen and vowed to stop watching if they gave it “Two Thumbs Down”. Sure enough, I went on strike, but it didn’t last very long. I wrote this article after he died as a tribute to someone that has truly influenced me and continues to do to this day. I still go back and read his past reviews on a weekly basis. I looked at Robert Altman’s 3 Women in a different light after reading his entry in one of his "The Great Movies" series.


Life Itself is further proof of his tenacity and fight to keep living. He didn’t let his cancer get in the way of his work as he found a new way to use his voice as a film critic. He continued to write on his blog and used social media to reach a whole new audience of moviegoers. He wanted to be open and honest without ever feeling like he had to hide or keep his waning health private. The film demonstrates that he speaks to a broader audience than just film critics and movie buffs. His philosophy and outlook on life is applicable to all. It’s truly inspirational to watch someone battle cancer, yet never give up on life thanks to his love of Chaz, the movies, and everything else life had to offer.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Life Itself is one of the best documentaries I have seen in a very long time.

RATING: 5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Movie Review: TAMMY

TAMMY
Director: Ben Falcone
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Nat Faxon, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Dan Aykroyd


McCarthy. Sarandon. Bates. Janney. Collette. All fantastic actresses that I love. Tammy has to be good, right? Well...You may want to think twice before buying your movie tickets this weekend. On the same day Tammy (McCarthy) is fired from her job at Topper Jacks, her car breaks down, and finds out her husband (Faxon) is cheating on her with the neighbor (Collette). She heads over to her mom’s (Janney) house and ends up going on a road trip with her Grandma Pearl (Sarandon). Their end spot may be Niagara Falls, but along the way they stop by Pearl’s cousin Lenore’s (Bates) house for an all lesbian 4th of July barbeque. Tammy and Pearl both have their issues, troubles, problems, and dirty habits, so the trip along the way is quite the adventure.


Apparently, Tammy has been a pet project for Melissa McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone. They have been working on it for years as they both wrote the script and Falcone sits in the director’s chair. Falcone also has a minor role as Tammy’s manager at Topper Jack’s. It’s odd that this is their special project as it doesn’t really have anything new to say. We have seen McCarthy play this type of dirty, crass, and obnoxious character numerous times before like Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Identity Thief. It has become her niche like many other comedians typically do. She is such a talented actress and is far better than playing the same old tired character over and over again. Her character Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls is nothing like what she has been playing lately. By the way, how come no one ever mentions Gilmore Girls when talking about McCarthy. It’s a wonderful show, so go out and add it to your summer binge list!


The trailers for Tammy have definitely played up this side of her character, but they are a bit misleading as the movie isn’t about how gross she can be. The story is more about the road trip and relationship she has with her grandmother and how the two of them grow and learn from each other. There is a bit of a transformation and growth with Tammy as she isn’t always dumb and getting into trouble. The problem with it is that it’s uneven in its approach. There is a side subplot involving a budding romance with Mark Duplass’ character. I enjoyed it even though it doesn’t quite fit in the movie. It is further proof that McCarthy would be great in a smart romantic comedy. There is a sweet and natural chemistry between the two of them.


The film boasts a wonderful cast of truly talented character actors who have all dabbled in comedies and dramas. We’ve got two Oscar winners (Sarandon, Bates) and three Emmy winners (McCarthy, Collette, Janney) present. They all make the movie tolerable as I typically enjoy whatever they are working on, yet everyone seems to be wasted here. Poor Allison Janney is stuck behind a phone most of the movie checking in with McCarthy and Sarandon’s road trip. I wonder if they are all friends of McCarthy and Falcone who decided to do them a favor by being in the movie. I know Sarandon has appeared on McCarthy’s TV show, Mike and Molly. With McCarthy, Janney, and Sarandon playing three different generations, you have to get over their lack of an age difference very early on. In case you were curious, there is only a twenty-four year age gap between McCarthy and Sarandon. According to IMDb, Shirley MacLaine was originally cast as the grandma but had to bow out due to scheduling conflicts. With Sarandon doing another road trip style movie, this made me want to go back and watch Thelma & Louise again.


I haven’t given up on McCarthy yet like I have done in the past with Will Ferrell, Jack Black, and Adam Sandler. I just think it’s time to retire this character type that she has gotten herself stuck into playing over and over. She is clearly far superior than this material. Since it has been in the works for years, I do wonder if she wrote this movie before she got into this rut. Maybe it would have played better if it had been released years ago.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? The movie has a couple of laughs, but they were already shown in the trailer. The movie is not nearly as funny as it could have been knowing how funny McCarthy can be.

RATING: 2 out of 5 TICKET STUBS

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE- July 2, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE
July 2, 2014












It was another great day on Twin Cities Live with Elizabeth and Dez. Unfortunately, two of the movies were not so great. Here they are:

1. Transformers: Age of Extinction, starring Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer,
2. Tammy, starring Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Kathy Bates
3. Cutie and the Boxer, Ushio Shinohara, Noriko Shinohara, Alex Shinohara

Here's the video:




Video courtesy of Twin Cities Live/KSTP


You can find all of my past segments HERE.

As always, thank you so much for watching and your continual support. I truly appreciate it!
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Movie Review: TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Titus Welliver, T.J. Miller


I should have known that when I heard the line “My face is the warrant” from Titus Welliver that I was in for a certain kind of cinematic “treat”. I actually went into Transformers: Age of Extinction with a little bit of hope that it could actually be good. The trailers looked awful, but I had faith in Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci that they wouldn’t have signed on for a crappy movie. One would assume they saw the first three movies and knew what they were getting themselves into. This is the fourth film in this Michael Bay series, but we have a brand new set of characters thanks to returning screenwriter Ehren Kruger. Wahlberg and Tucci must have seen something different in this script that prompted another go after the first trilogy ended. Surely they weren’t just doing it for the residual checks that will come down the road.


Wahlberg is seen tinkering around in his barn as engineer and inventor Cade Yeager. He loves salvaging old machine parts of all sorts trying to make robots and other homemade inventions in hopes of earning a buck or two. He lives there with his college bound daughter Tessa (Pelz), and they are flat broke. Eviction notices are piling up as Cade can’t seem to make a profit off his creations. Cade and his friend Lucas (Miller) buy an old semi-truck at a run-down theater in hopes of breaking it down for parts. After spending some time with it back at the barn, it starts to come alive and Cade realizes that it’s a Transformer. Oh no, it’s not just some random Transformer, its OPTIMUS PRIME!


This big reveal can’t stay a secret for too long. There is a government project called “Cemetery Wind” led by Kelsey Grammer’s Harold Attinger. His team is led by Titus Welliver’s James Savoy, and they come knocking on the Yeager barn door pretty quickly. The project plans on eliminating all of the known Transformers that survived the attack on Chicago which happened in the original trilogy. Let’s not forget about Stanley Tucci who comes into play as a scientist trying to build his own type of Transformers. An all-out war ensues between Optimus Prime and his fellow Autobots versus these new Transformers that have come into play. Cade, Tessa, her boyfriend Shane (Reynor) and the rest of the humans are along for the ride as they follow the Transformers and their battle from Chicago to Beijing to Hong Kong.



I already feel exhausted trying to remember what happened or what didn’t happen during that 2 hours and 45 minutes I won’t get back. Most movies that are that long better have a decent plot and interesting characters in order for that kind of runtime to feel warranted. This has NONE of that. In what kind of cinematic world do we live in where we allow a movie that is this long with no redeeming qualities to exist? There is no need for a Transformers movie to be this long, yet all four of them have exceeded a two hour run time. The story is a series of explosions, attacks, and battles repeated over and over each taking place in a different city cranked up some ridiculously high sound volume. With such high octane and fuel going into this movie, there are about two different tempos going on. The cinematography is so frantic that the camera wizzes around so fast that you can’t see straight which is even more problematic if you see it in 3D. Am I already getting that old that it was hurting my eyes? The other tempo comes at that the opposite end of the spectrum with the multitude of “slo-mo” shots with our various characters running away from the action in order to survive. I would understand one or two but it was so excessive it was comical.



Let’s not forget all of the added moments of unnecessary bits, one-liners, and cheesy declarations that further add on run time. Screenwriter Ehren Kruger penned the second and third film, so he is very familiar with this series and working with Michael Bay. I wonder if they just sat around and thought of the most obnoxious and ridiculous lines of dialogue imaginable. A bad script typically leads to some bad acting. Have no fear as that concept still holds true here. Mark Wahlberg is doing a really good impression of Andy Samberg’s impression of Mark Wahlberg that he used to do while on Saturday Night Live. If you’ve ever seen Samberg’s sketches, you know what I’m talking about. Stanley Tucci comes off a bit better as there is a bit of campiness with his character that Mr. Wahlberg couldn’t pull off. Then there's poor Nicola Peltz, who does good work on Bates Motel, but is left screaming “Daaaaaad!” or “I’M. NOT. LEAVING. MY. DAD!”


I suppose one could say that you know what you are getting yourself into when you see any sort of Michael Bay movie. Do you go in expecting it to be this dumb, loud, action film? Yes. However, I don’t think that means it has to be completely stupid, over-the-top, and laughable or that he gets a free pass for how the final product turns out. I feel like making a Transformers movie could work. You could have decent characters, witty dialogue, and a movie that clocks in under two hours. Isn't this supposed to appeal to kids? I don't have any kids yet, but I am curious if a young moviegoer would sit through that run time? Are the explosions enough to keep them interested?  Godzilla is a good example of how you take movie that has some camp and make it fun and exciting. With so many awful one-liners, slo-mo runs, explosions, and fits of rage thrown around, I started to wonder if Bay and Kruger were trying to make the worst movie possible? Did they think they were making gold and has the audience been had in some sort of meta sense? I’ve talked to numerous people who have seen Transformers: Age of Extinction, and a majority of them that it was epically awful as well. At least I’m not the only one.

Is it Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Why would you waste $15 and 2 hours and 45 minutes of your day on this garbage?

RATING: 1/2 out of 5 Ticket Stubs



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