Friday, December 28, 2012

No Stars for this Hotel

Review: Hotel Transylvania

Adam Sandler (That's My Boy) in a children's movie. It's not something that sounds as bizarre as it would have 10 years ago as Sandler has attempted to expand his audience to the elementary school demographic with mixed results. Hotel Transylvania does little to move the perception of Sandler as a mediocre children's comedian in either direction.

In the animated film, Dracula tries to manage his hotel for monsters while keeping his daughter from falling in love with a human who has discovered their secret paradise.

Hotel has a few moments which can make you smile and even laugh out loud, yet it largely fails to rise above fart and kick-in-the-nuts humor and does little to pay real homage to the otherwise legendary monsters found in the hotel.

The large voice cast is fun to hear, with Andy Samberg (Celeste & Jesse Forever) as the bumbling human giving us the most opportunity to laugh, but famous voices do little to make up for a script that really could have been much funnier.

The Final Word: Don't even bother.


Review: Here Comes the Boom
The recent cinematic exploits of Kevin James (Zookeeper) have left much to be desired for mature movie-goers in recent years. So it is no surprise many gave little consideration to his newest PG film, Here Comes the Boom.
In the film, a high school teacher begins competing in mixed martial arts competitions in an effort to save the extra-curricular programs at his school.
As a PG film, Boom has its share of silly moments, but is also surprisingly filled with moments of real humor, character, and tension. In fact, I sat through the film increasingly thrilled with how exciting and gripping the fights grow to be.
James worked himself into pretty good shape for the film (which he later reversed so they could make more fat jokes in the upcoming Grown Ups 2) and it actually wasn't too hard to see him being competitive in the ring.
Overall, Here Comes the Boom was a delightful surprise. The fights were exciting, but still with a family friendly tone. Its the best thing James has done in a long time and another film for director Frank Coraci (The Waterboy) to be proud of.
The Final Word: Go buy a ticket.
(Actually, it should be DVD soon, so you'll have to rent it either way!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Let's Make a Baby

Review: Friends with Kids
You want kids, but you see your friends' children as being detrimental to the marriages of their parents. The solution? Have a baby with your lifelong friend, but keep the relationship plutonic so you can pursue other romantic interests. You get to have a kid and healthy romantic relationships. Sound to good to be true? It is, of course, and Friends with Kids shows us all the hilarious ups and emotional downs of such a radical proposition.
Headlined by a large, perfectly cast group of actors (Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Kristin Wiig, John Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd), the film somehow finds a balance between drama and romantic comedy, being very funny at times and truly heartbreaking at others. It is a carefully crafted equilibrium from writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt (yeah, yeah, she made herself one of the main characters too), which both entertains and engages.
The Final Word: Go buy a ticket.
(Actually, its on DVD now, so really you'll have to rent it either way!)

Come Fly With Me

Review: Flight
Both Flight’s director Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away) and headlining star Denzel Washington (Training Day) are known for their Academy Award-winning dramatic turns. Together, they clearly hope Flight will earn them such praise yet again. Washington makes the strongest case for award-season gold, giving us more of a character than his past few roles.
However, the film as a whole, while entertaining enough for one viewing, is nothing more than decent; a lengthy, repetitious movie than assumes it is of high quality, but puts forth little real effort to achieve such ambitions. Like last year’s The Iron Lady, the film Flight features a good performance unfortunate enough to be delivered in a mediocre film. As a side note, John Goodman (Argo) is, as he is in almost everything he does, a phenomenally entertaining addition to the cast.
The Final Word: Wait to rent it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Final Judgement

Review: Dredd 3D
In a violent future, an elite force of police are judge, jury, and executioner. Judge Dredd is the best and he teams up with a rookie to take down a drug-dealing gang.
Much like last year's The Raid, the remake Dredd 3D is a cheesy, over-the-top, violent mess; annoying if you’re looking for quality, but fun if you want to witness the ridiculous as the judges fight their way up an apartment building. Karl Urban (Star Trek) takes his role as Dredd seriously, speaking in such a raspy voice, it sounds like he’s auditioning to be the next Batman. Overall, director Pete Travis (Vantage Point) gives us a film where what you see is what you get. And sometimes it’s nice when things are just that simple.
The Final Word: Wait to rent it.

Cloud Gazing

Review: Cloud Atlas
Books are hard to turn into movies. Such a large, complex book as Cloud Atlas would seem impossible. Yet directors Tom Tykwer (Perfume) and the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix) somehow made it happen. A number of interlocking stories, spanning across cultures and centuries shows how connecting everything might really be. It is an interesting concept, and led by Tom Hanks (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) and Halle Berry (Dark Tide), the film is probably about as good a rendition as there could be.
It is necessarily a long movie, but that sometimes makes it difficult to remember exactly how certain things have affected others. This slows the energy of the film and prevents it from being a truly epic accomplishment, but as I said, I’m not sure it could be avoided. As a side note, the actors in the film each play different characters in each of the stories told, so it is fun to try and spot them, especially when they switch up genders or races.
The Final Word: Wait to rent it.

Pelicula de Ferrell

Review: Casa de Mi Padre
Surrounded by corruption, Armando Alvarez is a simple man who finds the courage to stand up to his family and to Mexico’s most terrible drug lord.
Will Ferrell (The Campaign) is ridiculous. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes that’s a bad thing. In Casa de Mi Padre, a film in which all of the dialogue is in Spanish, it is a bit of both. It is actually a decent performance from Ferrell, but the film is a bizarre parody of Mexican Westerns which at times seems cynically self-aware and self-deprecating, while at others an earnest attempt at quality. It is a confusing mix from director Matt Piedmont (Funny or Die), but is a film that can be fun to watch if you don’t expect too much and watch it late at night.
The Final Word: Wait to rent it.

Being Average

Review: Being Flynn

Working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn reencounters his father, a con-man and self-proclaimed poet. Nick struggles not only with this relationship, but with his own identity as well.
In Being Flynn, actors Paul Dano (Looper) and Robert DeNiro (Silver Linings Playbook) each bring their usual talents to the roles of son and father, respectively, yet neither go above or beyond anything we typically expect of them. The story is interesting enough, but in the end it doesn’t seem to add up to its full potential. However, the film still marks an admirable step forward for director Paul Weitz (Little Fockers) and an engaging look at a father-son relationship, even if it is nothing particularly extraordinary.
The Final Word: Wait to rent it.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

An Exclusive Slice of Pi

Unscripted Profile: Life of Pi

* Thanks to 20th Century Fox for providing these exclusive images!
* This is a sponsored post. The opinions stated within are my own.
Life of Pi comes out on November 21st and the buzz about this film is ever-growing. Sitting at a pretty 94% on RottenTomatoes at the time of this writing, Life of Pi is not only being heralded as a visual wonder and triumph of storytelling, but also as a potential Academy Award contender.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bond At His Best

Review: Skyfall

Let me get right to the point; Skyfall is an awesome movie. It is as simple as that. Exciting, interesting, and visually stunning, the 23rd James Bond film is an instant classic in the 007 franchise.

The film follows Bond as he attempts to track down a madman with a mysterious connection to M's past.

In terms of plot, it is this relationship with M which truly sets Skyfall apart as more than a typical Bond film. Such a tactic makes the story more intimate and therefore more engaging than a worn-out threat of nuclear war or something else of that sort.

The action sets are exhillirating; from the tops of trains to rooms of reflecting glass to a long forgotten house from the past, each sequence is edge-of-your seat fun.

Daniel Craig (Layer Cake) has not only solidified his status as an iconic Bond, but in my opinion, is the best 007 since Sean Connery (Goldfinger). It's a more grounded and realistic interpretation of the hero, but Craig is still the smooth ladies-man and classy gentleman that makes Bond the hero of guys everywhere.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Madea Catches a Killer

Review: Alex Cross

As a fan of the "Alex Cross" books by James Patterson, I was excited to watch the newest film adaptation of the character. I also like Tyler Perry (Diary of a Mad Black Woman). People often think of him as a one-trick, cross-dressing pony, but he is a smart guy who plays the game well (he is, after all, the most well-paid individual in Hollywood.

I particularly liked Tyler Perry in the role for two reasons: (1) I wanted him to prove himself as a multitalented star (and prove me right!) and (2) he fits the physical description of Cross more closely than Morgan Freeman ever did in previous Alex Cross adaptations Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider.

Unfortunately, Alex Cross was not the film I hoped it to be, nor did Perry prove himself as much as I wanted him to. The story, which establishes events preceding any of the books, was predictable and lacked the fluidity needed to maintain momentum, making it feel more like an episode of CSI.

Tyler Perry worked well with the script he was given, but still failed to reach a strength of depth within the character to elevate the shoddy screenplay. The only person involved in the film who met (and then exceeded) my expectations was Matthew Fox (Lost) as the deranged serial killer. Not only did Fox really transform himself physically for the role, but also gave himself the nuances and nervous ticks to create a villain that was actually creepy and threatening.

Overall, Alex Cross was a decent film, but not the movie it could have been due to a pretty lame story and a failure to reach the full potential of Tyler Perry as an action star, which I do still believe is there. Here’s hoping the planned sequel is made and greatly exceeds this lackluster reboot.
The Final Word: Wait to rent it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fake Movie, Real Mission

Review: Argo
With Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Ben Affleck proved he could direct a really good movie and showcase the acting ability of his stars (Amy Ryan in the former film and Jeremy Renner in the latter were each nominated for Oscars for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor, respectively).

With Argo, Ben Affleck proves he can direct a truly great film. Leaving behind the Boston setting of his previous two movies, Argo has a larger scope, a more thrilling sense of tension, and a greater sense of importance, despite having fewer memorable character moments.

It is 1979, the year of the infamous Iranian Hostage Crisis, as 52 Americans are held hostage in the American embassy for 444 days. This story obviously dominated news coverage, but a lesser known yet true story concerns 6 Americans who escaped and hid at the Canadian ambassador's house. With the icreasing danger of their discovery, the CIA undertakes a risky plan to get the Americans out of the country under the guise of being a film crew, led by operative Tony Mendez.

She's Out of His Mind

Review: Ruby Sparks
Imagine your ideal significant-other. We've all done it. They'd be smart, attractive, funny, and have a great personality. They would enjoy what we enjoy, laugh at what we find funny, and love what we love. They would compliment us in every way.
The only problem is that this person doesn't exist. But what if you could make the perfect partner?

Such a phenomena happens inexplicably to Calvin Weir-Fields in Ruby Sparks, a writer who finds his most recent literary project is knocking at his door in real life. He has written about Ruby Sparks and now here she is, identical to every word he has written.

Calvin's brother Harry, the only person to discover the truth, sees this as the best granted wish a man has ever been granted. "You could make her do anything!" Harry exclaims. And he's right. When Calvin types that Ruby speaks a foreign language, suddenly Ruby is fluently going on in French.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NFL Picks 2012 Week 7

Unscripted NFL Predictions
2012 Week 7

Looking at the record, last week was only a decent week for picks as I went 7-7. But from a standings perspective I did a bit better, tied for 1st place for the week and moving up to being tied for 4th place out of 16 in the picks competition I'm a part of. So here's hoping my luck continues...

3 Easiest Win Predictions


3 Toughest Win Predictions


Sunday, October 14, 2012

NFL Picks 2012 Week 6

Unscripted NFL Predictions
2012 Week 6

Had another pretty good week last week (9-5), keeping me tied for 7th place out of 16 in the picks competition I participate in with an overall record of 44-33. Unfortunately, I can't say I feel incredibly confident about any of the games this week. But here we go...

3 Easist Win Predictions

3 Toughest Win Predictions
* I really think every other game this week is a toss-up, but here are 3...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Take It Away

Review: Taken 2
Taken 2, aka Taken Again, aka The Retakening. Whatever you want to call it, Liam Neeson's expert CIA operative Brian Mills is back, once again facing a ruthless gang of kidnappers. This time it is personal on both sides of the gunfire, as the families of the sex-traffickers Mills killed last time set out in revenge to kidnap the entire Mills family.

The first Taken quiety opened in January of 2009 before exploding into a worldwide hit, powered by fantastic word-of-mouth to the tune of $226.8 million. It was a film that surprised everyone by how exciting and fresh it seemed. Taken definitely remains among one of my favorite films.
Taken 2 is nowhere close to being as good as the first film. Entirely formulaic and predictable, Taken 2 runs Brian Mills around Istanbul, but never really has him do anything of significance. In an attempt to evolve the franchise, Taken 2 also tries to make a hero out of Mills' daughter, Kim, but her exploits are entirely laughable.

NFL Picks 2012 Week 5

Unscripted NFL Predictions
2012 Week 5

I think its safe to say my record last week (11-4) was much better than in previous weeks! However, overall I'm still 35-28 as of last week, tying me for 7th place out of 16 in the picks competition I'm a part of. But I think this is comeback week! Here we go...

3 Easiest Win Predictions

 * The Bears were a close 4th.
3 Toughest Win Predictions
* The Panthers were a close 4th.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Box Office Reanimated

Weekend Recap 9/28-30/2012

When Hotel Transylvania opened its doors, so did theaters as audiences finally began to come back to the movies. The animated film debuted to a healthy $42.5 million in first place.

That's the biggest September opening ever (surpassing Sweet Home Alabama's $35.6 million), the biggest opening ever for Sony Pictures Animation (surpassing Cloudy with a Chance of Meatball's $31 million), the second-biggest opening of an Adam Sandler film (behind only The Longest Yard's $58.6 million), and is Sony's eighth #1 film of the year. Not bad, huh?

But the good fortune didn't stop there as indie action film Looper opened in second place with a strong $20.8 million. That was followed by the three big movies from last weekend, End of Watch, Trouble with the Curve, and House at the End of the Street, which each brought in over $7 million for third, fourth, and fifth place, respectively.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How Politics Turned Me Into A Hypocrite

Aside from movies and football, I also love politics. Call me boring, that's fine; I think it's pretty fascinating. Plus it's, like, super important. And yes, I'm aware I just typed the word "like" - your judgment is not unwarranted.

Now, if you know me, you know that when I encounter political stances, especially extreme ones, I want to engage. Nowadays, I attempt to make such encounters full of genuine questions and ideas that may inspire earnest reflection and empathetic conversation (though I still fail at this more than I should).

Yet in the past, I consistently tended toward a much more challenging and contrarian role. That was wrong and hypocritical of me. Standing up for our convictions is important, but the ways in which we do so can influence whether or not that stand makes any difference in the world. This is the story of how I began to learn that lesson; I write it as a reminder for myself and, I hope, encouragement for you in this election season.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

NFL Picks 2012 Week 4

Unscripted NFL Predictions
2012 Week 4

Well, last week were my worst picks yet. I went 5-11; Ouch! Many of the losses were major upsets (ie: Vikings beating 49ers, Seahawks beating Packers, etc.), but some were really close (ie: Jets beating Dolphins, Raiders beating Steelers).

Luckily, I had a pretty strong start to the year and sinceI wasn't the only one who had a bad week, I ended the weekend looking at a 24-24 record, tied for 6th place out of 16.

But on to this week, with at least 6 hard-to-call games; Wish me luck...

3 Easist Win Predictions

* The Packers were a close 4th.
* This is the Texans 3rd week out of 4 as an "Easy Pick."

3 Toughest Win Predictions

* All NFC East teams! And the Giants are playing the 4th division team, the Eagles!
* The Lions, Chargers, and Seahawks were close behind as "Tough Picks."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Weekend Preview 9/28-30/2012

Weekend Preview 9/28-10/4/2012

There are 13 films coming out in wide and limited release this week. Starting Friday are 11 movies; Looper looks to be the best, but Hellbound?, Hotel Transylvania, and Stars in Shorts (a collection of short films) look interesting as well. Plus I'm sorta in love with Anna Kendrick, so I secretly want to see Pitch Perfect too. Later in the week we see the re-release of two classic films.

Click "Read More" for trailers of Bringing Up Bobby, Hellbound?, The Hole 3D, Hotel Transylvania, The Iran Job, Looper, The Other Dream Team, Pitch Perfect, Solomon Kane, Stars in Shorts, Won't Back Down, E.T., and Lawrence of Arabia.

Follow the Leader

Review: The Master

With prodigious ambitions and unparallelled talent, The Master is a remarkable feat of superior acting and extraordinary cinematography, which at times struggles to synchronize both voice and message.

Academy Award Nominee Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, Gladiator) is Freddie, a WWII veteran struggling to cope with civilian life, intentionally disrupting the normalcy of his new environment with self-concocted chemically-altered liquors, explicit sexual fantasies, and spates of sudden rage. Freddie wanders from job to job, fired from each of them, until he meets the Master.

Academy Award Winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, Doubt) is Lancaster Dodd, the founder and charismatic leader of a faith-based organization known as "The Cause." Lancaster's influence is growing, but he takes a specific liking to Freddie and his sure-to-be poisonous drinks, much to the chagrin of some of his followers, including his wife.

Academy Award Nominee Amy Adams (The Fighter, Doubt) is Peggy Dodd, Lancaster's spouse and antagonist to Freddie. It is possible Peggy believes in The Cause more than her husband and her passion drives her as a behind-the-scenes agent of the organization.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tight Race on a Short Track

Weekend Recap: 9/21-23/2012

The box office may not have made much money this past weekend, but it still had movie buffs excited because the race to the top was a tight, photo-finish between End of Watch, House at the End of the Street, and Trouble with the Curve.

End of Watch finally pulled ahead to first place with $13.1 million. House at the End of the Street and Trouble with the Curve both trailed closely behind with $12.3 million and $12.2 million, respectively, for second and third place. All three movies are pretty much on par with other films in their genre.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

NFL Picks 2012 Week 3

Unscripted NFL Predictions
2012 Week 3

Wow, I did not have a great record last week. A bunch of upsets (Cardinals beat the Patriots, Seahawks beat the Cowboys, Panthers beat the Saints, Rams beat the Redskins) caused me to go 8-8.

There's a silver lining though, overall I'm still 19-13 and tied in the picks competition I'm a part of for 3rd place out of 16!!!

Unfortunately, there's another round of games that should be pretty close this week, so here goes nothin'...

3 Easiest Win Predictions

3 Toughest Win Predictions

* The Dolphins were a very close 4th.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Weekend Preview 9/21-23/2012

Weekend Preview 9/21-23/2012

There are 13 movies coming out in wide and limited release this weekend. The 4 big ones will be Trouble with the Curve, House at the End of the Street, Dredd, and End of Watch. Out of the limited releases, I'd say About Cherry and Unconditional look the best, while How to Survive a Plague tackles a very important subject. Then there's still 6 other movies coming out!

Click "Read More" for trailers of 10 Years, 17 Girls, About Cherry, Backwards, Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, Dredd, End of Watch, House at the End of the Street, How to Survive a Plague, My Uncle Rafael, Trouble with the Curve, and Unconditional.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Box Office Remains Lifeless

Weekend Recap: 9/14-16/2012

Whoever shot down the box office a couple of weeks ago must have remembered Zombieland Rule #2: The Double Tap, because even the new Resident Evil movie couldn't bring it back from the dead.

Resident Evil Retribution (review here) found itself in first place with $21 million, a lower opening than all of its predecessors, aside from the original (look for a more in-depth comparison next week). However, the international movie market continues to display its surprising growth, handing another $49.6 million to RE Retribution from 50 markets and pretty much guaranteeing a decent worldwide gross and the subsequent announcement of another sequel.

Resident Evil Starts to Decay

Review: Resident Evil Retribution

For being a film franchise based on a video game series, the Resident Evil films haven’t really been all that bad; cheesy and over-the-top, but entertaining.

The first Resident Evil recounted the birth of the zombie T-virus in a secret Umbrella facility. In Resident Evil Apocalypse, the end of times begins as the outbreak begins to spread throughout Raccoon City. Resident Evil Extinction shows us that the world has indeed been overrun with zombies and society has been exterminated. Resident Evil Afterlife introduced the rebellion against Umbrella and showed humanity might be revived.

See how each film has been a progression of an overall story? And how each title actually gave indication of that film’s theme?

Forget all of that with Resident Evil Retribution, in which the plot takes a step backward and retribution has absolutely nothing to do with it.