Thursday, November 24, 2016

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

Directed by: John Hughes
Starring: John Candy, Steve Martin

So here we are, Thanksgiving Day in America, and what better way to celebrate than with a traditional viewing of one of John Hughes' best! Planes, Trains & Automobiles is about a man, Neil Page (Steve Martin) who is trying to make it to his suburbia home in Chicago. Along the way he meets this obnoxious salesman, Dell Griffith played by none other than the comic genius John Candy.

You never know what the holidays may bring, for Neil all he wanted to do was make it home for Thanksgiving dinner. Dell, however had no body to spend the holidays with, after losing his late wife and taking to the road.

For many years I avoided this film because I thought it was going to be just another road trip flick. I was pleasantly surprised, yes they're on a road trip, but also includes so much dramatic, emotional and truthful subtext. This has since turned into one of my favorite holiday comedies.

RATING: 9/10

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Goodfellas (1990)

Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci

Whether you want to accept it or not, organized crime actually exists, in many parts of the world. Goodfellas is based on a true story, explores the lives of gangsters in Brooklyn, chonicling the events of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta).

As he gets older, he marries and has children, but still continues his long-term relationship with the organized crime family run under mob boss Paulie (Paul Sorvino), and befriends a calm, steady gangster named Jimmy (Robert De Niro) and wild man Tommy (Joe Pesci).

This is surely one of the great films from the gangster film genre. Director Martin Scorsese fully shows this unromantic view on the gangsters lifestyle. He shows that the gangsters do is steal, kill, and don’t associate with many others outside of their family, which in all shows how these character interact with one-another. What Scorsese is mostly showing and telling that these people are scum, and this is so crushing in a beautiful and artful way.

So, which is better: Goodfellas or The Godfather? Of course they're both amazing films in their own right, and both are focused on organized crime, yet each of them give a totally different approach. I feel that The Godfather is focused more on the family-side of things while Goodfellas spends more time with its characters.

RATING: 10/10

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Unfinished Business (2015)

Directed by: Ken Scott
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco, Tom Wilkinson

The Movie: 
Upon feeling unappreciated at a big corporation, a hardworking salesman decides to break off and form his own business. After a slow year on the business front, he and his two associates travel to Europe to close the most important deal of their lives. What began as a routine trip, ends up being a battle against finding out what is truly important.

After watching this, I decided to double take what appropriate rating this deserved.  I opted to go with a solid 7 out of 10, why? Well, despite it's attempt at humor weren't much more than crude sexual jokes, I did find myself laughing throughout this movie. It's not Academy Award quality, but come on, ask yourself when the last time Vince Vaughn or Dave Franco was in a Oscar winning film...right, never.

Bullying seems to be a hot topic these days, not just in schools but in life. It is because of this that the writers intuitively included a back story involving an bullying issue with Vaughn's two kids, in an attempt to grab some emotion from the viewer. Not only the kids, but we saw how bullying is involved in the real world as well. Dan Trunkman and his two colleagues were counting on this important deal to keep their business, the company they were meeting with knew this and in the words of Tom Wilkinson, used them as to fluffers. They knew they were going to hire the bigger and more experienced company way before meeting with Trunkman's company, but insisted on wanting them to travel half way across the world anyway.

Upon first arriving in Europe, the three unlikely businessmen find themselves already off to a bad start, there were no hotel vacancies. Good news for Franco, there was a youth hostel with a vacancy and although Wilkinson may be youthful at heart, but let's face it he hasn't been a youth in many decades, but the owner of the hostel showed him some pity and allowed him to stay in the hostel's business center. Trunkman lucked out and scored a suite at a museum, or did he? Little did he realize that suite was actually an exhibit, an American Businessman exhibit, so he was being watched by the public all day long. To make matters worse, he had a routine running schedule and allowed his daughter to pack his running clothes...which she did, by the way, his wife's workout clothes. Still a routine is a routine, he put on the jogging bra and short shorts and hit the road.

Once realizing they were what they were afraid of, they could've left Europe and moved on with their lives, but they didn't. They had unfinished business to attend to, and although Trunkman had possibly a bigger problem at home they stuck around to get what they traveled thousands of miles for.

RATING: 7/10 (Worth a rent.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Hardball (2001)

Directed by: Brian Robbins
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, John Hawkes

The Movie:
Conor O'Neill (Reeves) is a down-on-his-luck gambler in debt to dangerous loan sharks. Desperate for cash, Conor reluctantly takes a job coaching a youth baseball team. The "team" turns out to be a ragtag group of tough-talking kids from Chicago's inner city. Secretly, Conor plans to desert the team after he wins a big bet. But the stakes are higher than Conor imagined: The kids need someone to believe in. As Conor wrestles with his past, the kids start to teach him some lessons that will forever change his future -- that responsibility and trust must be earned and hope can appear in the most unlikely places.

It's unfortunate a movie with a little emotion would get so much negative criticism. After watching this movie I was extremely delighted with the entire experience. Anyone who ever doubted Keanu's acting abilities should only watch this movie, especially the eulogy scene to see that critics have been wrong. Strong, emotional, sympathetic, and completely believable. I originally believed this was going to be another story about a typical loser who takes over a group of unfortunates only to find a purpose for themselves, and I expected this to be only mildly entertaining. However I was wrong, this film truly moved me. I'm a middle aged male who doesn't care for too many sappy, emotional films, but I loved every second of this one. I'm especially glad the producers decided not to make it a last minute, win at the last possible second.

With the symbolism between one man's gambling addiction and the street gangs, we learn just how much "showing up" (taken from the film's official tagline) was the best way to overcome our problems, be it in life or on the field. This story is suitable for audiences of all ages, despite some choice words used. Honestly, I would not hesitate to allow my now eleven year old daughter watch this movie and talk about it. Recommended for everyone, sports fans or not.

RATING: 8/10

Monday, November 7, 2016

Pixels (2015)

Directed by: Chris Columbus
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan

The Movie:
As kids in the 1980s, Sam Brenner, Will Cooper, Ludlow Lamonsoff, and Eddie "The Fire Blaster" Plant saved the world thousands of times - at 25 cents a game in the video arcades. Now, they're going to have to do it for real. When intergalactic aliens discover video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth, using the video games as the models for their assaults -- and now-U.S. President Cooper must call on his old-school arcade friends to save the world from being destroyed by PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders. Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten, a specialist supplying the arcaders with unique weapons to fight the aliens.

So, to be honest, I wasn't expecting much when I went into this one. After all, I came to expect a lot of crap out of Sandler's latest. The man hasn't done a good comedy since what, Happy Gilmore? Nonetheless, growing up I loved going to the arcade - playing classics like Pac-Man, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, and the like - so I actually wanted to see this one. I think it's been at least ten years since I was last in an arcade, do they even still exist? I'm convinced kids today wouldn't even know what a arcade console looks like, with the modern advancements of home entertainment systems.

After losing the national Donkey Kong championship in the 80s, Brenner, played by Sandler becomes a tech support guru while his childhood best friend Cooper, played by James is the President of the U.S. When the world is invaded by the characters in those 80s video games, President Cooper calls upon gamer Brenner to save it.

This movie isn't meant to be taken serious, it's a fun flick remembering arcade games of the 80s. Sure, there's a fair mixture of poor casting and over generated computer graphics, but it doesn't deserve the hatred it's received across the boards.

RATING: 6.5/10

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Intern (2015)

Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo

The Movie:
Ben Whittaker is a 70-year-old widower who has discovered that retirement isn't all it's cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin.

I have often asked myself, what will I do when I retire? After working all my life, I wouldn't be able to just sit around and do absolutely nothing and let's face it sitting in a senior citizen center playing bingo and eating pudding doesn't sound all that exciting. Unfortunately once you hit that certain age, employers no longer have an interest in you so finding a new job outside of a meaningless retail position will be extremely difficult.

If The Intern taught us anything, it's that Robert De Niro isn't far from living that lifestyle himself. Face it, he's old, he may have many years of successful acting experience under his belt as well as a few prestigious awards but even Hollywood is interested in finding new talent. Speaking of which, Anne Hathaway may have hit her peak in this film. I can't say I've seen anything else she's done that is so remarkably memorable.

We've pretty much seen this before with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in The Internship. When are filmmakers going to learn that jokes involving technology and older folks simply isn't funny? Oh, Ben's so old that he can't figure out how to turn on a laptop, we must milk that for everything it's worth.... However when young entrepreneur hot shot Jules (Anne Hathaway) finds herself too wrapped up in her business to spend time with her family, and is suggested to sell out to a big CEO, it's Ben who has to remind her what's truly important in life.

Experience is a good thing, but my advice? Do more than one thing, not just the same thing for 40+ years. Seriously, how many millennials even know what a phone book is? Thanks Google.

RATING: 6.5/10

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Time is the Ultimate Currency

Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy

Imagine a world where you stop aging at twenty-five, then you're genetically engineered to only live one more year-unless you can buy your way out of it. The rich "earn" decades at a time, becoming essentially immortal while the rest struggle to work or otherwise beg, borrow or steal enough hours to make it through the day.

That is the cycle of life for the people of this futuristic science fiction, In Time (2011), people like Will Salas played by Justin Timberlake. Will is a "time-watcher" of the ghetto who is just like everyone else wants to buy their way into an immortal youth. When his mother, played by the gorgeous Olivia Wilde dies, he meets a man who escapes the uptown life and gives Will his remaining time with one caveat, he must do something productive with it.

First he gives a couple dozen years to his best friend, Borel (Johnny Galecki) who we later learn spends it all on booze and as a result dies. The rest of the movie is your basic Robin Hood story, he travels through the toll gates out of the ghetto to the uptown neighborhoods. This is something that has never been done before, for obvious reasons. When Will is accused of murder by the timekeeper (Cillian Murphy) he is forced to take the banker's daughter Sylvia Weiss (Amanda Seyfried) hostage.

Living minute to minute, the two team up to be a powerful tool against the system. Sylvia decides the best way to get back at her father for sheltering her for all these years is to rob him blindly one 'bank' at a time. Keeping enough time to keep themselves alive, and giving the rest away to others struggling. An ordinary Robin Hood story, stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

The concept of this movie was excellent, but the way it was executed was terrible. For starters, let's take our main character, Justin Timberlake who quite frankly we find out cannot pull off a "tough guy" act, the idea of giving him the girl in the end is pretty believable although choosing a talented actress such as Amanda Seyfried may have had a little something to do with that. Next, the irony of our "timekeeper" dying because he stop keeping track of his own time? That was not only expected but silly to write into the script, as he was killed off without even trying.

 Other than those two disappointments, this movie was excellent. The run time was perfect, I didn't think it was. One other thing that impressed me about this movie was just how much it was right on with the analogy of how it truly is in some parts of the world where the rich have everything while the poor are neglected and struggling to make ends meet.

Overall, if you find yourself looking for a science fiction thinker, don't look any further than this title. If you are looking for something a bit more adventurous, you can do a lot better than this.

RATING: 7/10

Friday, November 4, 2016

Every Dog Should Have a Boy

Directed by: Rob Minkoff
Starring: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Stephen Colbert

We could all learn a thing or two from our dogs. Things like how to greet others by sniffing butts, where to relieve ourselves on that bright red space ship on the curb, oh and using a time machine to learn about historical events first hand... Wait, what?

Dreamworks brings us yet another animated feature based on a childhood cartoon, Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014). In case you're living under a rock or otherwise can't figure it out, Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) is the dog decked out in big framed glasses and bright red bow tie. He's unlike your ordinary dog in the sense that he walks on his hind legs, and has an IQ of a gazillion +1. As a pup, he knew he was different than his brothers and sisters at the pound, rather than fetch a stick he chose to do math problems and make science experiments. One day upon walking down the street alone, he stumbled upon a crying basket sitting in an alley, inside the basket as one would guess was a baby similar to his physique. That day forward, Mr Peabody knew he had to take him in, naming him Sherman (voiced by Max Charles) and proving to a judge that he could be a parent.

Who knew dogs could drive?
On the first day of school, the slightly geeky Sherman found himself bullied by a girl named Penny (voiced by Ariel Winter). When she stole his dog whistle, he retaliated by biting her. This resulted in a visit to the principal's office for Mr Peabody, as well as a threat from the indifferent child services representative Ms. Grunion (voiced by Allison Janney). Upon trying to show Ms Grunion he is a fit parent, Mr. Peabody decides to host Penny and her family for dinner on the same night Ms Grunion comes over to continue her investigation.

Everyone knows when you tell your child not to do something, they're going to try to do it anyway. For Sherman and Penny, it's using the Wayback machine even after Mr Peabody distinctly tells them not to. When Sherman uses the machine to prove to Penny that he truly saw and spoke with George Washington, she decides to use the machine as a toy rather than a tool and goes back to ancient Egypt. Upon rescuing her from nearly being married to king Tut and mummified, the Wayback machine malfunctions and lands them in France around the time Leonardo da Vinci (Stanley Tucci) painted the Mona Lisa. Following the repair of the Wayback they get into a panic and drops into The Trojan War, in ancient Greece.

What an adorable couple!
This movie was filled with emotions and conflicts. The time travel, like any other movie can get a little hectic and may be off a tad, but if you just sit back and relax you will enjoy this flick. Let's face it, any movie regarding time travel will have it's plot holes, even masterpieces like Back to the Future.

In the end we see the relationship between Mr Peabody and Sherman mature. This is simply not only a "kids movie." Sherman and Penny grow closer together, so much that upon returning to present day they're the best of friends. Even the hideous Ms Grunion meets the man of her dreams, as she is pulled into the past by a Greek soldier. Needless to say, "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" is a beautiful, funny, and most importantly probably the most entertaining flick Dreamworks has produced since Shrek.

RATING: 8.5/10

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Post Grad (2009)

Directed by: Vicky Jenson
Starring: Alexis Bledel, Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch

The Movie:
Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) has a master plan, Graduate college, get a great job, hang out with her best friend (Zach Gilford) and find the perfect guy. But her plan spins hilariously out of control when she's forced to move back home with her eccentric family. By the time she lands her dream job, Ryden realizes it's meaningless without the man of her dreams...and the people she loves.

I didn't go to college, but I know many who did. Many of whom, spent months even years after graduating unemployed or stuck in the fast food or retail industry which of course they hated. Rather than start life out with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, I decided to go out into the workforce right after high school - working up from a $7.50 minimum wage job to making over $50,000 annually. Maybe I was just luckier than most.

In this story, Ryden thinks she has her life all figured out - fresh out of college with an English degree, she assumes this guarantees her the job she has always dreamed of having, at a large reputable publishing firm. Unfortunately during an economic crisis, she's not the only one looking for work thus being one of a dozen also qualified candidates, including the class valedictorian who believes herself to be on top of the world.

The job is just her least concern at the moment, she also has relationship issues. Her best friend obviously likes her, while she notoriously keeps him in the 'friend zone' while she chases the older, European hunk next door. When she finally gets the job she's always wanted, her neighbor decides to move back to Europe and her best friend decides to move 5000 miles away to go to law school she realizes a good job isn't everything in life.

I'll be honest here, I'm a dude and I liked the show Gilmore Girls, it's over dramatic themed episodes were clearly not meant for everyone and I didn't always agree with what was going on or how the show ended after seven seasons but I never thought about turning it off and have watched it many times over since. That said, Alexis Bledel wasn't my favorite character - neither was Lauren Graham for that matter. Her acting was a over ambitious, like she was trying too hard to impress someone. It's obvious this carried over into her film castings. I'm not saying she's a bad actress, I enjoyed her roles in the budget film The Brass Teapot and especially Disney's Tuck Everlasting.

There are many similarities between Gilmore Girls and Post Grad, both we see a do-good teenager get into a prestigious college and think everything from there will automatically fall into place. Sure enough, in both cases, they actually do. The movie much like the sitcom was extremely superficial which makes for a undesirable viewing.  No reason to lie, the only reason I watched it in the first place was for Michael Keaton's involvement, and that's  saying a lot as it seems like lately he'll take any job offered even if it's bad.

RATING: 7/10

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Brass Teapot (2012)

Directed by: Ramaa Mosley
Starring: Juno Temple, Michael Angarano, Alexis Bledel

I don't normally watch much TV, the excess of commercials bore me but every once in awhile I'll find myself channel-surfing and will stumble upon a hidden gem or two. The other day was no exception, I came across this as it was just starting on HBO and thought the summary sounded interesting enough and being on a premium movie channel meant one most important thing: No commercials.

The Brass Teapot (2012) is a movie about a high achiever who fell in love and later married a guy who had very few ambitions in life. Regardless of their financial woes, our lead character, Alice (Juno Temple) went to college but because she refuses to start at entry-level cannot get hired. Her husband, John (Michael Angarano) is a unsuccessful salesman. While driving down a seemingly desolate highway, they get hit by a large truck in front of a little antique store. Alice spots the owner, with an extraordinary looking teapot that she decides she must have so she finds her way inside.

Soon after arriving home with the teapot, she learns it's no ordinary teapot. Money flies out of this indestructible teapot whenever the person holding it gets hurt. The more pain, the larger the payout. One can only assume how the rest of the film goes, the once broke couple are now covered in cuts and bruises but are wealthier than they ever imagined they would be. This movie is an original story of greed, how can one be happy for beating the crap out of each another? The teapot, an imminent object, tears them apart physically and even emotionally.

I later found out this was an independent film, created on a low budget (est. $900,000), which would explain the rushed scenes and flopping storyline but not to say it wasn't enjoyable and the premise was original. The leading cast aren't well known names, Juno Temple and Michael Angarano but they both do a superb job, which sent me looking for the rest of their filmography.

Finally, the consensus is this film won't win any academy awards but that doesn't mean it's not worth checking out if you ever come across it.

RATING: 8.5/10

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)

Directed by: Mel Stuart
Starring: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum

The Movie:
Join the expedition visiting legendary Candy Man Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) in a splendiferous movie that wondrously brings to the screen the endlessly appetizing delights of Roald Dahl's classic book. Coated with flavorful tunes and production design that constantly dazzles the eye, this effervescent musical never fails to enchant young and old. On a whirlwind tour of Willy's incredible, edible realm of chocolate waterfalls, elfish Oompa-Loompas and industrial-sized confections, a boy named Charlie (Peter Ostrum) will discover the sweetest secret of all: a generous, loving heart. And you'll rediscover the timeless magic of a delicious family classic.

I'm one of the many, who always preferred 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory to Tim Burton's better adaptation of Dahl's book. Sure, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory may have had it's moments, but one thing it didn't have, is Gene Wilder, who gave an ingenius performance as the odd title character.

Day after day, Charlie walks by the Chocolate Factory on his way home from school, which despite being closed for decades, has somehow still been mass-producing chocolate. Charlie's Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) says, the owner Willy Wonka grew tired of his competitors trying to steal his top-secret candy recipes so he fired all his employees and refused to let anyone see his operation. But that's about to change.

One day, Willy Wonka announces that he has hidden five golden tickets inside his world-famous Wonka chocolate bars, and whomever finds them will be invited to his factory for a grand tour. The first four tickets are found by Augustus, a German kid who loves to eat; Violet, a wise-cracking pre-teen who's addicted to chewing gum; spoiled brat Veruca Salt, whose father bought cases of Wonka bars to find her a ticket; and Mike Teevee, who rarely looks up from his family's TV set. Of course the one person who wants to find a ticket more than anyone else, and perhaps in my biased opinion deserves it more, Charlie winds up finding the fifth and last ticket. Accompanied by his Grandpa Joe, they join the others as they make history, being the first people allowed inside the chocolate factory in many years.

And what a magical place it is! From a chocolate river to geese that lay golden eggs, the kids find out the factory is run by little people called Oompa-Loompas, complete with orange skin and green hair. During the tour, as expected, the kids get into a fair bit of trouble. From falling into the chocolate and being sucked up by a giant vacuum tube, falling into a garbage chute, and even one blowing up like a balloon to require being "juiced" back to normal size.

All tied together by the in-genius of Gene Wilder himself, there's a fair bit of subtle sarcasm found in everything he says which puts him in a position of utter madness or seriousness. Again, in my opinion, there's no one who could interpret Willy Wonka better than Wilder himself.

RATING: 10/10