Friday, June 24, 2011

Green Lantern

Hollywood rolled out the next in a long line of mediocre super heroes this week in the form of DC Comics' Green Lantern.  Surprisingly, it came off rather well.  Director Martin Campbell found a nice mix between a dramatic storyline and science fiction fueled action scenes.  The movie never seemed to stall out during the slower, more drama laced scenes and maintained my interest throughout.  Unlike Thor’s fish-out-of water earthly scenes, which fell well short of its otherworldly, mythically storyline, Green Lantern’s time on earth was easily the best part of the movie.  This was due to its leading man.

Ryan Reynolds continues to intrigue me as an actor.  I don’t think he is close to winning any hardware for his acting ability, yet he remains a busy guy.  I find him totally likeable despite an aura of cockiness.  He pulls off an odd combination of a degree of arrogance and an endearing sense of self deprecation.  I think his biggest talent is he never seems to take himself too seriously onscreen.   He looked like he felt very comfortable with this role of reluctant hero with no self confidence.  His likeability really carries this film.

The cast includes the beautiful Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard.  I am anxious to see if Lively is more than just a pretty face.  I liked her in The Town and I see flashes of real talent.  Sarsgaard channeled his best John Malkovich as the trod upon, misunderstood Hector Hammond and his warped of mind and body villain grew on me as the movie progressed.  Stalwarts Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett were really wasted in their barely bigger than bit parts.

The plot was a little thin and predictable but it was well presented.  The Green Lantern historical (mythical) back story wasn’t as intriguing as Thor’s and Campbell didn’t spend as much time on it.  He knew Reynolds was the star and spent more time with Reynolds’ Hal Jordan’s character development.  It was the right choice.  My biggest complaint is relatively minor in that it looked like too much time was spent on the CGI of the legion of galactic Lanterns.  It was almost like a bunch of CGI dudes were thrown into a room for a day told to see how many different weird aliens they could come up with.  It was too much but it really only one scene so it wasn’t a very big distraction.

For the most part, Green Lantern was friendly for younger audiences (8-13 years old) but there were three brief glimpses of some things that weren’t completely appropriate for that audience, hence the PG-13 rating.  If your child isn’t too sensitive or squeamish, not much trauma will be caused by these scenes but be warned.  The alien monster may scare younger kids but it was cartoonish enough not to bother my 11 year old.

Green Lantern won’t win any awards but it was nicely paced and highly entertaining.  I was never bored or bogged down and time passed quickly in the theater.  I refuse to watch any movies in 3-D but I don’t feel I was cheated by the 2-D version.  Don’t waste your money with the needlessly premium priced 3-D.  The quicker we, as consumers, ignore the unnecessary three dimensional versions of movies, the quicker the Hollywood movie producers will get the picture and 3-D will fade away as the fad it is.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Freaks and Geeks

I still remember how ticked off I was twelve years ago when I read NBC was canceling my favorite television program, Freaks and Geeks.  This brilliant masterpiece was the brainchild of Paul Feig, who wanted to create a real television show about real people.  Oh, how he succeeded!  Scripts inspired by real life experiences translated beautifully; every episode dealt with issues and situations that just about everyone could relate to, in one way or another. 

Freaks and Geeks boasted one of the most talented young casts in the history of television.  All eight of the young stars have gone on to enjoy terrific, and busy, careers.  Several bona fide stars emerged after the premature cancellation of this treasure.  James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daly, Busy Phillips, Martin Starr, and Samm Levine have cashed a lot of paychecks between them.  And it wasn’t just these kids who made it big.  Guest stars such as Shia LaBeouf, Ben Foster, Joanna Garcia, Samaire Armstrong, Kayla Ewell, Rashida Jones, Jason Schwartzman, Lizzy Caplan, & David Krumholtz all graced the screen in Freaks and Geeks all too brief 18-episode stint.  The adult actors who portrayed the parents and teachers held their own with charm and love.  The Weirs, played by Joe Flaherty and Becky Ann Baker, were especially brilliant and funny.  Star movie maker Judd Apatow added his considerable talents by serving as executive producer.

The program was a nostalgic but realistic look into life in high school for the outsiders.  Day-to-day life of the science fiction nerds and the not-so-smart kids was explored in a way that was tender, but not sappy.  And it really hit a chord in me.  Set in 1980, John Francis Daly’s character, Sam Weir, was the exact age I was at that time.  I remember many of the tribulations Sam suffered through like dealing with girls, upperclassmen, bullies, and the general cruelties in the life of freshmen in high school.  Sam remains my favorite character.

Every episode is written with love and they never shied away from tough topics such as drug use, cheating, and tumultuous home lives.  Even when writing about some touchy subjects, the writers did not use sensationalism to get their point across.  Instead, they used honesty and poignancy.  And it all worked.  Every single episode.

I just watched the series, from start to finish, with my pre-teen son, on DVD.  We enjoyed every minute of it.  From the familiar storylines to the unbelievable performances, from the carefully crafted writing to the terrific original soundtrack, it was a nice experience to stroll down memory lane with my son.  When we were done, I again regretted there weren’t more episodes.  In typical fashion, with the general impatience of TV execs in general, and NBC’s usual clueless ness specifically, the show wasn’t given a chance to find its foothold.  Everyone I knew who watched it loved it.  There just weren’t enough of us I guess.  I think the show had a degree of controversy with some of its realism that may have scared the network away from giving it a far shake.  NBC actually cancelled it twice and never did air all eighteen episodes.  What a waste of greatness.

It just isn’t me who loves this show.  Both of the publications Time and Entertainment Weekly have lauded the show in “greatest” and “best of” lists.  The show takes place in 1980 but anyone between the ages of 40 and 50 will feel familiar with the setting.  Anyone though, from the age about 11 on up will recognize the joy and the angst of growing up.  These feelings are universal and can’t be credited to just one period of time.  Do yourself a favor and grab this true television classic and take a funny, poignant trip down memory lane.  You won’t regret it.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Super 8

It is easy to slot most movies into a particular genre.  Not so with J.J. Abrams new effort, Super 8.  It will probably be designated as science fiction, and that is predominantly the correct genre.  But Super 8 is so much more.  It is a period piece, an innocent coming-of-age film, an action flick, a drama, and even a suspense thriller.  While that may all sound like a lot, Abrams makes it work and it works very well.

The film centers on a group of young teens set on making their own movie.  The coterie is anchored beautifully by newcomer Joel Courtney and veteran child actress Elle Fanning.  The duo displays just the right amount of innocence and angst.  As a whole, the six youngsters are believable as friends with their constant ribbing and camaraderie. 

The want-to-be filmmakers witness a catastrophic train wreck late one night while working on their movie and the action is on.  Abrams has made a living doling out information and answers in tiny bits and he does a terrific job here of keeping us guessing and wanting more, both on the sci-fi monster and the personal storyline.

It is these personal side stories that score the most points for Abrams.  It is so well done; the science fiction aspect of the film seems like the side story, the background, in the lives of these kids.  It is here where Fanning and Courtney truly shine, truly pull you in.  They are sweet and emotional, without being sappy or over doing it.  They come off very natural with each other and their young fellow cast mates.

If I have any complaints about Super 8, I would have to say it is the sometimes forced relationship between Joe (Courtney) and his father, Deputy Jackson Lamb (Friday Night Light’s Kyle Chandler).  There is tragedy here but this relationship is not fleshed out very well.  Alice’s relationship with her father (Ron Eldard) is a little bit better and there is a history between the two fathers that adds to the dramatic content.  Other than a few questions about the alien that are unanswered or unexplained, I have few other complaints about this movie.

Super 8 combines drama and action, science fiction and young love, and the result is a fun, fast paced, intriguing movie that is a pleasant departure from the overwhelming fare of comic book movies and summertime sequels.  If you are looking for something a little different, you won’t be disappointed in this enjoyable movie.   

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

When I watch a movie, first and foremost, I want to be entertained.  A movie doesn’t have to be a great movie for people to like it; it just has to be entertaining in some way.  Sometimes I feel movie critics, in general, lose sight of this fact. 

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an entertaining film.  It didn’t win any prestigious mantle decorations but it was a lot of fun.  In an era in which unoriginality is the norm, this film attacks the genre of romantic comedies in a refreshing way.  I must warn that not everyone will appreciate this 2010 offering from director Edgar Wright, who also helmed offbeat originals Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.  Just like those previous efforts, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World pushes the weirdness factor without going too far.  A lot of the general strangeness works and I found myself guffawing out loud throughout the movie.

Michael Cera is our hero and he once again plays the sweet but slightly bewildered, tread upon, anxious soul that is his trademark.  Cera seems to be a one trick pony, character-wise, but he can still play that pony well.  I wonder how many more of these roles he will play before his sweetness grows old.  Sorry, I digress.  As the title character, Cera must do battle with the many exes of the girl of his dreams.  In short, he must deal with her emotional baggage, and his, before he can win her heart.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the girl and, in fact, shares little chemistry with Cera.  To be honest, the chemistry isn’t necessarily important in this film, which is unusual to most rom-coms.

What is important about this movie is its presentation.  There are a lot of things going on visually and it really holds one’s attention.  There are numerous pop culture references throughout the film and it was fun to try to catch them all.  I’m sure I didn’t but there were plenty I did get.  The pace stayed brisk and I never got bored.  This movie would have been just another crappy rom-com without all the weirdness going on.  The storyline was nothing special but Wright kept it fun and original and, in the end, it was a much better movie because of it.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World didn’t win any hardware but it doesn’t matter.  Watch this movie just for the fun of it and be glad it isn’t just another average, boring romantic comedy.  Life is too short not to watch movies sometimes just for the sheer fun of it.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Movie and TV Reviews

Welcome everyone.  This is my second blog page and I am dedicating this one to my entertainment interests.  On, I discuss mostly sports related topics.  On this blog, most of my posts will deal with movies, tv, books, and maybe even some music.  I may review new movies or tv programs, or I may revisit some old fare.  Some of my reviews may be on older movies I've just seen for the first time.  There may be no rhyme nor reason to why I may chose to review any particular film or program.

I chose to start a second blog because my posts on non sports related topics on seem to have an audience separate from my sports audience.  I just decided to separate my topics so my readers who are interested in different things don't have to wade through the stuff in which they have less interested.

I appreciate all of my readers from both blogs and I hope you continue enjoy them.

Thanks for reading.