Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Here Comes the Boom (2012)

Directed by: Frank Coraci
Starring: Kevin James, Henry Winkler, Salma Hayek
Running Time: 105 Minutes

Former collegiate wrestler Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a 42-year-old, apathetic high school teacher. When budget cutbacks threaten to cancel some of the school's programs and lay off its music teacher (Henry Winkler), Scott creates a scheme to raise money by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter. Everyone thinks Scott is crazy-most of all the school nurse, Bella (Salma Hayek). In his quest, Scott gains something he never expected as he inspires his students and becomes a sensation that rallies the entire school.

Unfortunately this is an ongoing issue for schools across the nation. School programs are being cut due to financial reasons regardless of popularity and usefulness. Here Comes the Boom is about a determined biology teacher, Scott (Kevin James) who takes it upon himself to raise $48,000 to save the music department at the public high school he teaches at. Beginning with a second job teaching English to immigrants, he learns how fast he could raise the money if he becomes a martial arts fighter. After a series of fights, a roller coaster of wins and losses he becomes determined to fight to inspire his students - something he gave up years ago.

The big surprise here is that there was so much more involved than just another stupid comedy, a rarity for Happy Madison Productions. The story was your typical underdog story (Dodgeball, anyone?) with a hint of heart which keeps you rooting for Scott to the end. It delivered a fun, popcorn flick that can be endured by all. Kevin James was no longer the trying-too-hard-to-be-funny fat guy we all knew him as from his television debut on The King of Queens he had a purpose here.

The plot was very predictable, the stars could've been chosen differently- for instance Kevin James is the last actor I would ever imagine as a tough fighter. The last fight was unrealistic, as Scott is taking a beating the first couple rounds and bounces back and takes down his opponent in the third and last round, with one punch. Seriously? How did the producer of this movie not expect anyone to catch that?

Upon reading other reviews and forum discussions, I see many claiming Henry Winkler, who played the music instructor-Marty Streb-stole the show from Kevin James. I don't feel this is true, this movie was focused on Scott as he was the fighter though the story was based on Marty, as he was the one losing his job and tenure status. Winkler was a overzealous supporting actor for sure, but from my viewpoint, that only kept Kevin James from derailing the movie.

Consensus: It's a Happy Madison production that didn't involve fat jokes or Jewish jokes, a honorable underdog boxing story with a touch of comedy. Pop some 'corn and enjoy!

Here Comes the Boom (2012) on IMDb

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)

Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn
Running Time: 129 Minutes

Adapted from the acclaimed bestseller by Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a story that unfolds from inside the mind of Oskar Schell, an inventive eleven-year-old New Yorker whose discovery of a key in the belongings of his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, sets him off on an urgent search fro the lock it opens. As Oskar's quest takes him across the city, he encounters an eclectic assortment of people - survivors in their own way - who help uncover links to his father, preserving a connection to the man who helped Oskar confront his fears about the noisy, dangerous world around him.

That particular Tuesday of September will always be a day Americans will never forget. I remember exactly what I was doing around 9am that morning, I was sitting in my 2nd period home & careers class when another teacher barged in and proclaimed "WE WERE ATTACKED!" No one knew what was going on, but that followed a school-wide announcement over the PA system, and the end of lessons for the day. I grew up about six hours from Manhattan, so we weren't evacuated like Oskar was that morning, but it seemed every one of my teachers felt the need to stop what they were doing and turned on CNN or another news broadcasts. This event affected us all, even if we didn't know anyone in the World Trade Center. It was proof that no matter what, terrorism was always there. The mourning of fathers, husbands, wives, mothers, sons, and daughters carried on for years to come. Sitting through this movie was tough, but it was a story that had to be told. Oskar said it right at the beginning, "soon there will be no where to bury the deceased."

Ever since this tragic day, there have been rumors spreading around that mention plans to rebuild the twin towers. Over ten years later, we now see a memorial for the fallen and lost, but knowing there were hundreds if not thousands of people unaccounted for even after all this time is unbearable. The idea of construction crews building over top of a unofficial graveyard is unbearable to think about, but what has been done is already done, it's meant to honor those lost.

In the movie, we see Oskar grieving over the loss of his father, a jeweler of New York who just happened to have a meeting at the World Trade Center that Tuesday September 11th. With confusion and feeling ashamed for not picking up the phone that morning when his father tried to call him, Oskar finds a key in an envelope marked "Black" inside of a vase purchased by his father from an estate sale the week before the attack. Thinking this was one of the exploration games he played with his father before his passing, Oskar maps out everyone named Black in the six five boroughs, to find the lock to which the key goes to. A heartfelt story, we see Oskar solve the mystery and cope with his father's passing while meeting with many other 9/11 survivors.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011) on IMDb

Note: This review may be changed without notice. I re-wrote it four times before publishing

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gravity (2013)

Director:Alfonso CuarĂ³n
Stars:Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris(voice)
Running time: 91 minutes

A medical engineer and an astronaut must work together to rebuild a space station when a missile strike sends meteors shooting through space, which ends up damaging their shuttle and makes them drift through orbit.

I was determined to see this movie after watching the Oscars this year, it was just a matter of time before it reached Redbox and was in-stock when was in the mood to watch it. It did have some great visual effects, but the story was completely non-existent. If you want a scientific thriller, this isn't the one to see. It tried so hard to be the next Apollo 13, but it lacked the dramatic realism and outstanding acting that Ron Howard's movie had.
Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) working hard or hardly working, you be the judge..
We meet Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), an medical engineer who's working away from her hospital basement job and is now in space. Her acting is by far the worst I have seen. She recently lost her young child and is still grieving, that's understandable for anyone who lost a child or sibling at such a young age, but to give up living because of it? That's likely not what her child would have wanted. One more thing, the laws of physics - we get it, there's no gravity in space so why did she tumble downward so fast in this movie? 
The best part of the movie, still unrealistically portrayed.

At the beginning, for likely no more than thirty minutes we see Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), an relaxed astronaut also up in space with Dr Stone. Clooney's role made this a little more interesting, which came to no surprise to me as I tend to enjoy his movies a little - Up in the Air, The Peacemaker, among others. I only hoped he would've got more screen time than he did, like every movie she's been in Bullock stole all the attention in this one.

Yeah, this pretty much sums up the movie.
The plot twist, was completely unbelievable. We see Dr Stone sitting in the Chinese space shuttle out of her space suit when someone-we can't tell right away who it is-bangs on the window and quickly opens the door and comes in. We immediately find out it was all in her head. For starters with the lack of air there wouldn't be a chance for her to live with the shuttle opened, also with the zero gravity  I would doubt Kowalski would've survived floating around space after the initial 90 minute attack following the first meteor shower following the missile attack.  Furthermore, the rushed ending...No doubt was it unrealistic as Dr Stone lands the shuttle in an ocean and gets out of it in one piece without any prior experience in landing one.
Shes way too old to be attractive in this picture
Consensus: This movie had some great visual effects and cinematography which was expected after watching the Oscars, but the story behind this movie was stale and worthless. Not worth the hour and a half runtime
Would I recommend this movie? No
Favorite quote: "It was one hell of a ride!" -Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock)

Gravity (2013) on IMDb

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Great Debate: Going to the Theater vs. Watching at Home

This debate comes up quite a bit whenever I mention watching more movies at home than at the theater. Just for the record, I love seeing a movie on the big screen, in my opinion that was the way movies were meant to be watched but past theatrical experiences have ruined it for me. It really comes down to three factors: Cost, convenience, and the atmosphere. One more to add, I wrote this without mentioning the quality of the movie itself being played (incorrect aspect ratio, crackling sound, specks of dust on the lens, etc.)

Cost, most likely a subject that affects everyone reading this whether you want to admit it or not. My local multiplex charges $8.50 per ticket. I rarely ever go to the movies by myself so that's $17.00 just to get in. Then there's the soda and popcorn, which I can skip (and rightfully do so) but for comparison we'll add in another $15 for two medium drinks and a bucket of popcorn. Our grand total: $32.00 for one movie night!

Now, let's say we rent a new release from Redbox, because well that's our only alternative since all our video stores closed up shop years ago. $1.50 for a Blu-ray, which is higher than most movies released today is worth in my opinion. A bag of microwavable popcorn for $0.25 (including extra real butter) and a can of not watered down Pepsi for another $0.25. Grand total for two: $2.50! We could rent 12 movies for the price of one at the multiplex.

Convenience, another complaint I've heard a lot of. When you go to the theater you are on a time constraint. Movies are shown at 7:00 or 7:15, are you going to make it 10 or 20 minutes earlier to secure a good seat? If you have a busy work schedule, you better not plan to meet at the movies on a work night.And what happens if you plan for a movie night but 7:00 rolls around and you find yourself too tired or uninterested in the movie you bought a ticket for?

On the other hand, if you rent, most video stores I've been to are open until 10pm or later during the week and midnight or later on the weekends (Friday night included) and Redbox assuming it's an outside location is open 24 hours a day, so you can enjoy the movie any time of the day or night.

Atmosphere, here's another one people complain about the most but yet they suffer through it anyway.  Some theaters show pride in their establishments and I tip my hat to them, but most of your larger chain multiplexes couldn't care less about your movie-going experience once you buy the ticket. At my local multiplex, the floors are always sticky, the seats are as hard as a rock, there's always some unruly child kicking my seat, an abnormally tall man will always sit in front of me, and that creepy/smelly man that takes the seat right behind/in front of/next to me that will spend the next two hours hovering over the seat in front of him...guess who's in the line of the draft? Yup, me. At any given time during the movie, some idiot missed the sign at the door that says "Turn cell phones off" as their phone rings, or they're sitting in the theater texting/talking on it. Believe it or not, some people go to the theater to watch the movie, I've seen groups of rude patrons(usually teenagers) sitting up front talking to one another like there's nothing on the screen in front of them. Complaints to management gets no response, yelling down to them to shut up gets everyone to turn to you and say "Shhh!" If you go to the theater today, wear a haz-mat suit you'll need it! Heaven forbid I find out what someone did in the seat I'm sitting in before I got there.

Not much of an argument to all of that, when it comes to watching a movie at home. Your home is only as messy as you make it, you can turn off your phones and disconnect your router so you and whoever else you are with aren't tempted to use them during the duration of your movie, and in the comfort of your own home you can be comfortable-put your feet up and relax if you want to. You pay a royalty for a sub-par movie experience when you could be frugal and get a much better experience at home (even on a small screen).

As much as I love seeing a movie on the big screen my comparisons may be a little biased since nearly every movie I watch is rented or owned. I don't visit the theater too often anymore, and when I go I've scoped out an awesome second-run and first-run drive-in theater that operated with pride and I no longer have to worry about those rude people, high ticket and concession prices, or watered down cokes.

Whether you agree or disagree, post your comments below - I look forward to reading them and hey, you may even find a response! :)

Easy A (2010)

Directed by: Will Gluck
Starring: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church
Running Time: 92 minutes

In this charming, critically acclaimed tale of rumors and reputation, Olive (Emma Stone), an average high school student, sees her below-the-radar existence turn around overnight once she decides to use the school's gossip grapevine to advance er social standing. Now her classmates (Amanda Bynes, Aly Michalka) are turning against her and the school board is becoming concerned, including her favorite teacher (Thomas Haden Church) and the distracted guidance counselor (Lisa Kudrow). With the support of her hilariously idiosyncratic parents (Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson) and a little help from a long time crush (Penn Badgley) Olive attempts to take on her notorious new identity and crush the rumor mill once and for all.

If you've read or seen The Scarlet Letter, than you will most likely know what this movie's all about. Olive Pendergast is an outcast in high school, an average student who, up to this point has only blended in. Until one day she makes up losing her virginity to her best friend when class president and religious nut Marianne (Amanda Bynes) overhears and spreads it around the school. Now she is known as the school slut, in a matter of defense she ends up in detention with a ridiculed homosexual student Brandon (Dan Byrd) whom she admits to that she made up the rumor. Now he thinks of a way he can get the bullies off his back by telling everyone he slept with Olive, with her permission of course, this follows a little overzealous staged "show" for all of her classmates at a party. That show, albeit artificial, begins the first of many ugly rumors pertaining to Olive's sexual and social status. Now any kid who was once bullied comes to her for permission on if they could tell everyone they hooked up even though they didn't.

It was going well at first, she was helping her peers and scoring free gift cards to random stores in return. But it didn't take long for a certain high school clique to intervene and turn against her. This is tthe type of rumor she never asked for, walking around with a proverbial 'A' marked on her, 'A' for adultery. She's the fall-girl when the oldest living senior who was having an affair with the truly slutty guidance counselor comes down with chlamydia  She confesses to have made the entire thing up to her English teacher and announces that his wife is cheating on him with a student and used the rumors to save her job. In an effort to reverse the rumors, she decides to start a web show to release the lies. Explaining how she only wanted to help one ridiculed kid, with no intentions on alienating everyone and becoming the community whore.

Chances are you've seen this movie, but if not, it's definitely worth checking out. Emma Stone's filmography has been growing over the last few years, although there are some duds most of her work is pretty decent for modern drama comedies It's not worth owning, as its not something I would see anyone watching over and over again, as it is just a mindless dram-com(drama+comedy) but it's perfect for a late date night flick as most of Emma's filmography is.

= Rent it, you won't regret it.
Easy A (2010) on IMDb

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blood Diamond (2006)

Directed by: Edward Zwick
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou
Running Time: 143 minutes

An ex-merchenary turned smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio). A Mende fisherman (Djimon Hounsou). Amid the explosive civil war overtaking 1999 Sierra Leone, these men join for two desperate missions, recovering a rare pink diamond of immense value and rescuing the fisherman's son, conscripted as a child soldier into the brutal rebel forces ripping a swath of torture and bloodshed across the alternately beautiful and ravaged countryside. Directed by Edward Zwick [Glory, The Last Samurai], this urgent, intensely moving adventure shapes gripping human stories and heart pounding action into a modern epic of profound impact.

Married? Thinking about it? I'd be willing to bet you'll be shopping for or dreaming of a nice big diamond ring if you haven't already got one. Have you thought about where that shiny rock came from? Here's a hint, it didn't come from Jared. According to Blood Diamond, rebel forces invaded small villages in Sierra Leone to enslave able bodied men to dig and sift through the sands of the desert for flawless diamonds only to be sold or traded at no restitution to the slaves. This story is about a particular fisherman, Solomon who managed to escape a mining camp, with the assistance of former mercenary Danny and American overseas reporter Maddy.  Upon arriving at the refugee camps, Solomon learns his son Dia was taken by the rebel forces to be transformed into a child soldier. While Danny's only interested in the rare pink diamond that Solomon found and hid, the only thing Solomon wants is to rescue his son and get his family back.

Nominated for five academy awards including best supporting actor(Leonardo DiCaprio), leading actor(Djimon Hounsou), film editing, sound mixing, and sound editing. It's unfortunate that Blood Diamond didn't win any awards at the 2006 Oscars. Somehow this movie slipped under my radar, I just came across the DVD for this earlier this year and thought the synopsis sounded interesting, in the political sense.

The cast line up was what really sold me on this, let's start with Jennifer Connelly, her filmography for the past decade has been pretty active, not perfect but hey, let's face it her gorgeous body isn't hard on the eyes and I've been entertained by her past performances. Now we turn to Leonardo DiCaprio, what isn't there to like about him? His filmography is compiled of very successful movies, many big blockbusters. Moving onto Djimon Hounson, I'll be completely honest and say I had no idea who this guy was before I watched this movie, I didn't recognize him from The Island or Gladiator, both movies I've seen many a dozen times or better. His performance was better than DiCaprio's in this movie, I couldn't imagine playing the role of a slave, and I don't think many would want to. Zwick did a outstanding job at directing this movie, and it shouldn't go ignored, it's not his first time directing a civil war movie, if you've seen Glory - based in the USA during the 1800s - you'll want to see this one.

Overall, I'd say this movie is not for the faint of heart. Not because of the sight of blood or lack-thereof, but the general nature of violence portrayed in this film. The director didn't hold back on the violence, we see the rebels force themselves into the villages and slaughter women and children, enslaving males for the mining camps, and taking boys to transform into child soldiers. On the other hand, Zwick made this movie incredibly realistic so just turning on the evening news you could see just how factual this movie is. In some parts of the world, there's still a civil war..There's still child soldiers out there killing and being recruited into the rebel forces. Just give it a shot, what do you have to lose?

Blood Diamond (2006) on IMDb

(** site notice: I'm trying out a few new formats for my reviews, so this one and the ones to come may look different than usual, but rest assured they are still written by me -no copying other than the synopsis off the back of the DVD case**)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore
Running Time: 115 minutes

Steven Spielberg's heartwarming masterpiece of love between a young boy and a visitor from another planet has quickly become the most popular film of all time. Filled with unparalleled magic and imagination that made audiences around the world laugh and cry, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial follows the moving story of a lost little alien who befriends a 10-year-old boy named Elliot. While E.T. learns about life on Earth, Elliot learns that friendship knows no earthly bounds. Overflowing with memorable performances, a stirring musical score and scenes of wonderment, E.T. invites everyone to share the thrill of its magic touch. It's more than a movie-it's an experience you'll never forget.

Elliot, E.T., Mike and his friends all getting ready to soar into the air
Image ©
This is one of my all-time favorite movies. I was five or six when I first watched this masterpiece, I distinctly remember being blown away on how this movie had a bit of everything: drama, comedy, science fiction, and adventure. To add icing to the cake, it was even made right rather than slapped together like some movies today. I decided to revisit this film after all these years and was surprised on how much it still holds up today, at a little over thirty years old. Only a handful of titles I've seen in my lifetime have triggered some emotion, and by that I mean I cried. Who didn't? If you say you didn't shed a single tear scene where E.T. was dying on the table so Elliot could live, I'd have to call you a liar.
It's okay to cry...
Image ©

This movie's not perfect. I personally think that would be near impossible to accomplish but to remain a classic even after thirty years, Spielberg must've done something right. There's no future predictions gone horribly wrong like we've seen in some pre-1990 films. There's proof that life existed without mobile phones and computers, back when kids would use their imagination and play with action figures or Matchbox cars. Just typing that last sentence made me appreciate the type of childhood I had, while feeling bad for kids who are growing up in this Millennium.

Spielberg is one of my favorite directors, I'll watch anything put out by this man. I trust him to entertain me, and (so far) he hasn't let me down yet. For years, I had only known Elliot as "that kid who played Davey Osborne from Cloak & Dagger." He deserves more credit though for he's starred in some decent movies since the 80s; Psycho IV, Suicide Kings, 11:14, and Dear John to name a few. Then there's Drew Barrymore, who I never realized until recently that she played Elliot's sister Gertie. There's no point in lying here, I like most of her filmography but when I was younger and first saw this film I despised her role as Gertie to a point which almost ruined the film.
She looks sad and innocent here.
Image ©

I always compared my life to Elliot's, for years I didn't know why, maybe I just didn't care to come up with a reason. It's hit me during this last revisit, I can relate to Elliot, as a middle child myself I've gone through stages of my life where I didn't think anyone paid any attention to me. It's the reason why I didn't like Gertie (Drew Barrymore) in this film; being the youngest leaking secrets and constantly believing she was the center of the universe throughout the film.

Own it today! Buy it from
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) on IMDb

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ride Along (2014)

Directed by: Tim Story
Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Laurence Fishburne
Running Time: 99 Minutes

For the past two years, high-school security guard Ben has been trying to show decorated APD detective James that he's more than just a video-game junkie who's unworthy of James' sister, Angela. When Ben finally gets accepted into the academy, he thinks he's earned the seasoned policeman's respect and asks for his blessing to marry Angela. Knowing that a ride-along will demonstrate if Ben has what it takes to take care of his sister, James invites him on a shift designed to scare the heck out of the trainee. But when the wild night leads them to the most notorious criminal in the city, James will find that his new partner's rapid-fire mouth is just as dangerous as the bullets speeding at it.

So, does anyone know whether this was supposed to be an action flick or a comedy? According to IMDb, a highly used resource, it's classified as both. A buddy cop movie starring comedian genius Kevin Hart, and the sub-par actor Ice Cube screams "check this out!" Since I first heard about this movie I was interested in seeing it...then the reviews started coming in, including this one over at Two Dollar Cinema. Against all odds, I had decided that I would just see for myself with the next free promo code I got from Redbox. After all, we all have different tastes in movies, right?

So late last night, I popped some popcorn and sat down for this ninety-some minute movie of cheesy laughs and horrible action scenes. Ice Cube played his same old "my shit don't stink" character alongside his sister's boyfriend and career video gamer played by Kevin Hart. Honestly, I never found Ice Cube to be funny or memorable in any way. That said, I was hoping Kevin Hart, who I've seen many times on Comedy Central, would save this movie from being a complete disaster.

A few things I "learned" from this film:
  • A Prius is not ideal to chase down a BMW..or anything for that matter
  • If you're white, you can't and should not fight
  • Kevin Hart's bad ass at video games, but give him a real gun and he wouldn't know what to do with it
  • Ice Cube likes to see himself on camera. He seemed to steal as much camera time in this as possible
  • Police code 126 stands for a bullshit call that nobody else wants
  • Movies like this always involves a corrupt cop or two
I can't believe there's a sequel in the works to be released in 2016. This movie was a flop and I guarantee a sequel will be even worse. As a comedy, this was fairly okay...a few chuckles here and there, but it's obvious Story tried too hard to make this an action movie that he neglected some of the jokes. I usually find something good about every movie I watch, but this one was a atrocious.

Overall this movie was worth what I paid, but it isn't even worth the $1.50 Redbox rental. As any follower of this blog should already know, Redbox sends out free rental codes routinely so there's no reason to pay to see shitty movies like this.

(Crap.If you must see this, rent it with a free rental promo code or borrow it from your public library.)
Ride Along (2014) on IMDb