Sunday, June 29, 2014

100 Days of Happiness

Well we completed the 100 Days of Happy challenge and for anyone that wanted to see the whole list here it is. There was not much rhyme or reason in the order of the movies.  Occasionally we tried to find a movie that was appropriate for a special day (for example Mothers Day and Easter).   As always we love to hear your opinion I am sure there are some of your favorites that we missed.  

33/26/2014Austin Powers
43/27/2014There's Something About Mary
53/28/2014Monster Squad
83/31/2014The Matrix
94/1/2014Howard the Duck
104/2/2014Shaun of the Dead
124/4/2014Young Frankenstein
144/6/2014The Hangover
154/7/2014The Avengers
164/8/2014Pee Wee's Big Adventure
174/9/2014Summer Rental
184/10/2014Some Like it Hot
194/11/2014Wedding Crashers
204/12/2014Back to the Future
214/13/2014The Karate Kid
224/14/2014American Movie
234/15/2014The Blues Brothers
244/16/2014Wayne's World
264/18/2014Ferris Bueller's Day Off
274/19/2014National Lampoon's Vaction
284/20/2014A Christmas Story
294/21/2014The Big Lebowski
304/22/2014Harry and the Hendersons
314/23/2014Die Hard
324/24/2014The Thin Man
334/25/2014Galaxy Quest
344/26/2014Tommy Boy
354/27/201410 Things I Hate About You
384/30/2014Attack the Block
395/1/2014The Philadelphia Story
415/3/2014Grump Old Men
425/4/2014The Princess Bride
435/5/2014The 40 Year Old Virgin
445/6/2014The Three Amigos
455/7/2014Planes Trains and Automobiles
465/8/2014Monty Python and the Holy Grail
475/9/2014Time Bandits
485/10/2014Drop Dead Gorgous
505/12/2014Animal House
515/13/2014Ace Ventura Pet Detective
525/14/2014Jurassic Park
535/15/2014Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
545/16/2014Captain Ron
565/18/2014About a Boy
575/19/2014Jack Frost
585/20/2014The Pineapple Express
605/22/2014Police Academy
615/23/2014Dumb and Dumber
635/25/2014Knocked Up
645/26/2014Independence Day
655/27/2014The Explorers
665/28/2014Raiders of the Lost Ark
675/29/2014The Princess Bride
685/30/2014The Sandlot
695/31/2014The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen
706/1/2014The Neverending Story
716/2/2014Uncle Buck
726/3/2014Best in Show
736/4/2014The Mummy
746/5/2014Duck Soup
756/6/2014The Fantastic Fox
766/7/2014Who Framed Roger Rabbit
786/9/2014Who's Harry Crumb
796/10/2014Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
806/11/2014Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
816/12/2014North by Northwest
836/14/2014Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
846/15/2014Meet the Parents
856/16/2014Happy Gilmore
866/17/2014Adventures in Babysitting
876/18/2014The Big Hit 
886/19/2014His Girl Friday
896/20/2014The Grand Budapest Hotel
906/21/2014(500) Days of Summer
926/23/2014The FP
936/24/201450 First Dates
956/26/2014Modern Times
976/28/2014School of Rock
986/29/2014Mary Poppins
996/30/2014Little Miss Sunshine

Saturday, June 21, 2014

“Edge Of Tomorrow” Makes One Day Count

Will Tom Cruise ever die? Or get old, for that matter?

“Edge Of Tomorrow” makes you doubt that either will ever happen. This time around, he plays Major William Cage. He may wear a uniform, but he's a soldier in name only. In the near future he inhabits, humanity is under attack by aliens called Mimics. But that's actually not the only bad news, since we happen to be losing, and thus are teetering on the verge of complete and utter extinction. None of this is even remotely new territory, but it's the way this story is told that makes “Edge Of Tomorrow” such an enjoyable ride.

As Major William Cage, Cruise is perfectly willing to serve as a mouthpiece of whatever agenda is handed to him, but he's also a selfish coward who has taken great pains to avoid combat, or really go anywhere near it. However, he's thrown into it (literally) after he gets on the bad side of General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) and is put in the tip of the spear of a would-be modern(ish) D-Day to take back Europe form the Mimics. He figures he's as good as dead. He's right.

But it turns out, death really isn't the end, or at least not for him, because Cage wakes up 24 hours before his death, and somewhat wiser for the experience too. Thanks to his complete-death experience, he knows that the Mimics are aware of our plans, and that all of humanity's forces will be wiped out. But apparently, he's not as alone as he thinks, because he discovers that war hero Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt, clearly relishing playing a badass.) used to be able to do the same thing. But since she's lost the ability, it's now up to Cruise to insure that the Mimics fail and their power source that allows them to manipulate time is destroyed, thus saving the human race. No pressure.

Cruise soon makes the most of his Groundhog Day, and the man he becomes is almost unrecognizable from the man we were introduced to. In the process, we're reminded of why Cruise keeps getting work. (Well, when the work is right for him.) Over time, his eyes begin to show the wear and tear of man who's been immersed in battle and death. Again and again, he's forced to watch his fellow soldiers die, particularly Rita, whose story ends in several different ways. She too has psychological scars of her own, such as witnessing the death of her (now permanently deceased) lover about 300 times.

But surprisingly, there are some lighter moments that are done just as well as the special effects, which includes the evil alien Mimics, who here come off as nigh-unstoppable, lightning fast, tentacled monsters. Cruise is actually at his best when he's playing inept, especially during the training montage. It feels much less obligatory than usual since it's chock full of epic fails, the reset button is a bullet to the head, not to mention we get to see how a lot of these action stunts would play out on the first take.

Cruise also has the reliably charming chemistry with the tough as nails Blunt, who actually feels like a character rather than a writer trying to overcome a dearth of strong (or interesting, or compelling, or just plain good for that matter) female action roles. And the fact that she is mainly the one leading and training him only makes her more watchable. Even the supporting characters, featuring the likes of Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson, mange to make an impression with very little screen time.

That said, there are a few negatives. Why exactly are the Mimics invading? It's a good thing here that they aren't humanized, but it would've been interesting to get a glimpse of their motives. Then there's the fact that there always seems to be a single power source whose destruction will conveniently incapacitate the alien forces.

But those are merely the proverbial drops in a bucket full of riches. And all these blessings flow from the meticulously plotted script, the source from which all good movies flow. Like “Source Code,” it entertains the mind by ingeniously making use of its time bending premise, then captures our hearts by giving us characters worth caring about. Enjoy it while it lasts, because if the trailers I saw before “Edge Of Tomorrow” were any indication, we shouldn't expect the same from this summer's other action offerings.

Grade: A-

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Movie review - Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer is a film based on a popular French graphic novel from 1982. Written and directed by Joon-Ho Bong who previously made the incredible sci fi film "The Host". Boon delivers another tense, sction packed sci fi thriller with Snowpiercer. With a stellar cast that includes Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, John Hurt and a fantastic performance from Tilda Swinton.

The story is set in a dystopian future where, a failed global warming experiment failed. The entire world is in a new ice age. The last survivors of Earth live on a perpetual motion train that circles the globe. There are two classes of passengers, in the back of the train are the lowest class. The workers of the train. In the front are the upper class. Living in a paradise unknown to the passengers in the back.

Chris Evans' plays Curtis who, at the beginning of the film has plans for a mutiny. After hearing rumors about what lies at the front of the train, he wants to lead his people there. With the help of his sidekick Edgar, played by Jamie Bell the plans are put into motion.

The film has a great deal in common with other dystopian future films like, Hunger Games and Soylent Green. Bong is known for his character development and, it really shines here. Each character is developed very well. John Hurt plays the "wise man" of the group. Giving an emotional performance, he was a welcome sight. One of the oddest characters was mason, played by the fantastic Tilda Swinton. She obviously had a lot of fun in her role.

As Curtis and his group make their way to the front, they uncover more of the truth about Snowpiercer and, the upper class that lives in the front. Boon does a very good job of creating a tense feeling here, the further they get to the front, the worse things get. We learn more about the backstory, the global warming, the Snowpircer itself.
 With a somewhat twisting ending, Snowpiercer was a blast to watch. This is absolutely recommended for you Sci Fi fans. A bit of random, useless trivia, Chris Evans had a beard here which he started growing shortly after filming The Avengers. By the time he filmed the after credit scene in the diner, he had a full beard. Obviously, Captain America didn't have that beard in the film so, he had a latex face put on. This explains why he looked bored with his face in his hands, in case you were wondering.

4 Milwaukee beers out of 5

Chris House
aka ArthriticZombie

“A Million Ways To Die In The West” Hangs Comedy At High Noon

Seth MacFarlane, I will freely admit you have a very charming, boyish grin. Unfortunately, that's not enough to carry a movie. And it certainly doesn't help that the hilarious, talented cast assembled here only sinks the movie further with all the wasted opportunities they represent rather than elevating it like they should have.

MacFarlane is our kinda hero, a cowardly sheep farmer named Albert, in 1882 Arizona, a time and place where “everything out here that's not you wants to kill you.” After he backs out of another duel, his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him and takes up with Foy, (Neil Patrick Harris) the owner of the town's “mustachery.”

He has few other good things in his life, so it looks bleak until a mysterious woman named Anna (Charlize Theron) moves into town, and they quickly strike up a friendship that, of course, soon turns into a romance. But he discovers Anna is already married, and her husband just happens to be Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson) the deadliest outlaw in the West.

Then there's the side story that almost vanishes once Anna shows up, that of Albert's best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and his fiance Ruth (Sarah Silverman, how the hell can you waste her??!!). Ruth is a good Christian who wants to wait for their wedding before having sex...well, with Edward anyway. Yeah, she's a prostitute who has sex with multiple men a day while Edward waits downstairs. A situation like this demands that time be spent on it, and you can practically hear it screaming for the attention it hardly ever gets. Yes, you read that right. Almost no time is spent on this.

There are a few good jokes, but “A Million Ways To Die In West” would rather spend their time on toilet humor than pursue anything that could really pay off.

Then there's MacFarlane himself. Acting is clearly not his natural state, so a movie where he's the focus should play to his strengths. It does not. MacFarlane is at his best when he's being Edward's best friend, the inept guy interacting with his deadly environment and all the characters around him who ARE in their element. But in a movie where the romance is front and center, MacFarlane is at his least believable as a romantic lead. If only “A Million Ways To Die In The West” had Mark Wahlberg to do what he did for “Ted,” or someone just as capable as he is at playing the lovable slacker, he might have been able to at least make the film average.

If there is any merit to be found here, it's that Albert doesn't magically turn into the perfect gunslinger that would be so unnatural for him. MacFarlane remains true to the character, mostly thinking rather than fighting his way out of his predicaments.

But I would recommend just watching the trailer. You'll get the movie's best moments without having to sit through the rest of the trash that it throws at you.

Grade: D

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Movie review - Joe

This is my first review in a long time so, I may be a little rusty. Pardon my dust.
I put off seeing Joe for a long time because honestly, I am not the biggest Nicolas Cage fan. We all know his films are all over the place. He can be a brilliant and make Leaving Las Vegas or, he can be downright insane with The Sorcerer's Apprentice. He is a very eccentric actor to say the least.
This brings me to Joe. After hearing numerous good reviews, I decided to give Nic a chance. First thing first, I am glad I did, This is an excellent film. Based on the book by Gary Hawkins and written by Larry Brown. Director David Gordon Green, best know for Pineapple Express and Your Highness brings this dark, brooding story to the screen with resounding success.
Joe stars Nicolas Cage in the title role of Joe, along with Ty Sheridan, known for his memorable performance in Mud as Gary. Gary is a teenage boy who is new in town. His parents are drug addicts and alcoholics. Gary's father is played by a real homeless man director Green found on the streets of Austin. Green often casts locals in his films to add realism. Joe runs a shady tree killing business where, he runs a crew to poison trees to later be cut down by lumber companies. The actors in the crew again, locals were fascinating. Most of their lines were improvised so well, they could be compared to Oscar winning actors. Joe hires Gary on to be a water boy and all around runner for the crew. Gary is a hard worker and Joe begins to grow a soft spot for the boy. We learn that Joe has an anger issue which explodes later in the film. Joe is an angry, depressed man who has nothing left in his life. His family has all but left him, Gary is the closest person he has. Joe becomes a very unlikely role model to the troubled Gary.

Gary has numerous fights with his father, played by Gary Poulter in his first and last role. Months after filming finished, Poulter was found dead in the streets of Austin. Knowing this before you see the film adds to the extremely disturbing ending with Poulter and his final scene. Joe has an enemy in Willie-Russell, played by Ronnie Gene Blevins. Blevins too has a very disturbing scene towards the end of the film. Willie-Russell and Joe clash throughout the film which leads to an unforgettable ending.

The rest of the supporting actors are equally impressive. Most have never acted before and, that just gives you a feeling of total authenticity. I was pulled into Joe's conflicted world and grew attached to him. Joe is not a feel good movie, it is a dark look at a dark world. I enjoyed my stay.

This also marks one of Cage's best performances in years. He captures the classic brooding behavior he is famous for. I can't recommend the film enough, this is a stand out surprise.

5 Milwaukee beers out of 5

Check it OUT!

Chris House
aka ArthriticZombie

Sunday, June 15, 2014

“Neighbors” Proves Sometimes Good Fences Aren't Enough

When we grow up, we are supposed to put away childish things. But sometimes the process is a bit slow-going. In “Neighbors,” it's going slowly but surely for one couple until a reverse catalyst threatens to turn back the clock.

Said couple is Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) who live in a house in the 'burbs, complete with a relatively new, impossibly cute baby. They're old enough to be stable and comfortable, yet still young enough to long for the days of irresponsibility and freedom of their younger (college) years. Naturally, they also still harbor delusions of “coolness.” Personally, I'm fairly certain that if any residual trace of cool does manage to survive, a secret coalition of parents drugs you, abducts you, then surgically removes it.

Their delusions are quickly shattered when a fraternity moves into the house next door, and Mac and Kelly quickly discover how wide the gulf between them and their college years really is.

But such cherished dreams never die an easy death. At first the frat, let by a slightly crazed Zac Efron and his best friend and second-in-command Dave Franco, are welcoming and accommodating, since they sense, very rightly, that their fortunes depend on good PR in the neighborhood. So they first get along well, and even invite the couple to one of their parties.

But adult and family life takes its toll, and Mac and Kelly call the police during another party. So Efron and the frat brothers declare war, and what starts as mild, entertaining hijinks soon escalates into hugely entertaining hijinks with real stakes.

Neither family nor frat is completely without fault or merit. Except of course, for baby Stella. Did I mention she was cute? Seriously, she's the most photogenic baby I've ever seen. She is the heart of the story, the major reason Mac and Kelly go so far (Efron reminds them when he leaves, other frat brothers will take his place as Stella grows up), as well as why some of the frat brothers question if they are. And you know when they coo and grin about how adorable she is when they first meet her that these guys are gonna have a few good qualities. That alone requires serious skill, seeing how frat boys are some of the easiest go to villains onscreen and off. But “Neighbors” actually makes it work.

Byrne and Rogen may long for the past and relief from the boredom of suburban life, but the impossibly abtastic Efron has his own angst. He's about to graduate, has a very unimpressive GPA and resume in general due to his devotion to fraternity and the requisite partying rather than studying. To him, revenge is a great way to channel his anxiety about the future, especially since more than a few of his friends are already placing their feet in Mac and Kelly's footprints. And if there's anyone still hesitant about letting go of Efron's Disney past, “Neighbors” not only puts it to rest, it buries it and adds a headstone. But who knew it would be this funny to see? (Or who knew he was this funny?)

But while “Neighbors” is a little heavy-handed in the way it comes down firmly on the side of family values, the approach isn't all that friendly to it. While the jokes and gags are crude, they're mostly still smart, or at least no less funny. Of course, it helps that the movie has great writing and a fun cast to bring out the best in it. Just leave the family at home.

Grade: B+

Saturday, June 14, 2014

“X-Men: Days Of Future Past” Takes On The Whole Mutant Timeline

I remember when people actually left when the end credits started to roll. I don't miss those days.

The X-Men practically come gift wrapped to appeal with their themes of isolation, paranoia, persecution, and angst. But they've had a very mixed record onscreen, and I seem to enjoy their movies that inspire hatred and hate the movies everyone likes.

But “Days Of Future Past should bring everyone together again. It begins in a dystopian future, where robot Sentinels have hunted mutants nearly to extinction, as well as the humans who've dared to help them. They've also enslaved the rest of humanity, and even killed humans with the genetic potential to produce mutant children or grandchildren. The few X-Men left are now scattered and dwindling in number. But they come upon a possible solution: send Wolverine back in time to the year 1973, to change the event that caused the devastation.

Said event is the assassination of the scientist who created the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, brilliant as usual) by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), her first kill that would likewise set her irrevocably down her dark path. Trask's death will ensure the continuation of his creations, and Mystique's capture means her DNA will enable the Sentinels to adapt to any mutant's powers.

But when Wolverine wakes up in his younger body and finds the much younger Xavier (again played by James McAvoy) the school has long since closed and Xavier's telepathic powers are blocked by the serum that allows him to walk. Oh, and they need the still terroristically-inclined Magneto's (Michael Fassbender) help, who is imprisoned in the Pentagon. Tough sell.

But wait, there's more. Mystique is already, if not quite set in her ways, then very inclined toward them. How to find her, and then convince her of their errors?

And so our merry journey begins. That some members of the huge ensemble cast get more attention than others is a given, albeit a somewhat disappointing one given the fascinating crowd here. But luckily, the ones the film does focus on are showstoppers. One scene-stealer includes Evan Peters as Peter/Quicksilver, who delivers some of the movie's best lines and moments as he literally runs faster than a speeding bullet.

And if “X-Men: First Class” bungled Mystique's character, “Days Of Future Past” more than makes up for it. It shows her in all her flawed glory, as a smart, strong, capable antiheroine, yet still defined by the two opposing men in her life, who both use and control her in varying ways. Amidst all the chaos through time and history, she is the focus, (art once again imitating life) and her choice will determine her future, as well as everyone else's.

But can the future even be changed? Or will it correct any changes made to it and arrive at an inevitable end point? How much power do our choices really have? Are we simply ruled by fate or another power greater than ourselves? Can a person choose a different path after making a few wrong ones and really change?

These questions are all explored in “Days Of Future Past.” It continues an enjoyable action movie trend, one that believes explosions, special effects, and being an action movie in general doesn't have to mean a dumber product.

That's not to say there aren't a few unanswered questions, some nitpicky (how exactly does Kitty Pryde, whose power is passing herself and others through solid matter, send someone's consciousness into the past? Why couldn't the other future mutants have a few more lines?) to not so nitpicky.

A major lost opportunity is Peter Dinklage as Trask. That no one ever acknowledges his size is mostly a good thing, but you'd think there would at least be some mention of it, especially in a film like this. Dinklage is basically planning a genocide of mutants, yet some would also view him as less than a person because of his height. Could there be some serious self-hatred issues there, and is his focus on mutants part of an effort to make himself more “normal”? Well, we'll never know because “Days Of Future Past” refuses to address it. Having the courage to confront these questions would have made a great movie a perfect one.

But if those are the only things missing, it still won't prevent anyone from enjoying the best X-Men film to date, complete with its own intriguing post-credits scene.

Grade: A-

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Wall-Crawlers Have More Fun

Critical consensus seems to have come down firmly against “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which I don't really understand. Particularly when they say it's not as good as Sam Raimi's movies. Sure, I found his version of the wall-crawler to be cheesy and corny. But cheesy plots, especially for a comic book movie, are nothing new, and at times it was somewhat enjoyable. But Raimi's franchise could make you gag on cheese, and the movies' plots weren't merely by the numbers; you could actually predict them with your eyes shut. Was the villain just bad enough to cause trouble but not enough make people truly uncomfortable or threatening? Check. Did they die through no fault of Spidey's? Check. Oh, and my Mary Jane going to do absolutely nothing AND get captured? Check again. Seriously, remember when she tried to hit Doc Ock on the head with a piece of wood and she couldn't even manage that? Jesus.

But “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is not only good in comparison with Raimi's vision, it actually manages to be good on its own terms too. It has depth, wit, and a love interest who is a highly intelligent, competent, budding scientist in her own right, and who is actually useful. There's also a good backstory that involves Parker's father, Oscorp, and its CEO Norman Osborn. In other words? This is the kind of Spider-Man I've been waiting for.

The movie finds him still fighting the good fight in NYC, saving everyone he can, and even stopping to offer encouragements to some. One such rescuee just happens to be Oscorp employee Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx, who is actually VERY good at playing awkward). He's a nerdy, isolated, and very lonely man who develops an obsession with Spider-Man after he saves his life. Soon after, he just happens to have an electrical accident after-hours at Oscorp, turning him into the villain Electro. And his transition from longing, pitiable, and worshipful to angry, corrupt, and heartless is done a lot better than the abrupt flips in Raimi's version.

But he has a little help from Peter's childhood friend Norman Osborn (Dane DeHaan of “Chronicle” and “The Place Beyond The Pines”). He's back in town after his father passes, and finds he's inherited his company and the disease that killed him. But he thinks that Spider-Man's blood may be able to cure him.

Of course, this soon means war...or at least a showdown with high stakes for the city, as well as some very hefty emotional ones for Peter. Not to mention tons of supervillains that “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” sets up. (Hoping it'll be kind of like an evil Avengers thing. Sinister Six, anyone?)

That's not to say there aren't a few plot holes. Why can't Peter study his blood somewhere else with equipment provided by Oscorp or something? What about the Daily Bugle? Peter is still selling photos of Spider-Man to them. Can't we see any of that? And shouldn't he have gotten over the whole dating Gwen Stacy anyway thing? And why didn't they use more of the hugely talented and almost unrecognizable Paul Giamatti?

But there's just too much fun to be had here. Peter and Gwen are actually interesting, fun, and adorable to watch, have great dialogue to work with, great chemistry (evidenced by the fact that they're dating in real life) and they have great talent to work with in the supporting cast.

And of course, the action scenes are incredible. Spidey of course does the usual web-slinging, but it's also a marvel as he swings through his high-tech environments, dodging the electrical blasts, various supervillain weapons, or just plain bullets, while also incorporating his premonitory spider-sense, is just breathtaking. So frankly, I'll take THIS franchise, plot holes and all.

Grade: B+