Friday, November 28, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

A sequel or prequel or interquel—whatever you wanna call it, SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR lacks the ambition, charisma and intensity of its groundbreaking 2005 predecessor. Is the poor reception of this follow-up the lack of interest after a nine-year gap, or does it have something to do with the overall quality? It could all be a matter of perception, but one can't deny that the recasts of some characters (particularly Bob and Miho; Manute is understandable, obviously, given the passing of Michael Clarke Duncan) and the unnecessary absence of others (particularly Becky; Shellie, again, is understandable given the passing of Brittany Murphy) contribute to the feeling that this may be a movie that was never meant to be. The titular "yarn" is not bad, but may have been more fitting if it has been included in the first film, and "The Big Fat Kill" moved to the second film. "Just Another Saturday Night" (a reference to the song?) is a good opener; while Powers Boothe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are incredibly fun to watch gambling (for not just money, but also for pride, power and life) in the non-adapted original "The Long Bad Night"; unfortunately, "Nancy's Last Dance" lacks the satisfaction it intends because it merges too much with "Long Bad Night", and it raises the question of why there is being so much closure when many of the SIN CITY stories have yet to be brought to screen.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving classic about Peppermint Patty inviting herself, Marcie and Franklin over for Thanksgiving, forcing Charlie Brown to recruit Linus, Snoopy and Woodstock to prepare a big holiday dinner. Tenth prime-time animated TV special based upon the popular comic strip PEANUTS. Won an Emmy Award in 1974. You can count on it to be aired every November on ABC, usually back-to-back with the first episode of THIS IS America, CHARLIE BROWN "The Mayflower Voyagers". Like a lot of childhood staples, this has sentimental value to those who grew up with it, but this segment is too brief and dated to really grip those who were introduced to it too late.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What's Eating Gilbert Grape

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Very well-made film based on the 1991 novel of the same name about an Iowa family and how they try to make the best of things despite their many misfortunes. Depp, in the titular role, leads the rest of the strong cast through an enjoyable story that evolves nicely through brilliant character development instead of action. Kudos for being far less melodramatic than it could have been. The ending kind of makes it seem like all the Grape Family's problems are brought on by the mother (with first-timer Cates delivering like a pro), yet it doesn't seem like that was Hedges and/or Hallström's intentions.


Gorgeous Disney/Pixar picture about cranky old widower Asner traveling to the wilds of South America via thousands of balloons tied to his house in order to fulfill his dream, only to accidentally take annoying young Wilderness Explorer Nagai with him. When they land, they're welcomed by "talking" dogs and a colorful flightless bird named Kevin, as well as an unexpected tie to the past. Unfortunately, like a lot of movies that have a subtle perfection in the first and second act, there is for some reason an unnecessary need to overcompensate with a heavy-handed climatic third act. Still, just too wonderful not to love.

Finding Nemo

Disney/Pixar blockbuster about Nemo (Gould)—the only surviving clownfish in a clutch of eggs and born with a small right-fin—going missing and his father Marlin (Brooks) swimming all the way to Sydney to find him. Dafoe is perfect as Gill, a moorish idol, and DeGeneres is a nice touch as Dory, a Pacific regal blue tang, even with her cheap jokes of forgetfulness; and let's not forget Stanton as Crush, a green sea turtle. Especially fun for fish-enthusiasts. The scenes taking place in the dentist office aquarium are priceless! A sequel very much welcome!!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

All Things Fall Apart

2011 drama about promising football running back 50 Cent and his unexpected fight with a deadly disease that plagues his senior year in college and chances at the NFL. The film opens with very poor acting—child-actors are always a longshot, and Lynn Whitfield's attempt at an overly proud mother just feels overdone compared to the realistic subtle emotions of Sanders, Heggins and even rapper 50 Cent in the lead role, who lost around 54 pounds for the part. And yes, while this movie has its flaws, and while one might assume this would've been a more successful film with a more commercial cast, there are some incredibly commendable creative choices in this very depressing story. What makes it so compelling are the characters' motivations, which are very different from the Hollywood cookie-cutter melodrama, but are just as interesting—a lot of the film's characters seem far more three-dimensional than what we're used to seeing nowadays. Very much a story about how the loved ones of an ill person can also suffer emotionally and financially. Director Van Peebles is great in the supporting role of the stepfather, who is loving but tries to live his dreams through his sick stepson.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sin City

Anthology film based on Frank Miller's graphic novels of the same name. A comic book brought to life, and if you take it at face-value and leave logic at the door, you'll enjoy the incredible ride. Intense, hilarious, sexy, disgusting; all the ingredients of an unforgettable guy-flick. Mickey Rourke is a genius as his portrayal as Marv, and Elijah Wood is haunting as Kevin even though he doesn't utter a word—"The Hard Goodbye" is definitely the superior segment, though the others are worth a look too. Film-noir fans will appreciate the film's atmosphere.

Jersey Boys

Adaptation of Tony Award-winning musical that tells the story of the Four Seasons. John Lloyd Young plays Frankie Valli (as he did on Broadway) and you can definitely see the similarities when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction is reenacted. It's kind of tricky to get into the music right away… but when they break into "Sherry", you can't help but be mesmerized. Bergen, Lomenda and Piazza are all excellent as well, and Christopher Walken make a fun addition to the cast… and let's not forget Joey Russo as Joey Pesci. The closing credits, while an homage to the musical, just ends up being corny. Be prepared to have the songs of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons stuck in your head for several days. SOPRANOS fans will recognize some faces; fitting, considering that Valli actually had a recurring role on the show.

The Frozen Ground

2013 American Thriller based on the real-life 1980s Alaskan hunt for serial killer Robert Hansen (played hauntingly terrific by Cusack). Alaska State Trooper Cage (based on retired Alaska State Police Detective Glenn Flothe) partners with sole-survivor Hudgens to take down the serial killer. Curtis James Jackson III (going by his rap-name 50 Center again) is a nice little touch at first, but quickly becomes just a cheap plot-device. The film suffers from typical thriller nonsense; Cage is just blah, Hudgens might be a little in-over-her-head, and director Scott Walker definitely lets the viewer know this is his debut film what with the unnecessary aggressive cinematography of a COPS segment at the beginning that slowly transitions into an effortless Lifetime Movie by the end. The ambitious 26 day shooting schedule (on location in the intended autumn season, no less) can't save the film from its flaws. Walker does an excellent job letting the detective, the killer and the victim all share the plot, but the quality of the story comes first, dude. You'll get some brownie points for seeing a chilling psycho in Cusack, but you wasted such talents as Dean Norris. Fun and satisfying if you're in the mood for thriller, but not a must-see and has little (if any) replay value.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Top 15 Al Pacino Quotes

"Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever."
- Michael Corleone, The Godfather

"If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it's that you can kill anyone."
- Michael Corleone, The Godfather: Part II


"No, you're out of order, this whole court is out of order."
- Arthur Kirkland, … And Justice for All

"I forgot to beat my kids!"
- Ivan Travalian, Author! Author!

"All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don't break them for no one."
- Tony Montana, Scarface

"In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women."
- Tony Montana, Scarface

"I never turned you, Frank!"
- Tony Montana, Scarface

"Say hello to my little friend!"
- Tony Montana, Scarface

"Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in."
- Michael Corleone, The Godfather: Part III

"I don't care whose nephew you are, who you know, whose dick you're sucking on. You're going down."
- Ricky Roma, Glengarry Glen Ross

- Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, Scent of a Woman

"You think you're big time? You gonna fuckin' die big time!"
- Carlito Brigante, Carlito's Way

"Don't waste my motherfucking time!"
- Lt. Vincent Hanna, Heat

"Cause she's got a great ass... and you got your head all the way up it!"

- Lt. Vincent Hanna, Heat

Best & Worst of the 2000 Decade

Best: (First listing being terrific)

Worst: (First listing being terrible)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dumb & Dumber

The Farrelly Brothers' 1994 road-comedy about buddies Carrey and Daniels (who make a surprisingly perfect duo of morons) travelling from Providence to Aspen and the troubles their dimwittedness brings them. Met with lukewarm reviews upon its release, but those who grew up with it will appreciate it for the classic that it is. No matter how many times you've seen it, there are still new jokes to uncover because you didn't realize it before ("She sent me a John Deere letter") or that you missed because you were still laughing about something else. Believe it or not, Daniels is just as funny as (or maybe even funnier than) Carrey! Accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack.

Live Free or Die Hard

Ugh. It wasn't even like the first three movies were THAT cool (even though they were pretty awesome for the late-1980s–mid-1990s), but John McClane returns after a 12-year hiatus like we missed him to stop cyber terrorists who hack into government and commercial computers. Timothy Olyphant does a good job as the villain, but is nowhere near as memorable as Irons or Rickman from the previous films. Fans complain about the PG-13 rating—though, aside from the language, it's not too tame even compared to its R-rated predecessors. Based on the WIRED Magazine's 1997 article "A Farewell to Arms" by John Carlin.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


2008 American computer animated science fiction romantic comedy film (geez, this one's got a little bit of everything!) following a waste collecting robot named WALL-E on a futuristic (but eerily realistic) Earth that has been abandoned by humankind. WALL-E eventually embarks on an unexpected space odyssey after falling in love with another robot named EVE and following her onto a spacecraft that now houses the evacuated humans. Instant classic with lots of replay value and can be very very emotional. Suffers from the FULL METAL JACKET-syndrome where the beginning is flawless, but after taking an expected turn 1/3 of the way through, leaves you feeling like you're watching a completely different movie.

Accused at 17

Teenager Anderson is accused of murdering classmate Taylor after she and her friends (Maeve and Montgomery) play a prank on her for sleeping with boyfriend McClendon. The accused's mother (Gibb) must now try to find the truth in order to save her daughter from a longtime prison sentence, and soon suspects that it was best friend Montgomery who may have framed her. Yet another Lifetime Movie about a complex situation that is resolved by simplistic plot devices. However, one must give credit where credit is due; the teenagers' parents (particularly Gibb and Moses) are incredibly likable and believable, and have impressively sharp dialogue. Could've been a lot lot worse.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Children's fantasy/comedy based on the Roald Dahl's novel of the same name about smart and sweet Wilson who comes from a terrible family (with director DeVito and his real-life wife Perlman as the awful parents, and Levinson as the bratty bully brother), and beloved and kindhearted Davidtz as a caring teacher who works under wicked school principal Ferris. Wilson, in the titular role, is very relatable to kids from the era, and Ferris is fun to despise. It is odd that DeVito chooses to narrate this story when he also plays the deadbeat dad. Also, what lesson is being taught to the viewer when the homely actors are the ones playing the antagonists?

A Mother's Rage

Shielding Loughlin (who cannot escape FULL HOUSE, as her character here is also named Rebecca) puts her motherly instincts to good use when she senses terror afoot. The acting is not half-bad… in fact, one could say the acting is actually pretty decent (and that's saying a lot for a Lifetime Production); however, the trap is set when we finally make it to the ending, and all the complexities of these decently developed characters are quickly wrapped up by simple solutions. Perhaps easing up on the sub-plots would have allowed for a less rushed ending. Shaun Sipos' performance alone allows this time-filler to be worth the while, and Lori Loughlin is as charming as ever despite her character being a bit of a nut.