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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ewan McGregor!

Today, we're celebrating the 41st birthday of actor Ewan McGregor. His acting career began in the early 1990s with a series of television performances, but it wasn't until 1994 that he made his feature film debut in Shallow Grave. He garnered acclaim for his performance in 1996's Trainspotting, but McGregor burst onto the worldwide movie scene in 1999 when he first portrayed the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first of the Star Wars prequels, The Phantom Menace; he would go on to reprise the role in both of the film's subsequent sequels. Ewan has continued to have consistent work throughout the 2000s, appearing in such big-time films as 2001's Moulin Rouge and Black Hawk Down, 2003's Big Fish and 2010's The Ghost Writer. Most recently, McGregor appeared in the 2012 film Haywire, and he will next appear in the 2012 film The Impossible opposite Naomi Watts. And so, to celebrate his birthday, I've listed my five favorite of McGregor's performances and have found videos offering clips from those films. Once again, happy birthday, Ewan!

5. Grimes
Black Hawk Down (2001)


4. Oliver Fields
Beginners (2011)


3. Camerlengo Patrick McKenna
Angels & Demons (2009)


2. Ed Bloom
Big Fish (2003)


1. Christian
Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Vince Vaughn!

Today, we're celebrating the 42nd birthday of Vince Vaughn. He got his acting start with TV appearances in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it wasn't until 1993's Rudy that he managed to nab a credited role in a feature film. He started to gain more prominence with his supporting role in 1996's Swingers, and he managed to work relatively consistently throughout the 1990s, appearing in high-profile films like 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park and the 1998 remake of Psycho. However, it was Vince's work in the 2000s that truly brought him into the A-list. His work in comedy has shot him to the forefront of the genre. He has appeared in some of the higher-profile comedies of the 2000s, including 2002's Old School, 2004's Anchorman and 2005's Wedding Crashers. Most recently, audiences saw Vaughn in 2011's The Dilemma, and we'll next be able to see him in 2012's Neighborhood Watch. So, to celebrate his birthday, I've compiled a list of my five favorite Vince Vaughn performances. I hope you enjoy the videos I've been able to find. Once again, happy birthday, Vince!

5. Reese Feldman
Starsky & Hutch (2004)


4. Wayne Westerberg
Into the Wild (2007)


3. Wes Mantooth
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)


2. Norman Bates
Psycho (1998)


1. Jeremy Grey
Wedding Crashers (2005)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Catherine Keener!

Today, we're celebrating the 53rd birthday of Academy Award-nominated actress, Catherine Keener. She got her acting start in 1986 with her performance in The Education of Allison Tate, but it wasn't until she earned her first Oscar nomination for her supporting role in the 1999 film Being John Malkovich that she truly started to make a name for herself. From there, Keener found steady work in the film industry, appearing in movies opposite the likes of Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Daniel Day-Lewis, Steve Carell and Philip Seymour Hoffman through the early 2000s. Most recently, audiences have seen Keener in the 2011 film Peace, Love & Misunderstanding, and we'll next see her on the big screen in the 2012 film Maladies. So, to celebrate her birthday, I've listed my five favorite of Catherine Keener's performances, and I've supplied some clips for your viewing pleasure. Once again, happy birthday, Catherine!

5. Trish
The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)


4. Nelle Harper Lee
Capote (2005)


3. Jan Burres
Into the Wild (2007)


2. Gertrude Baniszewski
An American Crime (2008)


1. Maxine Lund
Being John Malkovich (1999)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bruce Willis!

Today, we're celebrating the 57th birthday of actor Bruce Willis. The actor has made a name for himself as an action movie star, but he has been acting for quite some time. He made his first appearance in a feature film in 1980's The First Deadly Sin, but it wasn't until his starring role in 1988's Die Hard that he truly burst onto the Hollywood scene. He has reprised the role on three subsequent occasions, and there is supposedly a fifth Die Hard film in the works (it is currently slated for a 2013 release). In between those films, Willis has also starred in big-time flicks like 1994's Pulp Fiction, 1995's Twelve Monkeys, 1998's Armageddon, 1999's The Sixth Sense and 2005's Sin City. Often portrayed as the tough guy with a witty comment on the tip of his tongue, Willis has become one of the most popular action stars in Hollywood. So, to celebrate his birthday, I've listed my five favorite of Bruce Willis's performances, and I've supplied videos where possible. Once again, happy birthday, Bruce!

5. Hartigan
Sin City (2005)


4. Joseph 'Joe' Blake
Bandits (2001)


3. Dr. Malcolm Crowe
The Sixth Sense (1999)


2. David Dunn
Unbreakable (2000)


1. John McClane
Die Hard (1988)

Sunday, March 18, 2012



"I represent an organization that loves this city, and we're tired of watching it go to hell."
-- Simon

Seeking Justice is a 2012 action thriller directed by Roger Donaldson that centers around a story of drama and misdirection in New Orleans. On her way home from her orchestra's practice, the young Laura Gerard (January Jones) is viciously attacked and raped by an unknown man. She is rushed to the hospital where her husband Will (Nicolas Cage) soon joins her by her side. As he reels from the situation, he is approached by a mysterious man named Simon (Guy Pearce) who tells him that he and his organization can "take care of" the man who assaulted Laura, and in return, Will would only owe the organization a small favor somewhere down the road. Will reluctantly agrees and soon learns that the man has been killed. While Laura recovers from her injuries, Will is approached by the organization with the assignment to murder an alleged child pornographer. He goes along with the plan but chickens out at the last minute; however, the man he had followed still manages to die. In the aftermath, Will is held accountable for the man's death, but he soon learns that the recently deceased was actually an investigative reporter who had been trying to expose the organization for its real identity. This spurs Will onto a wild goose chase as he tries to fight against the men who have been ordering him throughout the film.

I can honestly say I knew nothing of this film as I entered the theater. My mother had mentioned to me that she had seen a trailer for the film and that it looked intriguing, so I agreed to accompany her to the theater. Sometimes, going into a film blind is the best way to experience a new motion picture because you cannot go in with any predisposed notions about the trailer, the cast or the crew. That being said, I do have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the effort that Seeking Justice puts forth.

The screenplay doesn't necessarily offer anything terribly new, but it does enough to hook the viewer into the storyline and keep them engaged and guessing until the film's final moments. It throws a few twists and turns that I wasn't really expecting, and for that, I have to applaud its effort. It's difficult to bring something completely original to the table in today's cinematic landscape, and although we've seen all these pieces before, I felt as though the screenwriters succeeded in placing them in a different sequence than is the norm for an action thriller. The film's pacing is a little bit scattered. At times, it seems very fast-paced, but at other times, it seems to drag on and on, and you start to check your watch in wonder of how much longer it might take to reach the end credits. If there's any knock against the screenplay, it's the story's pacing, but I realize a lot of that may have to do with the direction than with the screenplay.

The acting is serviceable, but it's really nothing to cheer. Cage offers a better performance than is his standard fare in the past few years, but with how bad he's been recently, that's really not saying much. Still, his character is only laughable once or twice throughout the course of the film, so that's a step in the right direction, I suppose. Jones offers a decent performance as well, but I personally thought her character was a tad bit under-utilized. I thought a little more depth could've been added to Laura Gerard throughout the film, but for what she's given, Jones does well. If anyone steals the show, it's Pearce, whose villain is equal parts intelligent and deranged. It seems in today's cinematic society that many of the antagonistic characters seem to have a warped sense of reality and justice, and Pearce's character fits that mold quite well. Fortunately, he fills the character's shoes and runs with the insanity, and it makes for quite the performance.

I'm sure there won't be a ton of people rushing to their local theater to see Seeking Justice, and I can't necessarily recommend it wholeheartedly. Still, if you have a passing moment, it might be worth the watch. It offers mindless entertainment, and although it's an ultimately forgettable film, I don't think you'll really come out of it all that disappointed. It's better than the rest of the critics are giving it credit, so if you can begin to believe this critic, then you just might enjoy this one.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: C
1 Thumb Up

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Not Rated

"You just keep thinkin', Butch. That's what you're good at."
-- Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a 1969 Academy Award-winning western directed by George Roy Hill that tells a loosely-based-on-fact tale of the two titular criminals. After making a successful career for themselves, Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) finally find themselves in a bit of a pickle. After attempting to rob the same train on two consecutive trips, the railroad owner decides to organize a special team to stop the bandits. This crew of the best lawmen and trackers in the West chases Butch and the Kid all over the terrain, eventually forcing them to consider going abroad to escape. And so, with the Kid's woman Etta (Katharine Ross) in tow, the trio sets their sights on Bolivia, where they once again start their bank-robbing ways. As they gain notoriety in the Spanish-speaking country as well, it's only a matter of time until they start to worry that the aforementioned crew of lawmen and trackers finds them there as well.

Despite its massive success and popularity, I had actually never seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid until I sat down to watch it today (I'll pause for a moment while you question my movie-watching prowess). Having always been partial towards Newman and Redford, it's all the more surprising that I hadn't taken this one in just yet, but having finally sat down to watch it, I can honestly say I'm glad for the experience. That being said, however, I did not think it was the greatest movie I had ever seen.

The storyline offers an interesting tale of two aging criminals who just might be at the end of their career, and yet they're doing their best to cling onto what little they still have left. If that means running off to another country in order to find their fortune once again, then that's exactly what they feel is necessary. The story is interwoven with some fantastic dialogue, especially when it comes to the conversations between Butch and the Kid. The screenplay itself is bitingly hilarious, and it offers quite a few laughs for those of you paying close enough attention. That being said, I did think that the story dragged on a little bit here and there, and the film feels every bit of its 110-minute run-time. That's not really the best thing for a film that's simply offering pure entertainment.

We are getting a couple of stellar performances from our two leads, and the chemistry between Newman and Redford is probably the selling point of the film. The performances seem so natural, and their relationship in the film seems so genuine, that it's easy to fall into the characters and believe them from the start. To be fair, when you have two big-time actors like Newman and Redford, you really shouldn't expect anything less, but they make this film everything that it is. Ross does well in a limited supporting role, but her character isn't offered a lot with which to work. And because there are no other truly central characters, a lot of the film rests on the shoulders of Newman and Redford, who definitely step up to the plate and deliver.

One of the biggest issues I had with the film was with its soundtrack, which has received numerous accolades. Both the score by Burt Bacharach and the original song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" earned Academy Awards for the film, but I personally couldn't see how any of the film's music helped craft or enhance the film experience as a whole. It's almost as though this film is a western that doesn't quite know it's a western, if that makes sense. It seemed to throw a little too much of the contemporary atmosphere into its constructs, and I personally thought that detracted from the film as a whole. Fortunately, the film's screenplay does help salvage the film, offering a decent story as well as a fantastic final shootout sequence.

Although I didn't think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was one of the best movies I have ever seen, I do see why it has found such an honored place in the annals of American cinema. Accompanied by fantastic cinematography and a true sense of entertainment, this film does offer quite the enjoyable experience. Yes, it has its flaws, but if you can focus on the performances of our two leads, I'm sure you'll find plenty to like about this western.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: A-

1.5 Thumbs Up

Movie Review: GRIZZLY MAN


"I will die for these animals."
-- Timothy Treadwell

Grizzly Man is a 2005 documentary directed by Werner Herzog that tells the story of the life of Timothy Treadwell, the man who spent thirteen summers living amongst grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness. While most of us know the story of Treadwell's untimely death by the bears he had sworn to protect, there's quite a bit of backstory to this man's apparent madness. Herzog was able to use the nearly one hundred hours of footage that Treadwell had recorded over the years, and he used it to bring life to a man that boggled everyone's minds. What we as the audience get is a fascinating look at the persona of one man striving to live - and ultimately die - for what he loves.

Long before I had heard of this film, I had heard stories of this "grizzly man" who traversed the wilderness, living alongside these ferocious beasts, and I always thought it was a little bit crazy for anyone to think they'd ever make it out of that alive. After thirteen long years, Treadwell's risk finally caught up with him in a way he never assumed possible. What this documentary attempts to discover is the method behind Treadwell's madness, and we actually receive quite an interesting story, if only because Treadwell proves to be so entertaining a character. No matter how you feel about his endeavors, one must concede that there's something a little bit off with Treadwell and his personality. And that's what ultimately makes the film so entertaining. Treadwell goes on rants against the government and the park services all while affirming his love for the animals. However, there's something very childlike in his approach to his admiration for the bears and the foxes around him, but I can't quite decide whether that's what makes him all the more endearing.

What's interesting about the documentary is that Herzog clearly has his own views on Treadwell's mental stability. As is the norm in his films, Herzog served as Grizzly Man's narrator, and I think the two following quotes sum up his thoughts on Treadwell and on the face of nature itself:
And what haunts me, is that in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of the bears. And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food. But for Timothy Treadwell, this bear was a friend, a savior.
What remains is his footage. And while we watch the animals in their joys of being, in their grace and ferociousness, a thought becomes more and more clear. That it is not so much a look at wild nature, as it is an insight into ourselves, our nature. And that, for me, beyond his [Treadwell's] mission, gives meaning to his life and to his death.
It's clear to see that Herzog was a little bit miffed by Treadwell's lifestyle, but at the same time, you get the sense that he respects him, if only to a certain degree. I think he enjoys Treadwell's basic message of wanting to protect these majestic creatures but he doesn't quite understand the way he went about doing so. It's a very back-and-forth film as you try to decipher Herzog's stance on the subject matter.

That's why it's all the more intriguing to see Treadwell in his own element. Because he recorded so many hours of footage, Herzog had quite a bit with which to work and craft his own storyline, and the film's "story" falls into place quite well. Aided by strong, albeit relatively forced, interviews with friends, family and acquaintances, the audience gets a good sense as to Treadwell's character and lifestyle, and from there, each individual viewer can make their own inferences as to his livelihood.

Do I think Timothy Treadwell was a little bit crazy? Well, yes. To live out in the wilderness with these majestic but dangerous creatures and assume everything would be fine is a tad bit foolish, but I think the footage he filmed is an invaluable asset to the world community in showing just how these bears live in their natural habitat. To have that firsthand look at their livelihood is always going to be fascinating, and for that, I think Treadwell's sacrifice should be applauded. Could he have avoided his untimely death? Most likely, but he died doing what he loved. Maybe that was enough for him.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: B+
1.5 Thumbs Up

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, William H. Macy!

Today we're celebrating the 62nd birthday of Academy Award-nominated actor, William H. Macy. He got his acting start with a 1978 television mini-series called "The Awakening Land," but it wasn't until 1980's Somewhere in Time that he landed his first appearance in a feature film. Macy worked consistently throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, but it wasn't until 1996's Fargo that he truly started to hit his stride, gaining national prominence after earning his sole Oscar nomination for his role in the film. From there, Macy made appearances in high profile films like 1996's Ghosts of Mississippi, 1997's Air Force One, 1997's Boogie Nights, 1998's Pleasantville and the 1998 remake of the 1960 classic, Psycho. He has continued to work throughout the 2000s and has made appearances in films like Jurassic Park III, The Cooler and Seabiscuit. Most recently, audiences saw Macy in 2011's The Lincoln Lawyer, and they'll next be able to see his work in the 2013 films A Single Shot and Rudderless. And so, to celebrate his birthday, I've created a list of my five favorite of Macy's performances. I hope you enjoy the list! Once again, happy birthday, William!

5. Shoveler
Mystery Men (1999)


4. George Parker
Pleasantville (1998)


3. Little Bill
Boogie Nights (1997)


2. Ernie
Bart Got a Room (2008)


1. Jerry Lundegaard
Fargo (1996)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Movie Review: RED TAILS


"We have a right to fight for our country, the same as every other American. We will not go away."
-- Colonel A.J. Bullard

Red Tails is a 2012 war film directed by Anthony Hemingway that tells the story of the Tuskagee Airmen, a squadron of African-American fighter pilots in World War II. Subjected to simple missions, the squadron led by Marty 'Easy' Julian (Nate Parker) and Joe 'Lightning' Little (David Oyelowo) finds themselves bored with the war they've chosen to fight. Despite having proven their ability time and again, the higher-ranking officers don't see any reason to give the Tuskagees any more responsibility. However, Colonel A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) finally makes a deal with the head of a bombing squadron who has been consistently losing bombers after their fighter escorts chose to attack the enemy fighters rather than provide cover. After a successful first mission, the Tuskagees, who have become affectionately referred to as 'Red Tails,' continue to delve deeper into their wartime effort, taking on more and more difficult missions until they're offered the chance to make a final run at Berlin itself.

I know I'm a bit late on seeing this film, but I finally had the opportunity to sit down and give it a watch. Part of the reason that Red Tails gained so much early publicity is the fact that Star Wars creator George Lucas financed and produced the project. When you have that big of a name stamped onto a film, you can be sure it's at least going to generate a bit of publicity, even if the film itself isn't exactly all that great. Sadly, that's the case here.

The first thing you're going to notice is that the film's dialogue seems way too forced and almost proves to be laughable from the get-go. As you may know, I consider an effective screenplay to combine two things: a decent storyline and above-average dialogue. When it comes to the things the characters say, their words have to match the time and the place of the film and seem realistic given the film's setting and the characters themselves. Unfortunately, Red Tails fails entirely on this given point. While the film offers an interesting - albeit fictionalized - story based on real events, the dialogue is so atrociously bad that it took me out of the film from the start. Nothing any of the characters say seems realistic, and it all just seems out of place from the World War II effort. In a way, the dialogue makes the characters a little too unbelievable, and as a result, there's no way for the audience to get lost in the storyline. The screenwriters got half the formula, but you need all the ingredients to make an effective screenplay.

It's just too bad that the script isn't all that great because the acting isn't half-bad. Sure, we're not really getting anything awards-worthy, but considering the type of film, I thought the cast did a decent job. Parker and Oyelowo steal the show, but Howard does manage to have a few good scenes. Also be on the watch for smaller roles from the likes of Bryan Cranston, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ne-Yo.

If anything works well within the film, it's the dogfight sequences. Lucas has always been on the top of his game when it comes to special effects, and as we have seen with the Star Wars franchise, he sure knows how to bring forth the aerial battles. The dogfights seem mostly genuine, and they offer the only bits of excitement that the film is going to produce. Sure, the effects themselves aren't necessarily top-notch, but they're still pretty darn good considering. These dogfights may be as close as we get to new Star Wars-esque battles, and for that, Red Tails may be worth the time.

At the end of the day, Red Tails is probably a film you can miss. Although it did generate a bit of publicity early on, it failed to score at the box office, earning less than it took to make. The melodramatic and predictable storyline, mixed with off-kilter dialogue, makes this one a tad bit unwatchable and ultimately throws away some quality visual effects work. It's just too bad no one's really going to appreciate it.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: D
1.5 Thumbs Down

Happy Birthday, Rob Reiner!

Today we're celebrating the 65th birthday of director Rob Reiner. The son of Carl Reiner, Rob got his start as an actor in a string of television roles, he has truly gained prominence as a feature film director. He started directing in 1974, releasing the made-for-TV movie Sonny Boy, but it wasn't until 1984 that he directed his first theatrically-released film, This Is Spinal Tap. From there, Reiner helmed some of the more iconic films of the late 1980s and early 1990s, including 1986's Stand by Me, 1987's The Princess Bride, 1989's When Harry Met Sally... and 1992's A Few Good Men. He has worked relatively sparingly in the 2000s, but he has managed to craft a few films in recent years. Most recently, audiences have seen his work in 2010's Flipped, and they'll next be able to see a Reiner film in 2012's The Magic of Belle Isle. And so, to celebrate his birthday, I've created a list of my favorite Rob Reiner films. I hope you enjoy it! Once again, happy birthday, Rob!

5. This Is Spinal Tap


4. Misery


3. Flipped


1. The Princess Bride

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Daniel Craig!

Today, we're celebrating the 44th birthday of actor Daniel Craig. He got his acting start in the early 1990s with a series of television roles as well as a credited role in 1992's The Power of One. Craig worked consistently throughout the 1990s, including an appearance in the Academy Award-winning 1998 film, Elizabeth. It wasn't until the 2000s that he started to gain real prominence, however. He starred opposite Angelina Jolie in 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider then opposite Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in 2002's Road to Perdition. Craig's biggest hit came in 2006's Casino Royale, where he became the sixth man to portray James Bond on-screen. He would go on to reprise the character in 2008's Quantum of Solace and is scheduled to play Bond once again in 2012's Skyfall. Most recently, audiences have seen him in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And so, to celebrate his birthday, I've created a list of my favorite Daniel Craig performances. I hope you enjoy the list and the videos. Once again, happy birthday, Daniel!

5. Steve
Munich (2005)


5. Mikael Blomkvist
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)


3. Connor Rooney
Road to Perdition (2002)


2. James Bond
Casino Royale (2006)


1. Rudy Mackenzie
The Jacket (2005)