Tag Archives: movie review

You Had to Be a Big Shot, Didn’t You?

I have waxed not-so-philosophically about how I don’t care about the NHL anymore, but there was a time where hockey was my favorite sport.  Hey, I was young and it was the late 90s: everybody did regrettable things in the 90s.

One of those people doing regrettable things was a man named John Spano.  He was a Long Island native who bought the New York Islanders.  Now, you may be thinking, “wow, buying the Islanders is pretty regrettable,” and you may be right.  But no, in retrospect, what John Spano did defies any and all logic, even beyond purchasing a moribund franchise in a crappy arena.

Spano “bought” the Islanders…without any money.

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ESPN’s deservedly-acclaimed “30 for 30” series aired its latest installment, Big Shot, last week.  Big Shot tells the story of Spano’s purchase of the Islanders.  It was directed by actor Kevin Connolly, best-known as “E” from Entourage.  I’ve seen like three episodes of that show, and didn’t like it, so I had no real attachment to Connolly when I tuned in.  I felt like this, coupled with the fact that I was familiar with the story’s main points (read: I remember it happening, but was too young to know or understand the details), allowed me to judge the documentary a little more fairly.

It’s certainly an interesting story (and one that couldn’t happen now, right?  I mean…right?), and one of the things that “30 for 30” does so well is tell these kinds of stories that you remember but really know nothing about.  On the whole, if you’re a hockey fan, or fascinated by business, or just enjoy a good true story, I recommend the film.

That said, I had some issues with it, because of course I did.

First and foremost, the star of the documentary was John Spano.  This made sense.  However, the “supporting actor,” so to speak, was Connolly himself.  I understand that he grew up an Islanders fan, and he wanted to tell this story, but he inserted himself into it far too much for my liking.  He conducted the interview with Spano, which is fine – as the director, the best way to steer the conversation to the topics you want is the ask the questions yourself – but Connolly received way too much face time on camera.  There was literally zero need for the cutaway to Connolly listening to a Spano response, but we had a number of them.  Nobody was sitting there watching and thinking, “this is an interesting answer; I wonder what Kevin thinks?  Oh, there he is, it seems like he understands, okay cool.”

Of course, I understand that since this is a bit of a personal story for him, he wanted to be more of a part of it.  Okay.  And if all he did was show himself conducting the interview, that would be one thing.  Except it’s not, because in addition to interviewing the main character in the story and directing the whole operation, Connolly narrated the film himself.  And let’s just say, Kevin Connolly is no Morgan Freeman.  He’s the guy who does the voiceover for Best Buy commercials.  Good for him, but like…I dunno.  It just threw the whole thing off for me.

I do, however, think that landing the interview with Spano is the most important thing that Connolly did.  He could have made the film without it – and he has said that he would have – but after seeing it, it almost seems like Big Shot without the actual “big shot” would be an exposé on Sports Center, not its own 90-minute documentary.

From Spano’s viewpoint, despite his initial reluctance, doing the film was a no-brainer.  While he certainly doesn’t come off as sympathetic, hearing it from his own mouth almost makes you feel like you understand what he was doing and why.  Almost.

In the end, like I said, it’s certainly worth watching.  If you can get past the little things that bothered me, you’ll enjoy it.  And regardless, make sure to take a look into the back catalog of “30 for 30.”  If you like sports at all, you’ll definitely find something worth your time.

It’s Just the End of the World

This is a movie “review” of The World’s End.  If you have not seen the movie, but intend to, stop reading.  I don’t think I’ll ruin much of it for you, but you know how it goes once I start rambling.

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Last week I went to a movie marathon of sorts.  A couple buddies and I went to see Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End – apparently known as the “Cornetto Trilogy” – at a nearby theater.  Director Edgar Wright and actor Simon Pegg wrote all three movies, including the newly-released World’s End, and the films feature many of the same actors, as well as common cinematic techniques and jokes (for instance, if you’re a fan of people humorously jumping over fences, check these movies out).  Their plots aren’t really tied together in any way, but I guess everything has to be a multi-film franchise these days, so it gets labeled as a trilogy.

Despite not caring for the zombie popularity trend, I love Shaun of the Dead.  I wasn’t as big a fan of Hot Fuzz because there is a stretch of the film that just isn’t funny.  For a comedy, I believe that’s bad.  Upon a second viewing, I forgot how much I loved Shaun of the Dead, and I liked Hot Fuzz a little bit more – until we got to the not-funny part, and I remembered what my problem was.

As for The World’s End, Pegg plays Gary King, a guy approaching 40 who was most happy when he was still approaching 20.  Through persuasion – and outright lies – he reassembles the five-man crew that never finished “The Golden Mile” – a 12-bar pub crawl back in their old home town.

The believability of Gary actually succeeding in putting the proverbial band back together notwithstanding, the first part of the movie has plenty of scenes and one-liners reminiscent of the other two films.  There’s a good mix of subtle humor and slapstick laughs as the guys visit their old haunts, learning that they’ve been essentially whitewashed of their old character and turned into multiple iterations of the same thing.  I certainly was enjoying it to a point.

I say “to a point” because the trailers for the movie kind of give away that there’s going to be a plot turn, and I’m not a fan of sitting and waiting for something like that when I know it’s coming.  Without giving too much away myself, it turns out that it’s not just the old pubs of Newton Haven that have been “Starbucked,” so to speak.  You see, the townsfolk of Newton Haven have changed, and the guys spend the rest of the night attempting to behave like they haven’t noticed, in the hopes that they will survive the experience.

Of course, because no one else has a better idea, Gary’s plan to finish the pub crawl wins out.  That leads the group into the other aspect of the movie that is reminiscent of the other Pegg/Wright movies: massive fight scenes.  Of course, these fights are much funnier because of the makeup of the group; aside from Gary, none of them appears to be the fighting type, but there they are fending off swarms of locals in various different pubs.  Again, without revealing anything, the way in which they defeat the townsfolk in these fights also lends itself to laughs, albeit some of them cheap.  However, as someone who can’t write a single blog post without cracking a joke, I will admit that cheap laughs are laughs nonetheless.

In the end, Gary and Andy (played by Nick Frost, who also plays the main supporting characters in each of the previous films) make it to the final pub: The World’s End.  Rather predictably, it turns out that this is, in fact, the world’s end, but first there’s a pretty lengthy scene that gets a little too preachy and on-point for my taste.  Look, I have zero problem with a filmmaker wanting to “say” something, and there is nothing wrong with comedic actors/directors/writers delving into some deeper, more affecting material.  I just personally prefer that when they do, they either keep the two worlds separate, or at the very least mix them a little more subtly.

I still think Shaun of the Dead is, by far, the most enjoyable of the three movies, but I definitely liked The World’s End better upon first viewing than I did Hot Fuzz.  If you’re a fan of any of the main figures involved, well, you were always going to go see this movie, but rest assured that when you do, you won’t be disappointed.

Can I Be Your Memory?

I recently saw Pacific Rim.  I’m going to write about it now.  So, as always, if you plan to watch the movie, skip this entry and come back tomorrow.

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I had nothing to do the other night and a couple buddies of mine were going to see Pacific Rim.  I had no intentions of seeing it until I saw a commercial that showed Charlie Kelly from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia playing a scientist; after that, however, I was in.  My impression was that it was a movie about giant fighting robots.

I was half right.  The robots are rather giant, and they do fight, but not each other.  No, this was another monster/alien/apocalypse movie.  Ugh.

(I don’t know if the “kaiju” are monsters or aliens.  They look like your standard movie monsters, but they come from a different dimension, so I assumed they were aliens.  Whatever.)

The acting is pretty blah, although I did enjoy Charlie playing essentially the same character from Always Sunny, except like 8500% smarter.  The fighting scenes were the best parts – I’ve seen a couple write-ups after the fact that alluded to simply waiting through the strained dialogue (Idris Elba declares at one point that it’s time to “cancel the apocalypse”) and plot advancement to get to the next fight – but I feel like that should go without saying and not be something that deserves particular kudos.

I appreciated that while some of the tenets of the plot were confusing or unnecessary – the pilots of the “jaeger” robots go through a so-called “neural handshake” where they essentially drop into each others’ memories and meld minds or something, I don’t know – the movie doesn’t spend a lot of (or any) time explaining these processes.  It’s just how things are in the world of Pacific Rim, and that’s fine with me.  On the flip side of this, there was a scene where the main character, played by Charlie Hunnam, finds his best co-pilot through a strange, “are they fighting or not I can’t tell someone please explain this okay the fight’s over so nevermind?” martial arts sequence that made no sense to me at any point.  So maybe a little more exposition would have been cool.

If I’m being honest, I think I kind of/sort of liked the movie inasmuch as it looks like a summer blockbuster movie, and those are generally pretty mindless, and like I said, they did a good job with the fight scenes, so Pacific Rim serves its purpose.  I will give credit to filmmaker Guillermo del Toro for making a movie that is technically an original piece; while the theme and the elements of it aren’t new, Pacific Rim is the rare action movie these days that’s not based on a book, comic book, or some other previous work.

In the end, though, I think Pacific Rim suffered, in my mind, from apocalyptic overload.  How many more movies are we going to see where cities and worlds are destroyed, or the protagonists are charged with preventing such destruction?  A couple years ago, the film might have done better, and I might have liked it more.  But at this point, it’s just another variation on a theme that’s quickly running out of gas.

With a Little Help From My Friends

This is kind of a movie review in that I am going to talk about This Is The End, and mention some stuff that happens.  So, you know what to do/not to do.

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There’s something about stoner comedies that has always appealed to me.  This is kind of ironic, since I’ve never smoked a single thing in my life (no, it’s true; I may be the only person on Earth who writes a blog but has never smoked pot).  I think it’s the absurdity of them; they know what they are, and what they are is ridiculous.  I loved Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and I think Pineapple Express is just absolutely brilliant.  So it kind of goes without saying that I enjoyed This Is The End.

Many famous actors appear in the film, and they all play themselves.  Well, they play extreme versions of the way we think they actually are.  Oh, and they pretty much all die.  That includes Hollywood good-boy Michael Cera, who actually plays against type as a coke-addled, Rihanna’s-butt-slapping jerk.  Also biting it are Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, and Jason Segel, among others.  Emma Watson also makes an appearance using language that I highly doubt Hermione used during the Harry Potter films (I never saw them…I know, I know), and Channing Tatum…yeah.  I’ll let you be surprised by that one, too.

The movie starts with Jay Baruchel arriving to stay with best friend Seth Rogen in Los Angeles, a city he doesn’t like.  Rogen takes him to a party at James Franco’s house, where he will spend time with Franco, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson, as well as the people mentioned above.  Baruchel can’t stand these people, but he finds himself stuck with them (and eventually Danny McBride) after the apocalypse begins.

If I told you that Baruchel, Rogen, Franco, Hill, Robinson, and McBride were going to spend a few days locked in a house while the Rapture was going on outside, you’d get an idea in your head of what it would look like.  Well, you’d be right.

At one point, the group creates a trailer for Pineapple Express 2: Blood Red.  I know it’s a fake trailer for a movie that doesn’t exist, but I WANT TO SEE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS 2, AND I WANT IT TO BE EXACTLY LIKE THAT.

I don’t have a lot to say about the movie other than that it certainly fits the bill of what it presumably intends to be.  And while I wouldn’t know, I imagine that the more substances you’re on, the better it gets.

What’s Worse, the Pain or the Hangover?

If you have not seen The Hangover Part III, then stop reading.  Or continue.  As always, I don’t care, but don’t blame me if you see something you don’t want to.  Then again, if you did see the movie, you probably saw some things you didn’t want to, so…yeah.

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I don’t really know how to “review” The Hangover Part III.  I mean, I don’t actually know how to review any movies, really, but this one in particular is tough.  Like I’ve mentioned before (I think), I generally have a pretty good idea what to expect from a movie when I sit down.  When I go to a comedy like this one, I don’t expect to walk away thinking what an epic piece of cinema it is.  I expect to laugh, and laugh hard, and often.

As you may have seen some critics say, that didn’t exactly happen.

That’s not to say there weren’t laughs in the movie; there were.  But if you expected rip-roaring antics and side-splitting sight gags, well, sorry.  This movie actually had a plot.

To sum it up: Phil, Stu, and Doug are driving Alan to a treatment facility in Arizona (for his unnamed mental illness) when they are run off the road by drug kingpin Marshall.  It turns out that before he was arrested, Chow stole $21 million in gold from Marshall.  Chow broke out of prison, and Marshall knows that Alan has been exchanging emails with him.  Marshall kidnaps Doug (poor Doug) and gives Phil, Stu, and Alan three days to bring Chow to him or he will kill Doug.

So there’s no piecing together of the previous night’s events.  No one is missing, per se.  It’s simply a movie featuring the same characters that has plot elements that recurred from previous installments.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, really.

Others have said that this was more of a “Chow” movie – he is in it constantly, and while Ken Jeong plays the part well, part of the appeal of Chow was his random appearances.  Him being around constantly kind of detracts from that.  I agree.

But my bigger problem is the focus on Alan.  I found his character in the The Hangover to be funny, for sure.  But there is a point of saturation with a character like that, and I think I reached it sometime during Due Date.

(Side note: I feel like Zach Galifianakis essentially played “Alan” during the film Due Date.  You probably figured that out by now.)

Once The Hangover Part II came around, I was kind of tired of Alan, even though Galifianakis’ performance in the franchise is a highlight for many.  Part III focuses way too much on Alan for my taste.  If there ever was, for any reason, a Part IV, I would consider staying away if Alan is involved.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I’d go watch the movie and then complain about him afterwards.

The Hangover Part III has its share of shield-your-eyes comedy, and it actually has a little bit of action and drama.  But if you’re looking for a(nother) rehash of The Hangover, I’d suggest re-watching the original instead.

When I Run Base, I Dodge the Pen

As usual, if you haven’t seen the film in question – in this instance, “42” – you can skip this post.  Or don’t.  Up to you.

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Last week I saw 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic (of sorts).  It took me a few weeks to get to it, which is surprising, considering how much I like baseball.  But it happens.

Anyway, it was hard for me answer the question, “was it good?”  I mean, yes, I liked it, but what does “good” really mean in this situation?  I called it a “biopic (of sorts)” because it isn’t really a film about the life of Jackie Robinson.  It’s about the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, and how Robinson fit into that squad, more than anything else.

To me, a true story (which it is, despite dramatizations and the “based on a true story” disclaimer at the beginning) is hard to assess as a film if I know the story.  I wrote a few months back about Argo, which was based on a true story that I’d never heard.  I was able to consume the finished product with a clean slate.  But 42, on the other hand, is a story we all know.  As such, I like how it picked out a very thin slice of Robinson’s life – albeit, the most well-known and most historically significant – and told that story, instead of squeezing his whole life into two hours.

It felt less like a single story and more like a collection of vignettes, I thought.  For some reason, I didn’t like that at first.  Looking back, however, as difficult as it would have been to cram a lifetime into a film, it would have been just as difficult to capture the everyday ins and outs of the approximately two and a half years the film covers.  By showing the highlights – Robinson’s first meeting with Branch Rickey, his first trip to Dodgers camp, a number of incidents at games throughout both his Triple-A season in Montreal and his first season in Brooklyn – you get the gist of what the filmmakers are trying to say.

Both Chadwick Boseman (Robinson) and Harrison Ford (Rickey) will be talked about come award season, and they certainly deserve some recognition.  I thought the film was well-acted, and I always appreciate an appearance by Christopher Meloni (as Dodgers manager Leo Durocher).  More importantly, however, it was pretty accurate with the events and people it featured.  Personally, as a fan of baseball, and history, inaccuracy would have been unforgivable.

I feel like I jumped all over the place there, but I really don’t know what to say about it.  It was a movie that told me a story I already knew, but was still able to make it enjoyable to re-hear.

But more than anything, it took a number of unprovoked shots at Pittsburgh.  And to that I say, “well done.”

Planning His Vengeance That He Will Soon Unfold

Hey, a movie review!  Remember those?  I’m not saying I’m going to spoil anything, but if you haven’t seen Iron Man 3, you should probably stop reading until you do.  Or, if you have no plans to, by all means keep on reading.

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I really don’t know how to break down a movie like this.  I think that comes down to two factors: one, I look at a “summer superhero blockbuster” as an opportunity to laugh and watch some cool action sequences, and don’t really look for much more out of it.  Second, I honestly don’t remember most of the details of the first two movies.  So, some quick bullet points then.

• Robert Downey, Jr., is…I don’t even know the words.  He owns this role, to the point that I doubt it’s even acting for him anymore.  He truly is Tony Stark.  I mentioned yesterday how pricey the movie ticket was; even if it was just two hours of him cracking wise, it would have been worth it.  I forgot about that part until, like, four seconds into the movie.

• It seems like this installment tried to be a little more than just “Iron Man fights the bad guys and says funny stuff while he does it.”  The whole basis of the film is Tony telling a story, and it ends up being, for lack of a better phrase, the beginnings of the end.  If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean.  If not, it will make sense in a few minutes.

• I thought Ben Kingsley was great as The Mandarin.  The twist involving him was unexpected, and from what I’ve been told, it was unexpected to fans of the comics as well.

(This is the part where I should mention that I have owned maybe three comic books in my entire life.  I have friends who pick up four times that many in a given week.  It was just never my thing, so I’m not up on the histories of superheroes.  I’ve seen all the Batman movies, and all the Iron Man movies, and The Avengers and a couple others, but my only exposure to the characters and plot lines comes from those movies.  Any “oh, well in the comic…” discussion goes miles over my head.)

• This one certainly seemed darker and more violent than what I remember of the others.  Stark vows to hunt down The Mandarin as an act of revenge because his friend and former bodyguard is in a coma thanks to one of The Mandarin’s “disciples.”  Many of the characters in the film use guns to shoot lots of people; I know it sounds odd to point that out in 2013, but it was just striking to me how, in a superhero movie, the bad guys were (genetically-modified) humans that used guns.  Maybe I’m crazy and the last two were the same way, but I left the theater thinking, “wow, that went to a dark place for a while.”

• Finally, I noted to one of my friends during the credits that the music certainly sounded James Bond-esque.  Sure enough, at the end of the credits, the line “Tony Stark will return” appeared on the screen, much like “James Bond Will Return” appears at the end of 007’s films.  And if you think about it, Tony Stark is kind of like the James Bond of the superhero world.  He likes cars, certainly enjoys the finer things in life, has a certain way with the ladies, and all of the bad guys know who he is as soon as he shows up.  I like James Bond, and thus, I like Tony Stark.

In summation, I certainly recommend the film, especially if you’re an Iron Man fan.  Then again, if you’re a fan, you were already going to see it anyway, and my opinion doesn’t matter.  Good talk.