Showing posts from July, 2013

Oblivion (2013)

Ah, the great post apocalypse. It's the setting for more sci-fi films than I can count, and they aren't all winners. The default prospect is that humans did something horrible to the world, and now there are a few people left who are dealing with the aftermath.

Tom Cruise is certainly trying these days, isn't he. This movie cost $120,000,000 to make and it has, to date, made $90,000,000. I'm no math wiz, but that does not bode well for this type of movie. Honestly, it's hard to imagine where they put the $120m. The effects were very good, but they aren't THAT much more spectacular than other movies costing considerably less. In fact, they are only slightly better than a few of the video games I've played lately.

The background for the Earth of this reality is that things went bang and stuff is bad. Radiation zones are all over, and there are powerplants that need protected. To that end, there are drones that protect them, and our hero is out there to repair…

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

I'll admit that I went into this movie expecting it to suck pretty bad. The trailers were not fantastic, and Steve Carell is kind of hit and miss (do you remember Evan Almighty?) Add into that a dose of Jim Carrey, and you've got a movie with a bunch of slapstick humor and overacting that is the movie equivalent of a cat's toy - lots of movement and color, but no real meat in it.

Things, it turns out, are a lot better than the expectations. It's got your standard backstory of kid born in the 70's and tormented in the 80's by bullies until he finds his calling. What was downplayed in the trailers was that Burt had a best friend who he did the magic act with, and the adult version of that person is Steve Buscemi. Upon seeing Steve, I wondered how they were going to explain that the kid version of him had normal teeth because, of all Steve's recognizable features, those messed up teeth are #1. Turns out, they don't bother.

So, Burt is essentially a fiction…

Evil Dead (2013)

"Your little sister's being raped in hell!"

Ah, so she must be watching the reboot of the Evil Dead series. Do you remember the original The Evil Dead movie? No, I don't mean the third movie, Army of Darkness. I mean the original. It was not very good; I don't know how it got two sequels. That third one, however, was where the magic happened.

This movie is an actual attempt to recreate the first, and it is not great. Hackney lines like the one that started this review fill this movie. It works out to be a standard horror movie with the hope that you've never seen one before, as it doesn't bring anything new to the genre. Hell, if they'd have redone the third one, they could have at least given us some decent entertainment. But there's no Ash here.

One of the movie posters is covered with praise about how great the movie is - how earth-shattering, how astonishing, how it's near-perfect! What the hell were these people smoking? This movie is a go…

The Power of Few (2013)

Let's put our cards on the table: I hated Crash. I though ti was a long and boring movie with little going for it. It was really the Academy Award that made we watch it in the first place, and THAT is what made me question those awards from then on. I even went back and looked at some of the past winners and thought - how did it win? Did you know that The English Patient beat Fargo and Jerry McGuire? How about that Titanic beat As Good as It Gets? Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan - HOW?

Well, this movie steals directly from the premise of Crash by having desperate storylines intersecting with each other. Crash wasn't the first film to do something like that, but I really get the sense that Crash was the direction they were going. This movie, however, can't wipe the spittle off of Crash's mouth as it accepts the Academy Award.

The main underlying story is that the Shroud of Turin has been stolen from the church. In fact, the basics of the crime are detailed …

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale

It's a clear, deep gold beverage with a good head that dissipates into a thin but robust veil on top with a good surround of bubbles clinging to the sides. The aroma is a very sharp hop with a bit of hints of citrus. 
First sip reveals a fairly well done beer. It's got the flavor of the hops in there with a lot of grain - which makes sense now, in retrospect. But the bite that is normally the issue with hops is very well muted with the sweet malt finish. The taste on the tongue is more citrus than the rest of the drink. 
With a big swig, the gentle mellowness gives way to the harshness of rye and the bitterness of the hops. I don't know where the malt went, but I want it back. Looks like this is a sipping beer.

A shame, really. I was looking forward to this one.


Meeting Evil (2012)

The lost Wilson brother (Luke Wilson) tries for another break-out hit. Remember his bit part in 3:10 to Yuma? How about Idiocracy? Yeah, I know it was a one-joke movie that ran WAY too long, but it was a big hit, wasn't it? Well, I guess not. But it might have been - in some alternate reality. Maybe one where people get dumber and dumber and eventually elect a professional wrestler as president.

So, his co-star is a guy named Samuel L. Jackson. I don't think I have to list the hits that he has been in, but he's definitely the acting talent in this movie. That said, I once had a conversation with a friend, and we agreed that Nicholas Cage and John Travolta have only the one crazy character, and they try to fit it in whenever they can. Sam has one menacing, care-free killer character at this point, and this is it. It's the same one we glimpsed in Lakeview Terrace.

Ever see a movie where 90% of the people involved are doing crazy-ass nutty things that make no sense and ar…

Hansel and Gretel - Witch Hunters (2013)

There are four Hansel and Gretel movies being released this year. I don't understand why Hollywood does this kind of thing. A friend once told me that his hypothesis was that a writer shops his script around to different studios looking for a buyer, and the ones that pass on it still like the general concept but none of the specifics, so they write up something similar and hope to capitalize on the other studio's advertising to get customers.

This is the one with Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the title characters, and they fight witches. It's a pretty substantial perversion of the original story, but you have to go somewhere with it, don't you? Anyway, they go from town to town killing bad things, and this time they are going up against Famke Janssen as a witch. You may remember Famke from her role as Dark Phoenix (Jean Grey) in the first three X-Men movies.

The whole feel of the movie reminds me of when Hugh Jackman played Van Helsing in the movie of the same na…

Highland Brewing Devil's Britches IPA

This is the second Highland Brewing beer. The first was pretty decent, and I consequently have high hopes for this one. As you may well know, I have an unnatural attraction to IPAs, and I anticipate this being a good one, indeed.

The head is okay, and it seems thicker than normal (although not as thick as something like Guinness) and does not dissipate completely. The color is a reddish copper. The aroma is very hoppy, as is typical for this type of ale. Can't really smell anything beyond the hops, but that's okay. The scent is very strong, too. I can distinctly smell it from my chair while it's sitting on the table attracting condensation.

First sip is hoppy. Again, no surprise there. That's a glass full of bitter, resentful hops sitting right there. There is some malt, but it's being overrun by hops. They claim to use two different kinds of hops, and they both taste like... hops. I suspect, as with most IPAs, a simple sip doesn't give it enough time to release…

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

This is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz that we all know so well. Much like that movie, which stunned audiences when the beginning was black and white, and it changed to color once Dorothy hit Oz, this movie employs the same technique. The problem is that audiences at the time were used to going to see movies in the theater that were black and white, so the switch made a deep impact on the audience. Nowadays, not so much.

Sam Raimi has had a mixed past when directing movies:

The Evil Dead - Not so good.Crimewave - Never saw it.Evil Dead II - Pretty bad.Darkman - Very bad.Army of Darkness - Excellent.The Quick and the Dead - Moderately good.A Simple Plan - Never saw it.For Love of the Game - Not great.The Gift - Never saw it.Spider-Man - Very good.Spider-Man 2 - Not as good, but okay.Spider-Man 3 - Pretty bad.Drag Me to Hell - Not so good.
This movie has the feel of a Tim Burton movie right from the start. Once they get to Oz, that feeling is only magnified. The feel of Oz is supposed to …

Victory Summer Love Ale

Hailing from Downingtown, PA (just outside of Philadelphia) comes this cloudy, straw-colored beer. I've had a few Victory beers in my day, and I've already posted a review of Golden Monkey. As a result of my past experiences with this brewery, I'm really looking forward to this seasonal.

The head is small, but sturdy. It goes away slowly, but it leaves a good cap on the beer with a heavier ring around the edges. It's a picture-perfect beer. The aroma is more malty than hoppy, and it has a tinge of citrus in there, as well.

The first sip is bitter. The hops are overwhelming the malt right from the start, and they never let the taste go. Even the straw taste that is in the beginning (after the initial bite) is laced with the bitterness. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is a really hoppy beer, but the bitterness is just woven into the rest of the beer with a tenacity that even more hoppy and better beers can't do. But, it has been my experience that the bigger yo…

Dead Man Down (2013)

Colin Farrell hasn't made many good movies lately. You might say his career is in a bit of a rut. He was never really sure what kind of actor he wanted to be when he grew up, and it seems like he is intent not to ever have to make that choice. Instead, he will continue to play bumbling dudes in thrillers. I guess maybe he made his choice.

The many posters feature different parts of this movie. The one I included in this review features the most implausible stunts they did. The story is all about revenge. Colin is a man out for blood. BLOOD, I SAY!

The gangsters in this movie are some of the stupidest guys you can possibly imagine. They do no leg work to validate people who work for them, and it actually takes the dumbest guy among them to stitch everything together and figure out that Colin is the one destroying them from the inside. Mind you, he's fairly inept at it.

Terrence Howard is a good actor, but he gets B roles. Ask yourself why. It's because he is very soft-spoke…

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) and Retaliation (2013)

I'm covering the two G.I. Joe films here. Like many people out there, I have fond memories of the cartoon when I was a kid. I even vaguely remember that Joe was originally a reference to generic soldiers for the US, and the first action figures were relative giants compared to the tiny action figures they have today. The question is: how well will the cartoons designed to sell toys translate into a live action movie with big name stars? Let's see.

The first film has a VERY cartoon feel to it. From the goofy nicknames to the various brightly colored screens and toys that they use, everything is intended to capture the imagination of a child. This would be all well and good if they didn't spout expletives on a regular basis. As is seemingly typical of Joes, they also carve a wide path of destruction and dead bodies.

As is expected of a franchise that made so much money off of toys and cartoons, they make some sly references to them with comments like "kung-fu grip."…

The Call (2013)

Halle Berry is a very good actress who happens to be very beautiful. She has a secret. She has no idea what to do with her hair. BUT, her character knows what to do with phone calls. That's right, she works in the 911 center of a major metropolis, and she has to deal with tense situations. This seems to be a great platform for some drama, am I right?

Okay, what is the first thing you don't want in your 911 operator? Halitosis? No, that'd be fine, as she would be on the phone. Stuttering? Well, that would certainly be bad, and she doesn't have it - so that's good. How about prone to panic? Yup, that'd be terrible for an emergency operator. Just imagine someone who couldn't handle a stressful situation, had been working for years as a 911 operator, and still doesn't know the procedures. Well, here's your girl!

Somehow, despite a supporting character stating that the 911 center wouldn't know what to do without her, she has a crippling inability to …

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

It was better than the last one.

These are the lasting words you should take away from the review. I was not a fan of the Justin Long vehicle that stained the Die Hard legend with its driving a car through a hovering helicopter. It made Bruce Willis seem like an unbeatable perfectness machine that would be able to do everything perfectly and soar to superhuman heights. It was his character's humanity that made us love him in the previous films, and that was all but lost in that debacle.
We rejoin Bruce as he attempts to help get his son out of Russia; he's being help prisoner there, and for some reason he is being kept with a recently deposed Russian politician. Within the political turmoil, Bruce has to try to protect his son, played by Jai Courtney. When I first saw Jai, I thought it was Cole Hauser, and it made no sense that Bruce would be old enough to be his father. When I later saw Jai interacting with the aforementioned Cole, I caught that they were different people. If…

Trance (2013)

Ever watch a movie and then think to yourself, "What the hell did I just watch?"
Well, it happened to me.

This movie is a psychological thriller more than anything. The problem is that it is too complicated for its own good. It reminds me of the way that Inception broke new ground by having an intricate plot. I could follow Inception, and I understood the different layers that they were going through. Some of their time sequences made no sense, and the gravity was more pliable than it should have been, but okay. This one wasn't engaging enough to let me follow it. I know the intent was to "keep them guessing" the whole way through, but you need to have some rooted reality to work with in the first place.

James McAvoy is the main character, and his acting is pretty good. He stars opposite Rosario Dawson who unveils herself at one point with full frontal nudity. Aside from the fantastic job of acting she does in this, her body is similarly award-worthy. Vincent C…

The Fast and the Furious (2001, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2013)

As you may have noticed, I occasionally watch an entire series from start to finish to experience something closer to the whole of a story. The idea struck me when I sat and watched all of the Lord of the Rings movies in order and thought, "Good god! Why don't I watch every movies series like this?"

Well, the results thus far have been questionable. Lake Placid had mediocre bits and absolute trash. The same could be said of the Universal Soldier series. But maybe a series that was more of a box-office hit would do the trick. Time to find out...
The Fast and the Furious (2001)

The Fast and the Furious was the second movie I ever saw with Vin Diesel in it. The first was Pitch Black, and I'll have to remember to write up a review for that one. Both movies required that Vin's role was played by someone who could commit to it, and Vin carried them both very well. That's not to say he could not have improved, but there was a spot that needed filled, and he was remar…

Atwater Brewery Traverse City Cherry Wheat

Hailing from Motor City, this is the first beer beat any of the Cammo beers in sheer volume of head. Look at that thing; it's like memory foam, it's so thick. I'm not sure where the "Traverse City" comes into this mix. It's not the name of the brewery, and it's located in Detroit, so... I'm at a loss. It's possible it's named after the place where the recipe was created, but that's a stab in the dark.

It's cloudy and self-evidently bottle conditioned. The aroma is almost non-existent when compared to the volume of foam. What smell there is can best be described as grainy malt with some sweetness of cherry - yup, exactly what you might expect. The eventual color is a reddish copper.

First sip is entirely expected - Juicy Juice cherry. Okay, it has a bit more of the grain and malt that were hinted at in the aroma, but the fact is this is a very sweet beer. And it's not the nice sweet of a milk stout, either. It's the sweet of an …

Jack Reacher (2012)

Tom Cruise is short. And he has brown hair. And he is pretty much not like the Jack Reacher of the Lee Child novels. Physically, at least, Chris Hemsworth might have been a much better choice.

The most famous of the lines in the Reacher novels is, "Reacher said nothing." But this Reacher says quite a bit. I guess it's hard to take the internal monologue and make a decent movie with it, but the exposition is nearly constant, and he has an overwhelming need to show everyone how smart he is all the time. Do you remember the movie Collateral where Cruise was opposite Jaimie Fox? Well, he just reached into the acting bin and pulled out that character. I liked that movie, but this wasn't supposed to be that movie. 
On the plus side, Pittsburgh is featured very prominently in this movie, and they do a pretty good job of not making it look like crap. Well, aside from all of the urine-soaked back alleys and crumbling infrastructure, it looks good. The large number of outdated…

Life of Pi (2012)

Alternate title: My Life as a CG Bengal Tiger.

I understand why movie makers are reluctant to use actual animals in the making of movies these days, and the art of computer generated graphics has come pretty far. Jurassic Park, for example, was an excellent example of the power of CG to bring creatures to life that could not otherwise ever exist. Since then, CG has been used well in some cases and poorly in others. When a major character or element is going to be CG, you're really putting a lot of responsibility in the hands of your graphic artists. 
Actors on set have to try to interact with a creature or person who isn't there. It is hard for them to do, and it relies on the director having a VERY good sense of where the animated creature will be and what they will be doing. The actors have to try to modify their behavior and imagine something that isn't there reacting to them. I'm reminded of when I saw the movie Sphere and listened to the secondary audio. Samuel L …

Broken City (2013)

I just watched a crappy Mark Wahlberg movie, and I hope this one isn't similar. I expect it won't be, as they sprung for Marky Mark as well as Russell Crow and Catherine Zeta-Jones. So, it's got some potential, but those other two have been in flops of their own.

It's established early on that Mark was a police officer (a detective, no less) who was involved in a shooting. This shooting was under some public scrutiny, but a court decided that there was not enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against him. For his effort, the police chief and the mayor (Crow) fire him. We kind of skip the part where the union reps get involved because no wrongdoing was ever proven against Mark, but we can only assume things worked themselves out. We pick up the story seven years later with Marky Mark as a PI doing basic crap work.

As with most PI movies - intrigue happens. in fact, this is really more than a little cookie-cutter when it comes to the storyline. They try to put a mo…

Mother's Day (2010)

I'll admit that I haven't recognized Rebecca De Mornay in a movie since The Hand that Rocks the Cradle in 1992. She was in The Wedding Crashers, but I can't say I have any recollection of her at all. I can say I liked her as the cruel maternal person who would slay anyone in her path to protect "her" child from being taken from her in the 1992 movie.

So, to change things altogether, she plays a mother who will do anything to protect her children from being taken from her. Her children in this case are hardened and cruel murderers/thieves. They are fresh from a job gone wrong, in the path of a tornado, without a good way of communicating with their mother (the gang leader), and on the run from a dragnet.

So, they don't know that their mother lost her house, and they go to her for help, as one of their troop is shot. Unfortunately for everyone involved, there is a couple who moved into the house since their mother left. So, we wind up in a hostage situation wit…

12 Angry Men (1957)

Let's start with the basics: I did NOT watch the colorized version of this. This movie is based on a play of the same name, and as is common with such movies of the time, the blocking and acting and pretty much everything isn't changed from the play. As this play all happens in one room, it makes for an easy play that lets you concentrate on the character interaction more than set design. It makes it a bit... undynamic for the movie watching audience.

So, going over the title, I will tell you this:
There are more than 12. The opening scene shows a courtroom full of people and a judge giving instructions. Also, the bailiff has a speaking role, so there are 14 speaking roles total.
They aren't all angry. There are at least a couple who are mostly just disinterested.
They are all men. At least that part of the title is unassailable.

Spoilers ahead (this was released in 1957 and has been running in community theaters since before then. If you don't know what happens and do…

Innis and Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask

I've had quite a few Cask beers in my day, and they have generally been a bit better than their non-cask counterparts. This is a Scottish stout that they allow to mature in a wooden whiskey barrel. It is also the last in my 3-part Innis and Gunn revisit. I described what happened in my first review, but suffice to say that I didn't like one once, and they responded by sending me some that would not suck as bad. So, they sent me a free bunch of beer, and I'm reviewing it. I will not give them a better rating for their kindness, but their concern about their public image is appreciated.

This is a dark, malty brew that is completely unpermeated by light. The head is good, and it leaves a thin film on top with a solid ring around the sides. The aroma is very stout. It's got a burnt coffee aroma with a bit of chocolate and malt in there. I'm really looking forward to this.

First sip is a good one. It has the feel and taste of a very mild stout. The smokiness is very nic…

Innis and Gunn Rum Aged

Rum aged what?
What kind of beer?
Rum aged beer.
Is it an ale or a lager?
It's rum aged.
It says on the top label that it's oak aged.
It's aged with rum oak chips.
So, do you soak the oak in rum first?

This is the second Innis and Gunn from the six pack that they sent me for free. I was mean in my first review of one of their products, and they have since made things right by sending free beer. I pledge that it will not change my rating of the beers, but their customer service is noted, and the full explanation was in my review of the first beer from this pack.

This one is a very clear, deep copper/light brown color with a reddish tint. The head is average, and it eventually goes away, but it takes a bit. The ring of bubbles clings to the sides while a hoppy malt scent wafts towards me. I'm actually feeling pretty good about the possibilities of this beer right now. If it tastes as good as it smells, this may actually surprise me.

The first sip is pretty g…