Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Another Year, Another Chapter.....

    2013 winds down and for whatever reason I tend to think and reflect this time of year. It probably has something to do with visiting my grand parents grave site. I wrote a whole other blog about that so feel free to read if you need more about that. Christmas is never really an easy holiday for me. I am not being selfish, but it has been the same since my grand mother passed. I suppose I don't have one particularly great Christmas memory of my grandma beyond the fact that she was always there. I suppose that is special enough. My family is spread out and it's been awhile since we were all together at the same time on Christmas. This year Lauren will experience her first Christmas without her great grandmother, who was the center of her family holiday. I truly hope her holiday is a good one.

   When I look back at 2013, I can't help but wish things were a little closer to what they used to be. People are certainly different. I remember the excitement that used to surround the holiday. Don't get me wrong, there is still excitement, but I overheard the conversation of two moms in Target and they were not quite happy. Christmas has become the most materialistic time of the year and not everyone can keep up. I didn't start writing to bring anyone down, but reality is reality.

   I look at where I have come from in the last year and I count myself among the blessed. I get to do a job that I love. I was given the opportunity to build something and while it is challenging, it is starting to become what I envisioned nearly two years ago. Despite what people will say about it, my company has done nothing short of show me respect and provide me with opportunities to grow. My career finally feels like it is growing and after several years, it's a good feeling. I have a building full of great people to work with and that doesn't happen very often and for me it has happened a third time. Dysfunctional our work family may be, but I get to work with some good people and at the end of the day, I am thankful for that.

  It's not been an easy year for my family, but somehow they manage to pull through. I am finally accepting the fact that my step dad isn't immortal, but he will always be my hero. If I have a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, Bob is certainly the angel and my conscience. I hope the stress on my mom lessens. She deserves it. We have lived with nothing and dined like kings and in both cases my mom made sure we had the best she could give. I look back an appreciate both now more than ever before.

The world will not do anyone any favors. I get irritated when I see people selling lies and pretending to do well. I try to treat people the same year round. If I don't like you in March, I still don't like you in December. I try and do things for the right reasons and not so I look good doing it. I have learned to be less temperamental. I have my moments, but we all do.

 So at the most materialistic time of the year, I have this to offer. Gifts will always mean more from the heart and not from the wallet. I love nice things. We all do, but at the end of the day a little good will is a gift that the entire world could use.  If you have wasted 2013 trying to keep up with or live someone Else's dream, I hope 2014 is the year you live your own.  The world isn't perfect, situations are never perfect, but we only get out of it what we put in. It gets frustrating to keep fighting and not get ahead, but winners hustle harder and it can't rain all the time.

 I'll end with a quick note to my grandma. I am lucky enough to go home everyday to someone who love me for me. Accepts my faults, (and there are plenty of them) stands by me, and appreciates what I am trying to be. It feels good to be back home. I am a better person. I love life again. I accept it's challenges and am excited again for the next chapter. I hope you like the flowers I left you and I hope you are proud of who I am becoming. I am not completely alright, but I am doing OK.

 To everyone else, I simply say Merry Christmas and good will towards men and women.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Anchorman 2 Breaking News or a Re-run

        Let's be clear, sequels are not easy. Comedies are even more difficult. It is hard to capture the same appeal of the first movie without being a carbon copy. Case in point, The Hangover 2. The original Anchorman is still quoted by people today and that is a lot of hype to live up too. The original cast is back and Will Ferrel seems to have fun with the Ron Burgundy character. I hope so because from ESPN to Dodge commercials, Burgundy is everywhere. Is it enough for the movie to work?

      Ron and Veronica have some issues and he quits the news business. Twenty four hour news is on the verge of launching and Ron and the team are recruited for the overnight shift. Burgundy does his thing and quickly they are back on top. New rivals, friendships, traumatic experiences, and the pressure of being the best force Ron Burgundy to decide whether it's news or family that he wants the most.

   The movie is silly. Almost too silly at times, but it's almost necessary. Anchorman 2 does a great job of not taking itself too seriously. The cast is great together, but I liked Steve Carell better the first go round. I think this time we get a little too much Brick for my taste. James Marsden is great as Burgundy's new rival and Megan Good is a lot of fun as Ron's new boss. Fans of the first will recognize the similarities from the first, but the movie does a good job of changing some of the classic moments from the previous installment.

   The cameos in the film are pretty impressive. Drake, Will Smith, Harrison Ford and more all add some fun moments to the film. I won't ruin all of them, but there are plenty to go around. The story is good, but it does go a little over the top at times. The supporting cast is great, but make no mistake, it is all about Burgundy.

   Will brings back everything you loved about Ron from the first film. The one liners are there, but not quite as strong. Magic is tough to capture twice, but Anchorman 2 does it's best. There is plenty of salon quality hair and news reading. There is a little jazz flute, some sex panther, and plenty of scotch. At the end of the day Ron Burgundy's legend continues and it's not bad. It's just not quite as good. Now you go see the movie and you stay classy blog readers.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Hobbit....The Longest Good Movie You May See This Year....

    The first Lord Of The Rings trilogy connected with a massive audience. Peter Jackson and the cast proved that fantasy, if done correctly, can be profitable and widely accepted. We were taken back to middle earth last year when Peter brought The Hobbit to the big screen to mixed reviews. The book is a single novel, but the movies have been split into another trilogy. There are plenty of people who disliked the first one, but I don't count myself among them. While I will admit that it didn't quite recreate the magic of Lord Of The Rings, it was entertaining. It was also long. We are now set to embark on another journey to middle earth so we ask the question, is it worth the trip?

  We pick up where the first leaves off. The Dwarfs are still attempting to reclaim their homeland and are being hunted by Azog (Manu Bennet) and his Orc army. The must get to their mountain home so that a secret door into their kingdom can be revealed. In the midst of their running, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) senses that a greater evil is returning and leaves the company. Bilbo and  the dwarfs continue to run from orcs, elves, giant spiders in their attempt to reach the underground kingdom. Ancient prophecies, a magic ring, and one danger after another makes it a difficult task. The company is also faced with a sleeping dragon that guards their stolen kingdom. If they can reclaim their home, what evil will be released to the world?

  This time around we are treated to much more action. Skirmish after skirmish helps us meet a couple of  new characters and get reintroduced to an old favorite. Legolas is back! Orlando Bloom has aged and gained a little weight and it does make a noticeable difference. We are meeting Legolas for the first time and to me he didn't look younger. He does command the screen and the same battle skill that we loved the first time around is back and fun to watch. Luke Evans debuts as Bard the Bowman. His heart is in the right place and I am interested to see his role expand in the third chapter. The skin changer, Beorn, makes a brief but memorable appearance too. We spend the most time with Bard, but when you have so much going on and so many characters, we don't always get enough time with some characters.

    Tauriel is the new character that stands out the most. Evangeline Lily brings her to life. She is tough and definitely battle tested, but she does have a heart. Her conflict over her kings wishes, but her kindness to the dwarfs makes for a great story. She has come a long way from Lost and watching her fight along side of Legolas is beyond entertaining. The story this time around is much better. Jackson does a great job of keeping each of the characters involved and even though it's long, it doesn't drag. 

   What I love about all of these movies is the look. Peter Jackson does a fantastic job of bringing middle earth to life. The details are so perfect. Everyone looks the part and nothing comes across low budget. The grunge of  Watertown, the epic scale of the mountain kingdom, and even the forest look flawless. We even take a trip back to the Prancing Pony and it looks the same as it did in The Fellowship of The Ring. 

 The movie is about Bilbo and Smaug. Their dialogue in the treasure room is a lot of fun. Benedict Cumberbcach is very well cast and the dragon looks amazing. Martin Freeman comes across more comfortable as Bilbo this time around. He event hints at little madness the more he secretly uses the one ring. Bilbo is still fumbling and awkward, but when mixed with Smaug's wit and arrogance, it really plays well. I still don't feel like the Hobbit films recaptures the heart of the originals, but it is worth a return trip to middle earth. I did find myself missing Golum, but I'm sure he'll be back for the next run. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Catching Fire and a Truckload of Money

   The buzz around the Hunger Games sequel is at an all time high. Sellout early showings and a massive fan base are quickly poising the film for one of the biggest openings of the year. The first film found new fans and of course those familiar with all of the novels. Catching fire picks up where the first movie leaves off. Katniss and Peeta are pretending to be in love while on their victory tour. They are given cue cards and told what to say. Fed, clothed, and treated like celebrities. The problems begin when Katniss becomes conscious of the problems in the districts. Rebellion is brewing and she has a hard time towing the line. President Snow resents her, the people love her, and all the while she is torn between Gale (Hemsworth) and Peeta.

   In order to eliminate Katniss the powers that be decide to bring previous winners back for the Quarter Quell. A tournament of champions so to speak. We meet a lot of new tributes. Each one with new traits and abilities. Peeta and Katniss train and attempt to make allies and keep their enemies to a minimum. Katniss is made more aware of the corruption that controls the people and is forced to compete in an even deadlier Hunger Games.

    The things you have come to expect are there. The costumes, the grit, and larger than life personalities. The new cast fits in well, with fan favorite Finnick being one of the stand outs. The movie can be confusing and at times tedious, but overall still fun to watch. It sets up Mocking Jay and gives you a better feel for the conflict of the characters. It will probably live up to expectations and Jennifer Lawrence deserves all of the praise she has come to receive. It won't be for everyone, but the Hunger Games Catching Fire left me hungry for more.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thor The Dark Wolrd, but The Right Movie....

     Marvel has a winning record. They have made some mistakes. Two of their biggest properties are controlled by other studios. I am OK with what Sony is doing with Spider Man, but Fox just cannot get the X-Men universe right. Marvel has figured out what putting the rest of it's core characters under one umbrella. It has paid off, but raised expectations. Let's get this out of the way right now, Thor The Dark World delivers in many ways. It has short comings, but they don't doom the film.

   After the events in New York, Thor has been bringing law and order to the nine realms and prepares to ascend to the throne of Asgard. He broods over Jane, but with Hemidol (Idris Elba) keeps a distant watch over her. When she unwittingly discovers and awakens an ancient evil. Enter the Dark Elves and Malekith (Christopher Eccelson). They seek to destroy the nine realms during an event called the convergence. It's where all worlds perfectly align creating portals between them. Odin believed these elves to be long destroyed by his father, but after attacking Asgard he learns differently. Thor must then defy his father and align with his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddelston) to save Jane (Natalie Portman) and the universe.

  Overall the story is simple. It is easy for even a novice to follow. I was impressed with the way the continue to handle the universe of Thor. It is not an easy world to bring to reality. Marvel has done a very good job at making it slightly more realistic. The supporting cast is good. Kat Dennings is their for comic relief and has an increased role. I was a little disappointed that Stellan Skarsgard's Dr Selvig was reduced to comic relief, but it somehow worked.

The first film did a fantastic job with the complicated father son dynamic between Thor and Odin. This film equally satisfies in that department. You can truly tell that Anthony Hopkins is having fun with the Odin character. He and Hemsworth have a good chemistry and it carries large portions of the film.

 Loki steals the show, again. You never truly know where his allegiances lie until the end. Tom Hiddelston plays a villain that you love to hate. Technically he is not the real threat in the film, but he is again a great villain. He is evil and comedic all at once and the story is definitely better with him in it.

 While I loved Loki,  I was not impressed with Malekith. I like villains that you fear. I was never impressed here, but I am not truly familiar with Thor's rogues gallery. He is not a great villain, but he is serviceable for the film. He works well with the story, but I found him slightly on the silly side as opposed to terrifying.

 Jamie Alexander is great as the warrior maiden Sif. She is given more to do this go around and that was the right move. If the film has a major flaw, it is with her. They tease a triangle with her and Jane Foster, but they never truly develop it. Still, this short coming isn't enough to derail the film.

 In the end , there are twists, set ups for other films, and a fantastic Avenger cameo. The movie brings Thor's world back to reality and if another adventure is lined up, it will be worth the ride. Action, comedy, and a little sadness. Thor the Dark World is a fun trip, but make sure you stay through the credits!


Friday, October 4, 2013

Gravity....Does anything but Crash Land!

   The moment I saw the first trailer for Gravity, my curiosity was peaked. It could be one of the most visually impressive films that I have seen. I am getting ahead of myself. You get the basic idea from the preview.  A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space. Accident is an understatement. I am still amazed at how they filmed this!

  George Clooney is the veteran astronaut on his last ride. Sandra Bullock is the medical engineer and together they are installing a new computer program in a satellite. Clooney has ridiculous star power and charisma, even in a space suit, but this movie is all about Bullock.

  The accident causes them to detach from the shuttle and float around in space. The whole time you watch, you realize how scary the situation is. Oxygen, distance, and debris all become factors. In the Imax 3D it is incredible. This movie does so many things correctly. It is a survival story and a very good one.

  I am amazed at how realistic this comes across. Sure there are a few questionable moments, but overall it is very impressive. I love how they captured the little things. Everything from foreign languages to nausea. The visuals alone make it worth seeing. It might be one of the best movies I have seen this year. It is a 90 minute thrill ride with a cast of two and worth every minute. Grab some popcorn, put on your 3D glasses and know that Gravity does anything but come crashing down!


Runner Runner.....Runs without Substance

   It doesn't get much hotter than Justin Timberlake right now. Two number one albums, a sold out tour, and hash tag video with Jimmy Fallon. Ben Affleck has also been in the news and is a hot topic among fan boys after being cast as Batman. Together they bring the seedy world of online gambling to life in Runner Runner.

Richie (Timberlake) is a Princeton student who loses his tuition money by gambling online. He discovers that the site cheated him with an backdoor program. He does what any victim would do, flies to Costa Rica to confront the site's corrupt owner, Ivan Block(Affleck). He instead becomes an employee.  Their relationship starts to strain when the F.B.I. wants to use Richie to bring Ivan down.

He begins to fall for Ivan's girl (Atherton) and needs to find a way to get out of the mess he has gotten himself, friends, and family into. The trailer looks intense, but does the film live up to the trailer?


  Runner Runner does a decent job of letting you into the world of online gambling. It truly is a vicious addiction. Pay offs, violence, and corruption are everywhere. The world of Runner Runner might make you second guess playing online poker, but for me it wasn't intense enough. Gemma Atherton is gorgeous and the movie creates a glamorous yet gritty world. I just felt like something was missing.

 Affleck reminded me a lot from his character from Boiler Room. I love that movie. I didn't hate his performance and he looked the part. I felt like he didn't have much to work with. His arrogance and cockiness plays well, but I felt like the script really didn't provide the intensity he needed. He was so much better in Argo and The Town. Writing truly does make all the difference.

 Justin Timberlake has the same problem. He isn't a bad actor. He has an incredible like ability factor. He is cast well, and the overall concept of the movie is good. It just feels like the script falls flat. There isn't a lot of meat and I think it will hurt the overall performance of the film.

It isn't terrible. It tries to capture parts of The Firm mixed with a couple of other movies. It's produced by Leonardo Dicaprio , but it doesn't matter. A stronger script would've made a better movie. If you're looking to waste two hours, go see it. If you don't have time, wait for Netflix.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Not Just Another Day....

   It's hard to believe that it has been 12 years! It is amazing how clear we remember some things and forget others. I am not from New York and I have never lived there. I have friends who live and work there and to hear them recount that day is at times chilling. Nonetheless it is a day none of us should forget and one that has changed the way our country lives.

  The morning began like any other. It was sunny, but a little bit of a September chill. I was living in Michigan at the time and it gets colder there a little faster. I had just began a vacation. I woke up went to the gym and had just gotten back home. It didn't feel any different than any other day. When I came home Sean was on the phone and pacing and I saw the first of those horrifying images on the TV. I still thought it was just a plane crash. I couldn't have been more wrong.

  It was then and throughout the next week that I would be glued to the TV. How could this happen? What do we do next? The usual questions were asked, but I certainly didn't know any of the answers.
I immediately went back to work. My flight was cancelled and so was vacation. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to be on the air. I understood the severity of what was going on in the world, but I was not ready to be the guy conveying info.

 I was immature and even though it was a small market, I should NEVER have been on a morning show. Information was given to us by the minute and we couldn't get away from what had happened. I wasn't ready at all. People asked questions, they were angry, made assumptions, and cried. I remember doing the same. I remember looking up at the sky in the days that followed and not seeing planes. I remember seeing the pictures of the true heroes of that day. The people who ran into the explosions and not away from them. The people who needed no reason for why they did what they did. They helped without question.

 I look back and now and see that some good things did come from that tragedy. If you were not old enough to understand what was going on then it might be hard to appreciate now. The country had a renewed sense of patriotism. People became proud of the flag and our way of life. People were a little kinder. We helped total strangers and not for any gain. We appreciated each other a little more and gave when we didn't have much to give. We became inspired by those who put their lives on the line everyday. It didn't matter if you were rich, poor, young, or old. All that mattered was that we were American. 911 helped a lot of people learn to appreciate life again.

If you're not in New York, you might have forgotten that. I hope that we always remember and pray none of us have to witness anything like that again. I was in New York for a Billy Joel concert at the now gone Shea Stadium. Billy has a song called, "Good Night Saigon." It was obviously written about Vietnam, but during the chorus of "we'll all go down together," the stage became full of police, firefighters, and first responders from that day. People next to me were sobbing and you could still feel how much that day still resonated in the lives of those people.

 911 made us all think. It made us all not take little things for granted. I hope we can learn to think like that again and more importantly, I hope that we never forget.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Riddick, Not Chronicles, but not Quite Pitch Black

    The previous adventure of Richard B. Riddick left a bad taste in a lot of fans mouths. I think it moved too far away from what we thought the character was. Vin Diesel was at a point then in his career that he phoned a lot in. He thought he was bigger than he was and Chronicles of Riddick was hardly a huge success. Vin and director David Twohy did, however, create a character that fans truly developed a fascination with. The good news is Riddick's latest outing is closer to what Pitch Black was and not Chronicles.

   Riddick begins injured and left for dead on a strange world inhabited by predators. He is fighting for his life and somewhere along the way befriends a dog like creature. The movie acknowledges the events of the last film, but quickly moves beyond it. We even get a cameo from Karl Urban.An undisclosed amount of time passes and the unlikely pair realize that the planet has a larger threat looming. Riddick determines that they both must get off world. They find a deserted mercenary base and send up a signal.

 Two separate groups of mercs arrive. One led by Santana (Jordi Molla) and the other by Matt Nabel's character who has ties to the first film. Santana's group are a bit more criminal than the latter, but it matters little. Riddick begins to play with their minds and eliminating them one by one. The groups really don't get along and it worsens after Riddick steals computer cells to each of their ships. The bigger threat looms and an alliance between all parties is formed for the benefit of survival.

  The special effects are average for a movie of this size and at times look a little sub par. Twohy does his best to create dangerous worlds, but in some cases they become visually bothersome. Still and A for effort and this unnamed planet doesn't look like any place you would want to visit. The creatures are OK, but it's the amount of them that is scary more so than their appearance.

  The cast is the best since the first movie. In some cases even better. Molla steals the show from a comic relief stand point and is borderline Jack Sparrow at times. He has the right amount of sinister combined with stupidity. Bautista, who will later take a larger role in Marvel's Gaurdians of the Galaxy, little more than a thug. He is still believable and certainly looks the part. Katee Sackhoff is pretty cool. Hot in a bad ass kind of way and her interactions with both Molla and Vin are definitely high points in the movie. Comic book fans love her and this was a great role to have cast her in.

  All of that is good, but make no mistake, it is Vin Diesel's show. He is still a bad dude. He brings Riddick back closer to where he was in Pitch Black. A savage killer that will sometimes show signs of being honorable. Vin helped to create one of the better movie anti-heroes of all time. He sees in the dark, loves sharp objects, and still bleeds cool. It is a another good turn for Vin. The plot is similar to Pitch Black, but not exact. There is a good balance of action and cheese. There is some plot and in the end if Riddick's adventures continue, I would go along for the ride.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of ......Not Quite Epic, but Still Not Bad

    Movie companies are searching for the next big thing to bring in teens and tweens. Twilight like it or not made some pretty solid coin. The Hunger Games is cleaning up movies like The Host and I am 24 failed to do the same. Now we take another series of popular young adult novels and try to create some movie magic. I have never read the books, am in my thirties, and found Mortal Instruments to be OK. Not good, not great, but there is a bigger audience than just the Twi-Hards.

   The story borrows from a lot of things. It's a little Constantine, mixed with The Vampire Diaries, and some Harry Potter thrown in. There are two worlds. The one that we live in and can see and the one that we can't. The latter is inhabited by werewolves, warlocks, vampires, and demons. A group of tattooed warriors called "Shadow Hunters." They keep the peace and protect humans or mundanes as they call them. A renegade shadow hunter is seeking an object of power hidden in our world and the balance is threatened. A young girl is caught in the middle after realizing she could see the hidden world. Her being half human and half shadow hunter has left her with special abilities that catch the eye and heart of Jace. Together they must protect the world from the forces of evil.

Lily Collins plays Clary an does well as the typical teenage girl who becomes caught up in a much bigger world. It feels like her character is a little Selene and Bella rolled into one. She is never too far beyond her limits, but I feel like she is probably better defined in the books that I've yet to read. It is a typical boy is in love with a girl who doesn't love her back story. In typical fashion, she falls for the dangerous bad boy who cannot be with her based on some very serious issues. Same story, but with a Star Wars type twist.

 Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the Valentine, the fallen shadow hunter. He is also Clary's evil father. He breaks the laws of their world to strengthen his people. The character is written from a good place, but Rhys Meyers is wasted. He never comes across as evil enough and at times looks silly. One of  my common pet peeves, if you've read my reviews, is a villain who doesn't appear terrifying enough. I think he is a good actor, but Valentine just didn't have enough bad vibes for my taste.

Jamie Campbell Bower also let me down. Little girls everywhere will disagree, but I never felt like he brought the character of Jace to life. I was into the concept of the shadow hunters and appreciated the world that they lived in, but I never felt like Bower fit into the role. Fans at one point were leaning toward Alex Petyfer and/or Garret Hedlund and I would've agreed with both. Bower would look great if cast as the lead singer of a band, but not as a tattooed, bad ass, warrior.

 The movie wasn't bad and would check out a sequel. The weapons, the creatures, ad the world of Mortal Instruments were all pretty cool. All in all the movie tried and the attempt will probably find it's audience. It won't see the financial success of Twilight or Hunger Games, but it is not nearly as bad as R.I.P.D. or After Earth. Check it out. We have all seen worse.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Paranoia......A Thriller with little thrills


      The title of my review would probably make you think that I hated this movie. Not at all. It was entertaining. It was mildly interesting. Decent acting. Good cast. It would seem like it has the basics of a good movie, but I just can't rave about it.

     Liam Hemsworth is down on his luck programmer. He wants the big job. He is smart enough to get the big job, but in the cut throat world of mobile phones he is lost in the shuffle. He takes care of his ailing father, has good friends and longs for the life the other side has. It is completely out of reach until he finds himself in the middle of corporate espionage courtesy of two warring mega companies.

    It is an interesting look into how much we use/need our wireless phones. It is an even more interesting look into the companies that create the newest, greatest, and most cutting edge smart phone. It is a world where companies constantly battle to out do each other, but it is accurate on how much money is thrown around.

   Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman play the heads of the two biggest rival companies and both are cast well. It took me a minute to get used to a nearly bald Ford, but his acting is top notch. He has been making much better choices as of late. I prefer this and 42 over things like Hollywood Homicide. They are both surrounded by a solid cast. Amber Beard as the love interest, Josh Holloway in a small role as an F.B.I. agent and Julian McMahon as evil enforce for Oldman's Wyatt.
Liam Hemsworth isn't bad and actually carries his first leading role fairly well. He gets help from the rest of the cast and it's not him or chemistry between actors that's the problem.

  The movie is based on a novel that I have never read. It feels too rushed in some places, mainly Hemsworth infiltration into the rival company. The story isn't bad. It is a little bit Eagle Eye, a little bit The Recruit, and some The Firm mixed in. The problem is that for a thriller, it has very little thrills. A movie like this should be over flowing with intensity and twists. Paranoia is safe and predictable. It isn't bad. It was decent to watch, but all in all it is definitely not must see. The only paranoia will come from wondering whether you should have sprung for Jobs or Kick Ass 2 instead.