Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movies of 2012: Roundtable

2012 movies, 2012 films, The Hobbit, Skyfall, Django Unchained, roundtable

There have been many films shown this year, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, and I along with two other critics have put together a roundtable to showcase the movies of 2012.

Critics include:

Read the rest of the article at Examiner.com.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Django Unchained

Django Unchained, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson

Django Unchained is the newest film by director Quentin Tarantino, which means you automatically know it's going to have a ton of bloodshed in it. This film definitely has that, and may run about a half-hour too long, but overall was one of the better films I have seen lately. It also has an all-star cast, including Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson, and the humor throughout will keep you entertained despite its long runtime.

Django (Foxx) is a slave who was recently sold and is being transported to his new master. Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) comes upon him and other slaves walking through the night, and kills the white men transporting them. Schultz is a bounty hunter and needs Django to help him find the newest men whom he's been assigned to kill; Schultz has never met them, but they were Django's old masters. Schultz gives Django his freedom and befriends him while training Django to be a bounty hunter. Django also wants to find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who was sold to different masters than him, and Schultz agrees to help him find her. Along the way they encounter a mean plantation owner (Don Johnson) and the rich owner of Candieland (DiCaprio), Calvin Candie, who currently 'owns' Broomhilda, and Django and Schultz must trick him in order to get her back.

Parental Guidance


I did not have high hopes for Parental Guidance based on its previews, even though I'm a big fan of both Bette Midler and Billy Crystal. To be honest, it looked like a typical "family" movie that was all sap and no substance. However, I found myself actually enjoying the film, and most of the jokes throughout it were actually pretty funny.

Alice (Marisa Tomei) and her husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) have three young kids, and haven't taken a vacation in forever. When Phil gets to go on a trip to present on his "smart house," R-Life, he asks Alice to go with him. Unfortunately, Phil's parents aren't free to watch the kids for the duration of their trip, so they're forced to call "the other grandparents" - Alice's parents, Diane (Midler) and Artie (Crystal). Alice and Phil's parenting style was very different from Alice and Phil's, however, and she gives them strict instructions: no sugar for the kids (ha ...), and they all have rigid schedules. They also live in an R-Life prototype house which causes some problems for Artie and Diane, since they're not used to a house that's so technologically advanced; even turning on the microwave turns out to be a challenge. The kids all pose different and unique problems for the two as well, but with some "tough love" they learn to work their way through them.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise, movie, film review, movie review

Jack Reacher is based on a series of books about a six-foot, 250-pound man, so apparently fans of the book were not pleased to hear that 5'7" Tom Cruise, more scrawny than brawny, had been cast in the role. However, he does a great job with the role; if the book fans can put away their biases, they may actually end up enjoying the film adaptation.

Jack Reacher (Cruise) is a ghost. He served in the military, mostly working as an investigator, and received many honors; and then, after that, he seemed to vanish. When James Barr (Joseph Sikora), a sniper who has shot five random people asks for him by name, he randomly shows up to talk to the DA, Rodin (Richard Jenkins) and his colleague Emerson (David Oyelowo) about the man, and ends up working with the lawyer defending the sniper, the DA's daughter, Helen (Rosamund Pike). All evidence points to Barr having committed the crime, but Reacher isn't so sure, and he must figure out the evidence before being run out of town by some shady characters.

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D


I am a fan of Cirque du Soleil, and have seen them twice in Vegas: their show Mystere, at Treasure Island, and O, at Bellagio. Both of these were a while ago (though I'm hoping to see a Cirque show when in Vegas next month!), but I still remember the artistry of their shows and the uniqueness of them. Worlds Away showcases more than five of these shows, while trying to string together a coherent story, and if you like Cirque you will like this film; if movies without words, for the most part, are not for you, then you will not.

The synopsis of this movie from IMDb is "Two young people journey through the dreamlike worlds of Cirque du Soleil to find each other." This is correct, except really the filmmakers only created this flimsy plot to hold together a film showcasing the world of Cirque, which is fine by me, as the sylph-like creatures, clowns, and people of that world are more interesting anyways. A girl goes to a circus and sees a handsome young man working there, basically, and goes to find him; a clown there shows her a picture of him, which is an advertisement for The Aerialist, the part he plays in the circus. She ends up getting lost in the Cirque du Soleil's world, so to speak, but finally (semi-spoiler) finds him in the end.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

This is 40

This is 40 is being billed as the "sort-of sequel to (2007's) Knocked Up," and so Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles as Pete and Debbie. However, you won't find Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl here at all, though there are a few other recurring characters, such as Jason Segel, playing an athletic trainer aptly named Jason, and Charlyne Yi, playing an employee who works at Debbie's clothing store (and who is so weird she actually steals a few scenes). I remember I saw a screening of Knocked Up when I was attending U of M and thought it was funny, and This is 40 matches that, though it's definitely not a movie for kids because of its language and adult jokes.

Five years after Knocked Up, Pete and Debbie are turning 40, though Debbie insists on having "38" written on her cake. They're in some serious money troubles too, although Debbie doesn't even know the half of it; Pete's music studio isn't doing well, and he brings back one of his favorite "old fogies" and his band in a last-ditch attempt to make some money. Debbie has taken to smoking near windows in secret, and Pete eats too many cupcakes, so they decide to start a healthier lifestyle - which of course makes them miserable. Their oldest daughter, Sadie (Maude Apatow, real-life daughter of director Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann), is thirteen, too, and they're having a hard time dealing with her; their youngest daughter, Charlotte (Iris Apatow, sister of Maude), is hating that her sister and herself aren't close anymore, too. The movie follows these characters through their ups and downs, and brings a large dose of comedy with it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Guilt Trip

Seth Rogen, The Guilt Trip, Barbra Streisand

The Guilt Trip looked like it could be a fun "buddy" movie, only this case with a mom and her son instead of two men or two women, but unfortunately it's not that funny. Barbra Streisand hasn't been in a film since 2010's Little Fockers, but I thought Seth Rogen's reputation for comedy meant the pair would mesh well together, which they did; however, the script holds them back from making this movie a memorable one.

Andy Brewster (Rogen) has invented "Scioclean," an all-natural cleaning product that is not as toxic as its competitors. He's spent the past five years developing the product, and now it's time to hit the road and find a company that wants to buy it. After his mother (Streisand) tells him a story about her first love, Andy looks him up and finds out he lives in San Francisco; he was planning on ending his trip in Vegas, but decides to add San Fran to his trip, and invites his mother to go with him. Along the way, they encounter a snowstorm, a four-pound steak, and many arguments, but they end up growing closer as well.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit, Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

I should probably preface this review by saying that this is not going to influence you in any way to see or not see the movie (so, stop reading now! Kidding). You are going to see this movie whether I tell you it's good, awful, or somewhere in between. Much like the Potterites or the Twihards, if you are a huge LOTR fan you are going to go see it ... it's as simple as that.

I should also warn that I have seen three-quarters of the first LOTR movie, and also 100% of the third movie - but not in that order. I saw the third movie in my college dorm with a LOTR fan and was confused throughout the entire movie. I saw three-quarters of the first movie when visiting a friend in New Orleans last year (who is also a big LOTR fan) but it was late and I fell asleep with a quarter of the movie left, thereabouts. I tried reading The Hobbit a while back but found it incredibly detailed, and didn't get all the way through that either.

What I can tell you, though, is that although The Hobbit is a beautiful film, it was very confusing as well, at least to me, who is one of the LOTR uninitiated. I know about Gollum, and the ring, and the quests to destroy it, none of which I presumably needed to know for this movie, as it's a prequel, but some of the characters who popped up are from the other movies. In this film, we meet Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit (a short person), who lives a quiet life by himself - at least until Gandalf the wizard shows up one day. He convenes a meeting at Bilbo's house with many dwarves, and they then decide to travel to the Lonely Mountain to get back treasure that was stolen from them by a dragon. They bring Bilbo along as "the burglar," saying that because he's a lot smaller than all of them, he can creep around unnoticed. Bilbo doesn't want to leave his house, and comes along reluctantly, but soon finds himself on a great adventure.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Blu-ray combo pack giveaway: Magic Mike OR The Dark Knight Rises

The holidays are fast approaching, and Warner Brothers has come up with a Happy Holidays blog app featuring some classic and new movies that are coming to Blu-ray. Check out the widget below to find some gift ideas for you and your friends and family this holiday season.



To celebrate, I have a Blu-ray combo pack of either Magic Mike or The Dark Knight Rises to give away to one of my lucky readers - prize will be chosen randomly by Warner Brothers.

To enter, check out the widget above, and then fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The combo pack will be sent via FedEx or UPS, so no P.O. boxes, please.

This is a shorter giveaway than my usual ones - it will end this Tuesday, December 18th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the morning of 12/19 and have 24 hours to respond to my email, or else an alternate winner will be chosen.

Good luck, and happy holidays from Yes/No Films!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 7, 2012

Playing for Keeps

Gerard Butler, Playing for Keeps, Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Dennis Quaid

Playing for Keeps looked like it would be a typical rom-com: it had a cute trailer, and I'm a fan of Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and all of the other A-listers who are in this film. However, although the movie does have some nice moments, overall I found that even Gerard couldn't save this film.

George (Butler) is a former soccer star who hit his peak in the late '90s, before he retired. Since then, he hasn't done much of anything, except he was once married to Stacie (Biel) and they now have an 8-year-old son together, Lewis. George walked out on them when Lewis was four, but he's recently moved to their suburban town of Virginia, and wants to spend more time with his son. He also finds out that Stacie is about to marry her boyfriend of three years, Matt. After George is a hit at Lewis's soccer practice one day, Stacie and the other moms ask him to coach the team; he agrees, and is able to spend more time with Lewis. This also means, however, that he has to deal with the soccer moms, be they divorced or married but unhappily, and they are all infatuated with the hot new soccer coach. George, however, only has eyes for one woman, but unfortunately it's the one he can't be with.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Hitchcock

Hitchcock movie 2012, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren

I have seen a few of Hitchcock's movies, but last weekend I revisited Psycho, and I'm glad I did. The period of Hitchcock's life in which Hitchcock focuses is on is when he is filming Psycho, as well as his relationship with his wife in general, and there were a few nods throughout to fans of the movie; the iconic shower scene is, of course, featured, but there were other winks throughout too.

Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) has just had a success with North by Northwest, and is looking for a new project to film. The book Psycho somehow gets to him, and he reads it and decides that he wants to make this his next movie; however, he first has to run it by Paramount and also "the censors" (the MPAA) - in one scene, the MPAA says he can film the shower scene but it must be "through a window, which must be frosted." Meanwhile, his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren), is getting more and more annoyed at him, and she takes up writing with a fellow screenwriter, Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), which "Hitch" doesn't like at all; he thinks she's having an affair. Apparently Hitch had always had "fantasy affairs" (strictly in his head) with his leading ladies, including Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), regardless of whether they are married or not, and Alma knows about these. The production is also two to three days behind schedule, and Hitch must get the cast and crew back on track and finish up Psycho so that it can be released to the public.

Monday, November 26, 2012

GIVEAWAY: Thunderstruck Blu-ray combo pack

Thunderstruck will be out in stores on December 4th, and I have a copy of the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack for you to win! The combo pack also includes an Ultraviolet copy of the movie to download to your computer.

Plot synopsis:
NBA superstar Kevin Durant plays himself in this action-packed family film about a basketball star who switches talent with a klutzy 16-year-old fan. When Brian (Taylor Gray) magically switches basketball skills with his hero, Kevin Durant, he becomes the star of his high school team... while Kevin Durant suddenly can’t make a shot to save his life! But with the playoffs approaching, Brian learns that being a true winner means working hard at your own game, and he tries to make things right in time to prevent a catastrophic end to his hero’s season.



To enter, check out the widget above, and then fill out the Rafflecopter form. The combo pack will be sent via FedEx or UPS, so no P.O. boxes, please. Prize will be sent 2-4 weeks after sponsor receives winner's shipping info.

The contest will end this Saturday, December 1st at 11:59pm EST. Winner will have 24 hours to respond to my email sent out Dec. 2nd with their preferred address, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Good luck!

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Life of Pi

Life of Pi movie, India, Canada, shipwreck, Bengal tiger

Life of Pi is based on the 2001 book of the same name, by Yann Martel, which I haven't read but would now like to. In the movie version, I originally thought Pi was trapped at sea for two or three months; however, it ends up being 227 days - roughly seven and a half months! - and the director, Ang Lee, showcases this time in the movie beautifully, even though the situation is dire.

Piscine Molitor Patel (Suraj Sharma, a first-time actor) received his name from a favorite swimming pool, the Piscine Molitor in France. Children are not kind to Piscine, however, given that his name sounds like another word, so during elementary school he decides to reinvent himself one year and go by the name of "Pi" instead; it helps that he's super smart at math, too, and can write down a large amount of the numbers in Pi (3.14). One day, however, his mother (Tabu) and father (Adil Hussain) announce that they are moving from India to Canada, and will be selling the animals in their zoo as well. Pi, his brother, and his parents board a Japanese freight liner bound for Canada, but during a storm the liner sinks; the only one who is able to get into the lifeboat in time is Pi, though he soon finds that some of the animals from the zoo are also on board.

Red Dawn

Red Dawn, Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson

Red Dawn seems like a good movie on the surface, but later you realize that the plot actually has more holes than Swiss cheese. On Halloween, for example, you love eating delicious candy, but the next day you have a stomachache; suddenly, you're thinking maybe that candy wasn't that great after all. When you are watching Red Dawn , at first it seems like an awesome action movie; but when you think about what the plot is actually about, you realize that it's very farfetched.

The original Red Dawn was released in 1984, and 2012's version has a similar plot. This version was also filmed in 2009, pre-Hemsworth's Thor and Hutcherson's Hunger Games box office successes, and it was filmed in Michigan. Jed Eckert (Hemsworth) is back home in the Seattle area on leave from Iraq, and his brother, Matt (Josh Peck), a high school football player, isn't really excited to see him. The next day, the boys are awakened to the sound of airplanes in the air: there's some sort of invasion going on. Their dad (Brett Cullen), a local policeman, urges them to escape to their cabin, and he stays to fight. A bunch of Matt's friends follow them up to the cabin too, but soon the North Koreans - the people that have invaded Washington - find them. Jed, Matt, and their crew form the Wolverines (based on their high school's mascot), and they are determined to overthrow the invaders, save Matt's girlfriend, and bring peace back to their city, before it's too late.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rise of the Guardians


I wasn't sure what to make of Rise of the Guardians before seeing it, because the only thing I really knew about it from the trailers is that all of the holiday "icons" get together - Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy - in order to save the children of the world. With movies like this, the end result could go either way, but I'm happy to say that this movie was both funny and also will hold the attention of both adults and kids. Pay close attention to who voices each character, too; I was unable to figure out any of them before I got home and looked it up online. Interestingly enough, the movie has a voice cast that in normal circumstances are very recognizable.

North (aka Santa, voiced by Alec Baldwin) is a Guardian, which means he protects children and makes sure they never stop believing in him or the other Guardians, which include the Easter Bunny (aka E. Aster Bunnymund, voiced by Hugh Jackman), Tooth (Fairy, Isla Fisher), and the Sandman. The Man in the Moon, however, has chosen a new Guardian to join their team: Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), who has many unique traits: for one, he's invisible, and he also can turn anything to snow or ice. Jack Frost is kind of the "black sheep" of the Guardian family at first, but then they realize they need him to defeat Pitch Black, aka the Boogeyman (voiced by Jude Law), who is aiming to turn all of the Sandman's dreams that he gives children into nightmares, and to erase every child's beliefs in the Guardians.

Silver Linings Playbook


Silver Linings Playbook is an interesting movie in that it imitates real life more than we care to admit. It's a "slice of life" movie that can move quite slowly at times, but Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence have great chemistry that make the movie worth seeing.

Pat (Cooper) has spent the past eight months in a mental hospital in Baltimore, after an incident involving him catching his wife in the act of cheating with one of her teacher colleagues. His mother (Jacki Weaver) checks him out of the hospital, and he returns home to their house, where she and his father, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro) live. He has faith that his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee), will see how much he's changed (and how fit he's gotten) and come running back to him; he doesn't count on learning that she has moved away, however, and that the restraining order against him is still in place.

One of his good friends (John Ortiz) and his wife, Veronica (Julia Stiles), invite Pat over for dinner, and he accepts; he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) there, who is Veronica's sister. Though a lot younger than Pat, Tiffany has recently become widowed, and his friend tells him not to talk to her about it; being that Pat has no filter, he of course asks her what happened. They strike up a strange friendship of sorts, with Tiffany promising Pat that she can get a letter to Nikki, if he will do something for her in return: she needs a partner for a partners-only dance competition. He's reluctant, but need Tiffany to get to Nikki, so he agrees.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lincoln


Lincoln and Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the title role, have been getting a lot of Oscar buzz. The acting in this film was superb; however, the film moves very, very slowly, and since it's about two and a half hours long, this is what can often kill a film. Although the story in Lincoln is one that is of utmost importance to our nation's history, and is one that should be retold to all generations, the languid pace at which the movie moves proved to be too slow for me.

The film opens in the third year of the Civil War, and we see both black and white soldiers milling about, talking to a very tall seated man, who turns out to be Lincoln (Day-Lewis, looking uncannily like Lincoln incarnate). The soldiers all quote his Gettysburg Address back to him, and the African-American soldiers tell him how they are paid less than their white counterparts. We then meet the characters of the White House, including Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field); his adorable youngest son, Tad (Gulliver McGrath); and his oldest son, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who comes back from university to spend time with them. Lincoln's current goal is to get the 13th Amendment ratified, which would give slaves their freedom, and the House of Representatives must approve this by a 2/3 vote in order for it to pass.

In the late 1800s, the Republicans and Democrats held opposite beliefs than they do today in 2012; Lincoln was a Republican, who were known for being more liberal, and the Democrats were known for being more conservative. Lincoln knows that he will have to convince many in the House to see his side of things, and his Secretary of State recruits some men to help change many Democrats' opinions; these men are played by John Hawkes and James Spader, among others, and bring some comic relief to the film as they try to sway Democrats to their side. At the same time, unbeknownst to the rest of the Republicans, Lincoln has sent Francis Blair (Hal Holbrook) to Virginia to see if he can negotiate some peace between the Union and the South (the Confederacy). When word breaks out about this, it leaves the Republicans unsettled, and may consider changing their minds regarding their Amendment votes.

A Late Quartet


I was interested in seeing A Late Quartet because I am a violinist, and also because the all-star cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Catherine Keener. I had also read an article before seeing it that said that none of the actors were familiar with playing classical instruments, so I was also interested in seeing if they would pull that off or not. Although the sounds in the film were dubbed over, the technicalities of holding and playing the instruments on screen were very accurate, and I was impressed in how real their quartet looked.

The quartet of "The Fugue" is approaching their twenty-fifth anniversary, but their cellist, Peter (Walken), has been having difficulties with his hands lately. He goes to see a specialist and she diagnoses him with early Parkinson's disease. Peter tells the quartet that this season will be his last, and that he will find them a replacement that they all like and will be able to work with. Meanwhile, the 2nd violinist in the group, Robert (Hoffman), has been having some doubts as to whether he wants to continue playing the second part, and he proposes that he and the 1st violinist, Daniel (Mark Ivanir), switch parts for each song they play, which Daniel is not too happy about. Robert and his wife, Juliette (Keener), the violist in the quartet, have been having marital problems as well, and after Robert cheats on her with his running partner, Pilar (Liraz Charhi), Juliette makes him move out.

To add to those woes, Robert and Juliette have asked Daniel to tutor his recently returned-from-college daughter, Alexandra (Imogen Poots), who is also a violinist, as she is in a quartet that is playing the same Beethoven piece that the group is playing; she, too, has the 1st violin part. Alexandra makes a move on Daniel and suddenly they find themselves in a relationship, even though he is 20+ years older than her. Because of all of these issues, the group starts to unravel, instigating conflict between its members but at the same time providing an interesting viewing experience for the audience.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Skyfall

Skyfall, James Bond, movie

I've been hearing Adele's song "Skyfall" on the radio for weeks now, and it has that Bond "theme" stamped all over it; the track fits almost perfectly with the "vintage Bond"-style opening sequence and credits of the movie. We last saw Bond back in 2008's Quantum of Solace, which was definitely a fun film, but Skyfall manages to outdo that and all of the recent previous Bond movies as well.

The film blasts us into the action from the very first frame. Bond (Daniel Craig) is in a foreign city - that looks like somewhere in the Middle East - trying to retrieve a list of compromised agents' names. His partner, Eve (Naomie Harris), has his back and is following him on the road, while he is tangling with a man on top of a truck. M (Judi Dench, reprising her role) tells Eve to take the shot, even though she doesn't have a clear view, and she ends up shooting Bond instead of the bad guy, who then plunges into the water many feet below. Cue: a more than five minute opening with Adele's "Skyfall" playing throughout, making you reminisce about the Bond films of old.

This list must be found, as the man who stole it is not afraid to use it: he posts the first five names and pictures on YouTube and sends it to M, and three of the five are soon assassinated. Although Bond was assumed dead after the opening mission, it turns out he's just stowed away in a beach paradise, and when he hears of the troubles MI6 is having, via a TV news report, he immediately returns to London. His pursuit of the bad guy brings him to Shanghai, and then Macau, and finally back to London, where he finds out that it is a Mr. Silva (Javier Bardem), a former agent who was given up and is still angry at M and wants to bring down MI6.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Review and GIVEAWAY: The Heart of Christmas

The Heart of Christmas, Dax Locke, Candace Cameron Bure

Although The Heart of Christmas doesn't have the best acting, you're going to need Kleenex for this one ... perhaps even a full box. It's based on the true story of Dax Locke, a little boy who was diagnosed with AML M7 leukemia, which is usually common in elderly men. His parents take him to St. Jude's to possibly find a cure, but when it becomes apparent that the chemotherapy is not working for him, and that he may not live until Christmas, his parents and neighborhood decide to throw Christmas early, and they decorate their houses with Christmas trees and lights.

Official synopsis:
Based on a true story of hope and compassion, THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS will touch your heart and bring home the spirit of the holidays. Austin and Julie Locke are devastated when they learn that their young son, Dax, has been diagnosed with cancer. But with courage, determination and faith, they decide to give Dax a one last Christmas, even if it has to be in October. When the community sees the holiday decorations and learns the heartbreaking truth, what happens next is a miraculous outpouring of caring and support. Starring Candace Cameron Bure (Make It or Break It), Jeanne Neilson (Faith Like Potatoes), George Newbern (Father of the Bride), Erin Bethea (Fireproof) and Matthew West (Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter), THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS is the greatest gift of all.

The movie opens with Megan (Candace Cameron Bure, aka D.J. from Full House) and her healthy family. Megan is a workaholic and her husband has been putting in long hours both at work and at school too. She has two children, a daughter and a son, yet she rarely has time to go to any of their sports games or even realize that Halloween is fast approaching. When she takes her son trick-or-treating in a different neighborhood, they see people putting up Christmas lights; curious, she asks why they are putting them up so early, and is given a business card, on which is the blog URL that Dax's mom has been keeping. After reading the blog, Megan realizes that she has been taking her family for granted, and she starts to try and become more involved with their lives.

The story was told by jumping back and forth between Megan reading the blog and Julie (Dax's mom, played by Jeanne Neilson) writing it. We see the treatments that Dax is undergoing at St. Jude's, and how desperately his parents want him to be cured. Dax and his parents make friends with other parents and children at the hospital, too, and most of them have leukemia as well. Julie and her husband Austin (Eric Jay Beck) are determined to make the most of the time they have left with Dax, and to make him as comfortable as possible during that time.

To be honest, the story itself in this movie was compelling but the acting was not great. It's also produced by a company that has many Christian themes woven throughout its movies, but aside from a few "let us pray" moments, the Christian themes in the film were underlying rather than brought up over and over again. However, in The Heart of Christmas it's the story itself (even with the so-so acting) that will make you cry, and the fact that it's based on a real story only makes it that much more heartbreaking.

The Heart of Christmas is currently available on DVD, and is unrated. 2.5 stars out of 5.

I have a copy of this film on DVD to give away. To enter: fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The contest will end next Saturday, November 10th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will have 24 hours to respond to my email or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Good luck!
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Friday, November 2, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph poster Disney

I wrote a post a while back as a guest blogger about this film, and how I was looking forward to it. I was not disappointed, although the 3D was not great (it would definitely be fine to see in 2D), and the movie wasn't as funny as I thought it would be. However, there's plenty here for both the young and the young at heart, and in typical Disney fashion, there are parts throughout that film that the adults might laugh at but the kids might not.

Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is getting tired of his job. For the past thirty years, he's been the "bad guy" in the video game Fix-It Felix Jr., while Felix (Jack McBrayer), always gets to be the hero who saves the day with with his magic hammer. Ralph would be okay with this if his "regular" life was fine too, but the rest of the townspeople in the game get to live in a nice building while he has to sleep among the bricks in the town dump. When one of the townspeople scornfully remarks that if Ralph was to go win a medal like Felix always does, Ralph could live in the building's penthouse, this gets Ralph thinking, and he decides to "game jump" and find a medal to win. He goes from Hero's Duty, a modern-day game, to Sugar Rush, where he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a "glitch" who isn't allowed to participate in the speedway races held there.

Ralph wants to help Vanellope learn how to drive and be able to race, but King Candy (Alan Tudyk), the ruler of Sugar Rush, isn't having it; he tells Ralph that if Vanellope is to race and the person playing the game sees her glitching (sees the screen become strange-looking), it's possible that the game's plug could be pulled and they would all have to retreat back to Game Central Station. That is, all of them except Vanellope, because glitches aren't allowed to leave their games.

The Sessions

The Sessions movie, John Hawkes, Helen Hunt

The Sessions is a unique movie that might not be to everybody's tastes. It's based on the true story of polio survivor Mark O'Brien and his daily life living in an iron lung, which helps him breathe. Although the acting in the film is very good, the subject matter was hard to watch, and there was much nudity throughout as well.

Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes) agrees to write an article for a newspaper about sex and the disabled. He is 38 years old and has never had sex; even though his "parts" work well, he is unable to move his arms, hands, or legs, and in fact is confined to his iron lung most of the time - he can journey away from it only in 3 to 4 hour increments. He is referred to Cheryl (Helen Hunt), a sex surrogate who will work with him on becoming comfortable in his own body and with intimacy with women. Mark confides all this to his priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy), who says that although the church typically frowns on sex before marriage, in this case "God could make an exception." With Cheryl, Mark is able to get past his initial shyness and inexperience, and when their sessions come to an end they are both sad that they will have to discontinue seeing each other weekly.

Flight

Flight movie poster Denzel Washington

The story in Flight brings to mind that of Sully Sullenberger, who landed a plane successfully in the Hudson River in 2009, saving all of the passengers on board. Now imagine the story behind the man being darker and more twisted, and you get Whip Whitaker, played by Denzel Washington. Whip likes to live life to excess - drink and do cocaine - but he's also an airline pilot. He has a fine record, until one day, that record becomes severely marred; he's a hero, and yet not.

Whip has a routine flight from Orlando to Atlanta, his home, a quick 50 minute or so trip. He and flight attendant Trina (Nadine Velasquez) wake up hungover from their tryst the night before, in an Orlando hotel room, and Whip does a few lines of cocaine to wake himself up. The crew encounters a bit of turbulence in the beginning of the flight, but then Whip steers them into calmer skies. Suddenly, though, the plane starts to malfunction, and it takes all of Whip's training and concentration to land the plane on the ground, crashing into an open field, and turning the plane completely over (vertical) in the process. Six people die, including two of the crew members, but the other 90+ are saved, and Whip is hailed as a hero by the press; until they find out about his drinking habits, and that he may or may not have been drinking the morning of the flight.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Friends: The Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set and GIVEAWAY

In May 2004, the TV show Friends came to an end. I had never watched the series, but at the time everyone in my high school was sad that it was ending. It wasn't until college that a friend got me hooked on the series, and now it is one of my favorites.

Warner Brothers is releasing Friends: The Complete Series Blu-Ray box set on November 13th, and you can win a Friends prize pack from Yes/No Films!

First, check out the widget below. See which "Friend" you are most like, make some Friends memes, and earn badges.

 

Then, check out these fun clips:


I have a Friends prize pack to give away, including the two mugs shown below and a picture frame like the one on Monica's door.



To enter: fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The contest will end next Thursday, November 8th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will have 24 hours to respond to my email or an alternate winner will be chosen. The prize will be sent via UPS or FedEx; no P.O. boxes, please.

Good luck!
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Liberal Arts


Liberal Arts explores the relationship between a 19-year-old college sophomore, Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), and a 35-year-old man, Jesse (Josh Radnor). Jesse now lives in New York City, but in the 1990s he attended a small liberal arts college in Ohio. He returns to his alma mater to celebrate the retirement party of his favorite professor, Peter Hoburg (Richard Jenkins), and ends up meeting Zibby.

Jesse and Zibby meet through Zibby's parents, and they have an instant connection. After Jesse leaves the college, he agrees to write Zibby via snail mail, and they keep up a "courtship" or sorts for a few months through this, until Zibby asks him to come visit her back at the college. Jesse knows that the age difference between them is too much to ignore (at one point, he makes a list with the columns "When I was: [x] age" and "She was: [x] age", coming up with depressing numbers like 19-3 and 16-0), but he finds himself greatly enjoying Zibby's company. The movie explores them trying to figure out if what they have would work in "real life," but it's also about Jesse and how he's never really felt happy since he left college.

Fun Size

Fun Size movie poster

The movie Fun Size presumably gets its name from the shirt that one of the main characters wears for a brief minute near the end of the film, which says "I'm not short - I'm fun sized." However, this film was anything BUT fun, and is in fact one of the worst movies I've seen in quite a while - despite the comedic intentions, it isn't funny at all.

Wren (Victoria Justice) and her friend April (Jane Levy) are thrilled when they receive a Halloween party invite from a hot guy at their high school, Aaron Riley (Thomas McDonell). There's only one problem: Wren's mom, Joy (Chelsea Handler), is going out to a party with her 26-year-old boyfriend, Keevin (Josh Pence), and needs Wren to babysit her younger brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) that night. Wren and April take Albert trick-or-treating, and while in a haunted house they manage to lose track of him. They scour the town looking for Albert, and wheedle school dorks Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau) into driving them around so that they can find them. What they don't know is that Albert is off on an adventure of his own, where he meets gas store clerk Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch) and some new friends and ends up attending a Halloween party of his own.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Alex Cross


I will confess that I've never seen any of the Madea movies nor read the Alex Cross book series, but I didn't have high expectations for this film, although the trailer looked interesting. Although there are some good performances in the film, they are marred by the unrealistic situations and sometimes cheesy script throughout, and also a few gaping plot holes that the writers left open.

I was later told that this movie is a prequel to the series, as books Alex lives in D.C. and works for the FBI; in this film, he is a cop living in Detroit and he is thinking of applying to the FBI. Alex (Tyler Perry) has just learned that his wife, Maria (Carmen Ejogo), is pregnant with their second child, and he thinks that moving to D.C. will be better for the family - however, Maria wants to stay in Detroit. Meanwhile, Alex and his partner Tommy (Edward Burns), are on the hunt for a murderer who killed a heiress, and who later abducts fellow cop Monica (Rachel Nichols), who is also secretly dating Tommy. The murderer (Matthew Fox) has a hit list, but when he sees that Alex getting too close to catching him, he deviates from that list to kill someone that Alex loves.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review and GIVEAWAY: Hallmark Spiderman and Twilight ornaments

BlogHer 2012 Hallmark
Hallmark's NYC party, August 2012
When I was in NYC for BlogHer '12 this past August, Jackie at Free is my Life invited me to attend Hallmark's off-site party as a guest. Hallmark had rented a suite at a small boutique hotel across the street from the Hilton, and the view was AMAZING. We were also treated to desserts and were able to see their products for the upcoming holiday season.
Edward and Bella Hallmark ornament, Twilight
credit: Hallmark.com

Recently Hallmark sent me two of their movie-themed ornaments to review, and I also have a set for one lucky reader to win, as well.

I received the "Edward and Bella's Wedding" ornament ($17.95), from the Twilight series, and an Amazing Spider-Man ornament ($14.95) in the mail, two of which I had admired at Hallmark's NYC party, where there was a huge Christmas tree with all sorts of goodies. The detail on Edward and Bella's ornament is amazing - the back of her dress looks just like it did in the movie. I also was laughing at how much the man figure looks like Robert Pattinson (Edward), though the female figure doesn't resemble Bella as much. This ornament would be ideal for anyone who is a fan of the Twilight movies or book series, and would make an interesting addition to a Christmas tree.

The Amazing Spider-Man Hallmark ornament, Christmas
credit: Hallmark.com
The Spider-Man ornament is in a classic Spidey "web-slinging" pose, and is brightly colored. The quality is good as well, and I could see little boys or any Spidey fans enjoying the sight of this ornament on their tree come Christmas morning.

Hallmark has very generously agreed to give a set of these - one Edward and Bella's Wedding ornament and one The Amazing Spiderman ornament - to one of my readers. This would make a nice addition to your tree or a great holiday gift for a movie fan in your life.

Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter. The contest will end on Friday, October 26th at 12am EST and the winner will have 24 hours to respond to my email; if he/she doesn't respond within that time frame, an alternate winner will be chosen.

Good luck!


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Friday, October 12, 2012

Argo


Argo is one of the best movies of the year thus far, which isn't surprising when you consider its cast and crew. Ben Affleck plays the lead role and directs, and George Clooney helped produce the film. John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, and the escaped U.S. embassy employees in Iran all deliver great performances as well, and the movie showcases a turbulent time in U.S.-Iran relations that many people may not know much about.

The movie starts out giving us a basic rundown of the crisis up to that point, for the uninitiated. It's the late 1970s and Iranians are storming the U.S. embassy, because their Shah (former leader) has been allowed to enter the U.S. for medical treatment, and the Iranians are very anti-American by this point. The doors are finally kicked in, and 52 of the employees there are taken hostage; 6 of them, however, escape out the back door. The six go from embassy to embassy, but the only one that will take them in are the Canadians: Ken Taylor (Garber) and his wife. Iran is becoming more and more turbulent, and the CIA must come up with a plan to get the six employees out of Iran and back to the United States, before they are found and tried as spies (and then most likely executed). Tony Mendez (Affleck) comes up with a detail-oriented back story: he and the employees are a Canadian film crew, filming an exotic movie named Argo, and they are in Iran to scout locations. A script is found, a production office put together (headed up by Arkin and Goodman's characters), and a blurb is published in a trade magazine about the movie. Mendez must get into Iran, teach the six employees their cover stories and fake identities, and hopefully return to the U.S. with the six, unharmed.

Seven Psychopaths


With an all-star cast and a quirky trailer, Seven Psychopaths appears to have it all. However, the film is more weird (or quirky, as some call it) than it lets on, and the plot is a bit messy as well.

Marty (Colin Farrell) is writing a screenplay called Seven Psychopaths but is out of ideas. His friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) tries to help by placing an ad in the paper asking all psychopaths to call Marty, with the possibility that their stories will be used in his movie. Meanwhile, Billy is making his money by helping Hans (Christopher Walken) with his "dognapping" business: they kidnap dogs and then, when they see reward posters for them, Hans returns the dog and collects the money. They make the mistake of kidnapping the shih tzu belonging to a gangster by the name of Charlie (Woody Harrelson), however, and Charlie is not pleased. Soon Billy, Hans, and Marty are running from Charlie, and finding all sorts of material to write about for Marty's screenplay on the way.

Here Comes the Boom


Kevin James is back on the big screen in Here Comes the Boom, which is suspiciously similar to 2011's Warrior except that in this case, the main character is trying to raise money for a school music program rather than needing money for himself and his family. Boom is also a comedy, whereas Warrior was a drama. I originally wrote Boom off in my mind, thinking it was going to be a silly movie about MMA (mixed martial arts), but it actually had a few funny moments and ended up exceeding my expectations.

Scott Voss (James) once loved teaching, but now is a slacker: he shows up late, gets docked vacation days, and doesn't care about his class. His friend Marty (Henry Winkler) is the orchestra teacher at the school, and one day Scott comes across them practicing and is impressed by how good they sound. When the school principal (Greg Germann) announces budget freezes and says that the music program will be cut, Scott realizes that Marty might lose his job, and decides that he will work together with the other teachers to raise the $47,000 or so needed to keep the program. This is easier said than done, though, especially because most of the teachers, with the exception of Bella (Salma Hayek), don't really care about putting in the extra time to save the orchestra. Scott used to wrestle in college, and after his friend Niko (Bas Rutten) tells him how much MMA fighters make, even for losing a match, he hatches a crazy scheme to enter the ring and raise the money for the music program. Scott doesn't anticipate how hard it will be, though, and gets thrown around in the arenas more than a few times before hitting his stride.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Frankenweenie


I will confess that I wasn't super excited to see Frankenweenie, even though Tim Burton's movies (as well as Disney films) are usually great. It's completely in black and white and the little kid with the weird teeth in the previews for it (who we later find out is named Edgar "E" Gore - get it?) was more than a little creepy. Now, however, I completely take back my earlier sentiments, as Frankenweenie was not only unique, but intriguing as well.

Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan) doesn't have many friends aside from his dog, Sparky. Victor wants to enter the school science fair, but his dad (Martin Short) makes him a compromise: he can do the fair as long as he joins the baseball team as well. During his first game, Sparky gets loose from where he's tied to a post, and runs into the street after the ball, getting fatally hit by a car. Victor is distraught until his new science teacher (Martin Landau) shows the class how all dead animals have "muscle memory," which gives him an idea; he decides to try and bring Sparky back to life.

The experiment works, surprisingly, and Victor is overjoyed; at least until Edgar (Atticus Shaffer), the other class "weirdo," finds out what he did, and demands Victor to teach him how to bring a dead animal back to life. Later, some of their classmates find out Victor's secret too, and they all want to get in on the "resurrection" business so that they can win the school science fair ... but their experiments don't work quite as well as Victor's did.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pitch Perfect


When I saw a tweet from actress Elizabeth Banks asking for extras in her film Pitch Perfect last November, I offhandedly mentioned it to a friend of mine who lives in Baton Rouge. My friend jumped at the chance to be an extra, which resulted in this post. It should come as no surprise, then, that I was very eager to see  Pitch Perfect  more than a month before it was in theaters. Although I didn't see my friend in the movie, the film was definitely worth seeing, and is a mix of "Glee meets Mean Girls meets Bridesmaids," as someone tweeted.

Beca (Anna Kendrick, 50/50) arrives at Barden University as a freshman but doesn't want to be there - she would rather be in L.A. pursuing her dream to be a DJ. Her dad is a professor at Barden so he expects her to take advantage of a free college education there. Her roommate Kimmy Jin (Jinhee Joung) doesn't really like her, yet she accompanies her to the Activities Fair anyways to see what's being offered on campus. The Barden Bellas, an a capella group headed up by Chloe (Brittany Snow, Hairspray) and Aubrey (Anna Camp, The Help), are desperately recruiting singers due to an unfortunate mishap at the A Capella Finals last year, and they ask Beca if she can sing. She blows them off, but later Chloe corners her while Beca is singing in the shower, and asks her to try out for auditions.

Beca of course makes the Barden Bellas, who claim they have significantly "lowered" their image, so to speak, and what follows is her journey in a capella, where she meets Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson, Bridesmaids) and the adorable Jesse (Skylar Austin, Taking Woodstock), who is a member of The Treblemakers, an all-male a capella group at Barden that always wins in competition. Aubrey has made all of the Bellas take an oath to not get involved with any Treblemakers, and Beca starts to find this harder to observe as she gets cloesr to Jesse, who she also works with at the campus radio station.

Friday, September 28, 2012

GIVEAWAY: Dark Shadows on Blu-ray/DVD

Dark Shadows is coming to Blu-ray and DVD on October 2nd, and I have your chance to win a copy here. Check out the widget below, and then enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

Also check out my movie review of Dark Shadows here.

Giveaway will end on Friday, October 5th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will have 24 hours to respond to my email or else a new winner will be chosen. The prize will be sent via FedEx or UPS. No P.O. boxes, please.

Synopsis of the film:
From the incredible mind of Tim Burton comes the hit film Dark Shadows, based on the classic television series! Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) has been trapped for two centuries by an evil witch (Eva Green) who just happens to be an ex lover. Barnabas now has to struggle with the ever changing 1970s and save his families business! With an all star cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller and more, Dark Shadows will be sure to whet your appetite for fun.



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Looper


I'm still trying to process my thoughts about Looper (gotta love Thursday night screenings when the movie comes out the next day), but overall it's an interesting movie. It has many parallels to 2000's Frequency, one of my favorite movies, but it also has its own unique storyline. Most of the film occurs in 2044, in Kansas, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt's older self (played by Bruce Willis) is living in 2074; Gordon-Levitt wears prosthetics in the film and actually does look like a younger Willis. I would have liked to see more of 2074 - what we get is pretty much a cursory glance - but the events happening in 2044 are definitely interesting enough to hold its audience's attention.

Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is a "looper." In 2074, time travel exists, but is illegal, and the mob uses it to send back people whom they want killed, to "loopers" like Joe, who "do the necessaries," as he says. Each body comes with silver bars which Joe can turn in for money or keep, and they also arrive in 2044 tied up and with a bag over their head; when some of the loopers kill their targets and then find gold bars instead of silver, they know that they've just "closed the loop," or essentially killed their future selves, and have only 30 years left to live. Joe's friend Seth (Paul Dano) has this happen to him, but he finds himself unable to kill his future self; Joe and Seth's employers track down both Seth and his older self, and both Seth and Seth Sr. - SPOILER - meet a gruesome end.

Joe has been hearing rumors that the man who is the boss in 2074, called The Rainmaker, wants all of the loops closed, and that is why more and more loopers have "met" their future selves recently. When Joe's self arrives, it is without a bag over his head, and him and the man (Willis) stare at each other until Willis knocks him out cold and takes off. Joe eventually finds out that Joe Sr. (Willis) wants to kill The Rainmaker, so that none of the bad stuff that has been happening in 2074 will ever happen, and Joe Sr. has narrowed down The Rainmaker to one of three people - all of whom are children.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower


The Perks of Being a Wallflower may just be one of the best films you see all year, which isn't a surprise considering the author of the novel on which it's based wrote the screenplay and also directed the movie. Having an author adapt his/her novel into a screenplay is common, but to have that author also direct the film is highly unusual, and Stephen Chbosky only had one directing credit to his name (from 1995) before this film. With a talented cast including Emma Watson (sporting an American accent!), Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller, this movie is one that you can't miss.

The scene is early 1990s Philadelphia, and Logan Lerman plays Charlie, an incoming freshman in high school who has lately been having a tough time. It's alluded that he used to hear voices and "see things," and things got worse after a tragic event involving his best friend in 8th grade. As a 9th grader, he has no friends, even though his sister, Candace (Nina Dobrev), attends the same school as him; she's too busy hanging out with her boyfriend, Ponytail Derek (Nicholas Braun), to introduce Charlie to people. Charlie soon becomes friends with Patrick (Ezra Miller), though, a senior retaking his freshman shop class, and he introduces Charlie to fellow seniors Sam (Emma Watson), Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), and others who aren't afraid to "be different."

Charlie has a major crush on Sam, who ends up being his first kiss; after going to the Sadie Hawkins dance with Mary Elizabeth, however, he finds himself suddenly dating her, which he's not really happy about. Sam is dating an older college guy, meanwhile, and Charlie is afraid to tell her about his feelings. Patrick is secretly dating the school quarterback, because the quarterback has a girlfriend and doesn't want to come out of the closet to his friends. Charlie must navigate through freshman year of high school, but soon finds that life is much happier when you have friends to share it with.

Won't Back Down


When I was in New York for a blogging conference in August, I had the opportunity to attend a red carpet screening of Won't Back Down. Following the screening, there was a Q&A session with actresses Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rosie Perez, and the director. I didn't know much about the movie going in to it, other than it was about a failing school system, and I was blown away by both the performances and the quality of the content in it; this film is going to be a serious contender when awards season rolls around.

Jamie (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hysteria) works two jobs to support herself and her daughter, Malia (Emily Alyn Lind, TV's Revenge). She would like to send Malia to a private school, because her current school is awful, but she can't afford it. Nona (Viola Davis, The Help) works as a teacher - one of the only good teachers, actually - at Malia's school, and has a son. Both Nona and Jamie would like to see the school improved, but the only way to do it is to take control of the school system themselves; it's doable but takes a lot of time and effort. The teachers at Adams Elementary are against this as well, because if they embrace it, it means them losing their tenures (in some cases) and having to leave the teachers union, which protects their jobs - there's no job security if the new school ends up failing. Fellow teacher Michael (Oscar Isaac, Drive) who strikes up a relationship with Malia's mother is hesitant to fully "commit to the cause" because of this. Jamie and Nona must get their proposal accepted and change their school, otherwise there is no hope for their children's education.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review and GIVEAWAY: Halloween Cartoon Collection DVD - 4 winners!

It's that time of year: the weather is getting colder (at least here in Michigan), October is around the corner, and Halloween is fast approaching. Mill Creek Entertainment has provided me with FOUR copies of their Halloween Cartoon Collection DVD to give to my lucky readers.

I watched a few of the episodes on the DVD and it's great for kids. My favorite was "Nothin' Says Lovin' like Somethin' from a Coven," from the Sabrina The Animated Series. I used to watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch - the live-action version - when I was a kid, and the characters in the TV show are mostly the same. Salem the cat is voiced by the same actor, too, and Melissa Joan Hart (who was Sabrina in the live-action series) voices one of the aunts, who are also witches. The episode was interesting, too, and I think adults would enjoy it as much as their kids would.

Here's a little more about the DVD:

It’s No Trick, Ten Halloween Treats For Kids of All Ages!

Ten spooktackular animated TV shows guaranteed to provide a ghoulishly good time for all kids!

Celebrate Halloween with “Mona the Vampire”, “Richard Scarry’, “Sabrina the Animated Series”, "Archie’s Weird Mysteries" and many other cartoon favorites all on one DVD. It’s sure to be a boo-rific time!

CONTENTS:

1 Busy World of Richard Scarry - The New Neighbors / The First Halloween Ever
2 Archie’s Weird Mysteries - Halloween of Horror
3 The Littles - A Littles’ Halloween
4 Mona the Vampire - Spirit of the Woods / The Bogeyman Cometh
5 Ripley’s Believe It or Not - The Vampire Kit
6 Sabrina The Animated Series - Nothin’ Says Lovin’ like Somethin’ from a Coven
7 Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? - Trick or Treat
8 Mummies Alive - Ra, Ra, Ra, Ra
9 Bump in the Night - Night of the Living Bread
10 Johnny Test - Johnny Holiday/Johnny Test Monster Starter

BONUS EPISODE
Hey Vern, It’s Ernest - It’s Holidays!

To enter the giveaway: fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Contest ends at 11:59pm EST on Monday, October 1st. U.S. addresses only.

Good luck!

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Trouble with the Curve


Trouble with the Curve has both the advantage and disadvantage of having a great A-list cast. The advantage is that it will draw people to the theater to see the film - you've got Clint Eastwood, Justin Timberlake, Amy Adams. However, the disadvantage is that the trailers made the film seem better than it actually was, even though the story it tells is an interesting one.

The film is about family issues and learning to open up, though it masquerades as a baseball movie. Gus (Eastwood) has been scouting for the Atlanta Braves for almost his whole life, and he lives for his job. His eyes are starting to give out on him, which makes seeing players difficult, but he's stubborn and refuses to see an eye specialist. His daughter, Mickey (Adams), is a lawyer who is angling to make partner at her firm this year. Pete (John Goodman), one of Gus's good friends and Braves coworker, hears about Gus's eye problems and pleads with Mickey to accompany Gus to his annual trip to the Carolinas to scout out high school players, so that she can make sure he's okay and also maybe help him with his scouting. While there, they run in to Johnny (Timberlake), an old recruit of Gus's who blew out his arm and now is a recruiter for the Red Sox. Johnny and Mickey start up a tentative relationship, but at the same time Mickey has to somehow repair her relationship with her father, which has always been rocky.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beautiful Creatures: Feb. 14, 2013

I don't usually write posts this far in advance about movies coming out, but this film looks fantastic, with a great cast as well. It has the song "Seven Devils" in the trailer (Florence and the Machine) which I've been obsessed with since last season's Revenge finale, and the film looks like Practical Magic meets Alice in Wonderland meets The Skeleton Key. I'm definitely excited to see this movie once it hits theaters.

The movie comes out on February 14, 2013. See below for the trailer.

Official synopsis:
A supernatural love story set in the South, “Beautiful Creatures” tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers: Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), a young man longing to escape his small town, and Lena (Alice Englert), a mysterious new girl. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town. Oscar® nominee Richard LaGravenese (“The Fisher King,”“P.S. I Love You”) directs from his adaptation of the first novel in the best-selling series by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. The film stars Alden Ehrenreich (“Tetro”), newcomer Alice Englert, Academy Award® winner Jeremy Irons (“Reversal of Fortune”) Oscar® nominee Viola Davis (“The Help,” “Doubt”), Emmy Rossum (TV’s “Shameless”) and Academy Award® winner Emma Thompson (“Howard’s End,” “Sense and Sensibility”). Erwin Stoff (“Water for Elephants”) is producing with Academy Award® nominees Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson (“The Blind Side”), Molly Smith (“Something Borrowed”) and Oscar® nominee David Valdes (“The Green Mile”). The behind-the-scenes team includes Academy Award®-winning director of photography Philippe Rousselot (“A River Runs Through It”), production designer Richard Sherman (“Gods and Monsters”), editor David Moritz (“Jerry Maguire”) and Oscar® -nominated costume designer Jeffrey Kurland (“Bullets Over Broadway”). Opening February 13, 2013, “Beautiful Creatures” is a presentation of Alcon Entertainment and will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment company.

Monday, September 17, 2012

GIVEAWAY: Hostel + Hostel II double feature Blu-ray

I am definitely not a person you'd want to watch a scary movie with - in fact, I've seen only a handful over the past few years - but I've heard a lot about the Hostel franchise. These are both part of the "Quentin Tarantino Presents..." series, though directed by Eli Roth (and Hostel was written by him); Quentin Tarantino directed some of the more interesting and unusual films of the past decade, such as the Kill Bill franchise.

Mill Creek Entertainment and Tower PR have given me the Hostel and Hostel II double feature on Blu-ray to give to one lucky reader! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter.

Contest ends at 11:59pm EST on Monday, September 24th. U.S. addresses only.

Good luck!

*For those of you who aren't scary movie fans: stay tuned for a Halloween Cartoon Collection DVD giveaway soon - I have 4 to give away!)

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Guest post: Martin McDonagh and Seven Psychopaths


By: Doug Glaston

Irish playwright Martin McDonagh is the kind of guy that looks to have gotten quite a bit of respect in his native country, where he is described as one of the most important ambassadors of the craft. His plays have received quite a bit of exposure on Broadway as well, though I am not quite as familiar with them as I am with his films.

It wasn't really until 2005 that McDonagh had gotten attention in the world of cinema for his Oscar-winning short film Six Shooter with Brendan Gleeson. If you haven't seen it, well, what else should I say? See it. Please. It's less than thirty minutes.

McDonagh then really turned some heads in 2008 with his incredible film (certainly my favorite of 2008, In Bruges). This was McDonagh's first feature film, and it also starred Gleeson alongside Colin Farrell.

The story focuses on two hit men hiding out in the stunning Belgian city of Bruges after Farrell's character makes a colossal mistake after his first hit. The trailers of the film make it look like a rowdy ol' “shoot em' up” with Tarantinoesque dialogue, which yeah, it kind of does.

But In Bruges explores one man coming to terms with his unintentional fallout – not even being good at being something evil – killing people for money, and for no other reason. The movie also features a filmset that stars a smart-ass, animal tranquilizer-ridden dwarf (Jordan Prentice) and other characters dressing up for a “Euro-trash” film. The costumes that they wear point to some painfully transparent spiritual symbolism that reflects on the demons of Farrell's suicidal character.

When you take into account McDonagh's first two films, there's one thing that he really likes (but might hate) – violence. Except for some scenes in In Bruges, he takes away any emotional contingent to feel with his characters, since none of them seem to even really care about their own weapons. The bullet kills others, not them. That's just the way it is, ya know?

Now we'll all have a chance to see McDonagh go at it again at the end of the year with the release of Seven Psychopaths. The film has already been released in Canada - Toronto at least – and will be out in American theaters on October 12.

Reading into the plot took several attempts to get my head around it. Colin Farrell plays a writer who wants to finish a script or screenplay called Seven Psychopaths.

Apparently finishing the beast of a script has proven difficult for the character, and with the help of his buddies (who will be played by Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken), the two go on a dog kidnapping campaign with a psychotic mobster who will be played by Woody Harrelson. Do I really have to try and make this sound any better?

I can actually, considering the fact that Tom Waits (who only appears with a little bunny in the trailer), and Olga Kurylenko will be in the film as well.

If I didn't know about McDonagh before Seven Psychopaths, I'd say that the film looks completely ridiculous and will probably be a huge flop – which seems to be a common curse of 2012. But the guy is no dummy, and he certainly has some tricks up his sleeves with this one.

Before you rush to see this, I'd highly suggest you go for In Bruges and Six Shooter first. McDonagh has a distinct picture of how he paints his characters. More so, how the characters perceive one another. I expect a similar picture for Seven Psychopaths, but I wouldn't be upset if it was completely different. If he can pull this one off, McDonagh might prove himself as one of the more versatile directors and writers in the industry today.

Doug Glaston works as an entertainment blogger for aspiredirect.com, where he focuses on latest films available. He has also made contributions to a number of techie blogs as well, since that's kind of his thing.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Arbitrage


The word on Arbitrage before the screening was that Richard Gere gives an Oscar-worthy performance in it, and that much was true. While the beginning and middle portions of the movie were a little slow, the story soon picks up and draws you in, regardless of its slow start.

Robert Miller (Gere) has it all: a loving wife, children and grandchildren, a huge mansion in Manhattan. What we don't know at first, however, is that he is trying to sell his company because the company is deeply in debt. He's fudged the papers so that this is covered up, but his daughter (Brit Marling) eventually finds out. He's having an affair with a French artist, Julie (Laetitia Casta) even though his wife (Susan Sarandon) still loves him, and he pays for Julie's apartment, which is connected to her gallery. One night after he is very tired, he gets into a car accident, and this sets off a chain of events that will shape the rest of the movie.

Finding Nemo 3D


Finding Nemo originally hit theaters in May 2003, when I was finishing up my sophomore year of high school. I saw it in theaters because I was (and am) a big Disney/Pixar fan, and I thought it was great. Now, nine years later, it's back on the big screen in 3D. I still ended up enjoying the film, although it's not one of my favorite Pixar movies; however, it definitely has stood the test of time, and is still worth seeing again in the theater.

Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) and his wife are clownfish who live in the Australian ocean, and they have over 100 baby clownfish on the way. After an accident that also claims Marlin's wife, only one of the embryos survive, leaving Marlin to raise Nemo (Alexander Gould) as a "single parent." Because of this, he's definitely overprotective, and when it's time for Nemo's first day of school, Marlin is reluctant to let him go. It turns out his fears were not unfounded, as Nemo swims into open waters on a dare and gets caught by humans. Marlin is desperate to find Nemo but must conquer his own fears of the vast ocean, though he eventually finds a friend, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) to go on the journey with him.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Gardner-White Blog for a Grand

This is not a post about movies, celebrities, or entertainment in general, unless your idea of entertainment is to go from store to store every weekend.

This is a post to get myself some free furniture.

IKEA TV stand circa 2006, U of M dorm room
Gardner-White is challenging Michigan bloggers to write a post about our current furniture and what we would like to replace. The answer to that, my readers, is simple: I have nothing, and therefore everything needs replacing! For the past three years, since I graduated college, I have lived with my parents, and the only article of furniture currently mine is an IKEA TV cart, circa sophomore year (2006), that we still use today for our TV and Blu-Ray player. (or I should say, my Blu-Ray player; the VCR - I kid you not - is my parents')

Sure, I have bedroom furniture, but I will not be taking it with me when I move - I have a twin-sized bed and some random shelves and dressers that I've had since I was 7 or 8 and lived in Illinois. They are heavy too, and so I will need at least one new dresser for my new place.

So far on my "to buy" list is:

  • Double or queen-sized mattress
  • Dresser
  • Kitchen table and four chairs
  • TV stand (because apparently the one item that is mine I can't take with me ... it's been taken hostage by my parents. And their VCR.)
  • 1 or 2 couches
  • And probably a few little things, like a nightstand and some lamps, especially if my new apartment doesn't have overhead lighting
One item on the Gardner-White site that looks really nice is the Tahoe Black Leather Reclining Sofa, $588 on sale:

I've been told that leather sofas are the easiest to clean, rather than cloth, so if I was the grand prize $1000 Gardner-White gift card winner, one of the first things I would buy would be a leather sofa. This one looks super comfortable and I love reclining chairs/sofas - they're always so nice to sit in.

Gardner-White, please pick me to be your $1000 grand prize winner! I would use the money wisely and it would definitely be nice to not have to worry about all of the furniture expenses that I am preparing to have. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Words


Although the plot set-up in The Words is not the best, the story still will manage to intrigue and fascinate you. The actors all are excellent in their roles, with Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Irons giving standout performances, and its instrumental-based music helps to underscore the film as well. That being said, the movie would have been stronger had the Dennis Quaid/Olivia Wilde portion been removed by letting the story stand on its own two feet rather than revolving around a narrator, and an inconsistent narrator at that.

The film opens where Clay Hammond (Quaid), a writer, is being honored for his book, The Words. As he is reading the beginning of the novel, we see Daniella (Wilde) slip into the audience unnoticed, riveted by his speech. The movie then immediately shows us the scene Clay is reading: the two characters in the book, Rory (Cooper) and his wife Dora (Zoe Saldana), running through the rain to catch their limo. It then jumps back five years, when Rory and Dora were dating and Rory was trying to be a full-time writer, though he hadn't yet sold his first book. He asks his father (J.K. Simmons) for help with expenses for one more month and his father reluctantly gives it to him, saying that this will be the last time and that Rory should get a real job.

After shopping his book around, Rory does get a real job, at an agency, where he hopes to one day pitch his book to an agent. Meanwhile, he saves some money, and he and Dora get married, and go to Paris on their honeymoon (working at an agency as a mailroom attendant must pay more than we thought!). While in an antique shop there, he falls in love with an old leather satchel, and Dora buys it for him as a gift.