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.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph: In theaters 11/2/12


Wreck-It Ralph is Disney's new movie coming to theaters on November 2nd, and it looks great.

It's about a video game character (Ralph) who has been doing his "job" for the past thirty years or so, and is ready for a change. He decides to leave his game and try to find a position in another game, but he didn't realize that video games have become so violent over the past few years.

Ralph is voiced by John C. Reilly (Step Brothers), and also includes Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer (TV's 30 Rock), Jane Lynch (TV's Glee), Mindy Kaling (TV's The Office), and more.

"Bad Guys Anonymous"
credit: ifc.com
This movie intrigues me for a few reasons.

It kind of reminds me of Tron, though in this case the character is already inside the video game (rather than stepping inside it). The video game Ralph is in is an "old school" type game too - think Pacman or the old Super Mario Brothers - and I like the feel of those; it will bring you back to a time before everyone had handheld video game devices, and when you had to go to the arcade to play your favorite games.

Wreck-It Ralph will be playing in Disney Digital 3D in select theaters. Check out the trailer below.

*Disclosure: I wrote this post for Enjoying the Magic as a guest blogger. All opinions listed here, however, are my own.