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!
a Rafflecopter giveaway