Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Predictions

Nothing like waiting till the last minute. The Oscars are starting in about an hour. Because I am too lazy to type up all the nominations, you can click here to read all of them. I am just going to list my picks and predictions.

Best Actor - Micky Rourke is going to win. I would be fine with any of the nominees winning, as long as Brad Pitt doesn't win. Sorry, but I thought his performance was boring. He never showed any emotion at all. I would really love to see Richard Jenkins win.

Best Supporting Actor - This will be Heath Ledger. Even if he hadn't passed away a year ago, he would still win this. He is my pick. By the way, Josh Brolin should have been nominated last year for No Country For Old Men. He got overshadowed by Javier Bardem, but Brolin held that movie together. And I don't really think Robert Downey Jr. should have been nominated for Tropic Thunder, but I'm happy he was.

Best Actress - Kate Winslet is going to win, but she should have been nominated for Revolutionary Road. She will win because she has been nominated so many times before. But my pick would be Anne Hathaway.

Best Supporting Actress - Penelope Cruz will win this, and I don't really have a favorite. I thought they were all good, except I'm not sure Amy Adams belongs in this group. She has been great in other things, but I didn't think her performance in Doubt was anything special.

Best Picture - this will be Slumdog Millionaire. I don't think any of the movies qualify as best picture. Dark Knight should have been nominated. If I had to rate the 5 best picture nominees, it would go: Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. So I guess my pick would be Frost/Nixon.

One more,

Best Original Screenplay - I think Milk is going to win this, but my vote is for In Bruges. In Bruges was my favorite movie last year, and this is its only nomination.

Well, that's all. I know my betters have posted their predictions for every category, but I am very lazy.

Fired Up! - 2 1/2 stars

There is a lot wrong with this movie. I'm not sure I feel good about myself for recommending it. But I have to admit that I liked it. I laughed a lot, and I think the two lead actors (Nicholas D'Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen) were very good together. I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel to this movie, or at least see the actors team up again. They play a couple of high school jocks who decide to blow off football camp in order to go to cheerleader camp. They figure since they have banged just about every girl at their high school, this will give them a chance to hook up with girls from other schools.

First, what's wrong with this movie? Well, its PG-13. A teen sex comedy should not be PG-13. The material isn't intended for young kids. Based on the subject matter, I would consider the movie to be rated R. This is not a movie I would take my mom to, or take a kid to. This is a movie for a group of friends to go to. And the audience for this movie would appreciate some nudity (although I have to admit, the way they got around swearing was kind of funny - they came up with some pretty good alternate curse words that are better than 'fetch').

Also, this movie rips off every other romantic comedy, especially Wedding Crashers. See if this sounds familiar: the two guys come up with a way to score with as many chicks as they can, one of the guys starts to fall in love with a particular girl, she has a boyfriend who is a jerk, said boyfriend eventually reveals what the guys are up to, the guys are told to leave, they do, the guy misses the girl, he decided to go back and get the girl.

As I was watching it, I was thinking I hope the boyfriend doesn't tell the girls what the guys are up to. For a minute, it seemed like the movie wasn't going down that road. When the boyfriend says they are only here to pick up girls, the girls say "we know." But then the boyfriend produces a piece of evidence that reveals a bit more, and the girls all get pissed. Even though they need the guys to compete in the big cheerleading competition, they tell the guys to go away. I knew the guys would go away and return just in time to help the girls compete.

Another thing wrong with this movie is the guys are already successful with the ladies. From the first scene, we see they are able to get any girl they want. So we don't really root for them. The story would have worked better if the guys were unable to hook up with girls. Then we would be rooting for them to finally get some at cheerleader camp.

But there were some things I liked. Besides the leads, John Michael Higgins was very funny (as always). Philip Baker Hall and Edie McClurg were in it, but they were underused. The girl who played the younger sister was very funny, and the best scene was when all the cheerleaders watched Bring It On. Just like a bunch of Star Wars nerds, they were able to quote every single line.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The International - 3 stars

I went into this with low expectations. For some reason, the trailer didn't look very good to me. I saw it several times in theaters, and I got sick of it. So I was happily surprised that the movie was good.

Clive Owen is an Interpol agent going after an international bank. The bank is in the middle of an arms dealing ring, and they kill anyone who gets in their way. There is a cool shootout that seems to come out of nowhere and takes place inside the Guggenheim Museum. There is a lot of very good acting, especially by the great Armin Mueller-Stahl (Eastern Promises). He plays a character named Wilhelm. When I heard his name, I was hoping that he was named that as a joke by the screenwriter. Unfortunately, we never get to hear him scream ...

The ending is a little confusing. It doesn't wrap up everything the way most action movies do. Its kind of ambiguous. But the movie is very good.

Friday the 13th - 3 stars

I like the Friday the 13th movies. I also like the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. If I had to choose between them, I'd choose Nightmare on Elm Street. I've seen all the Nightmare movies many times. As a kid, I was really into Freddy Krueger. But I was never scared by him. He was kind of like James Bond, always using lame one-liners. But Jason scared the crap out of me.

The new Friday the 13th is kind of a remake of the first 4 movies, all merged into one. Actually, its a remake of 2, 3, and 4, since the events of the first movie are recapped at the beginning of Part 2. In this movie, we get a prologue that shows Mrs. Voorhees being beheaded by the last survivor of her killing spree. She kills the counselors for letting her son Jason drown. But of course, Jason didn't drown. After his mother is beheaded, a young Jason finds it. For some reason, I was reminded of Attach of the Clones, when young Bobba Fett is looking at the head of his father, Jango.

The prologue took place in 1980. We flash forward to present day and a group of horny teenagers are camping in the woods near Camp Crystal Lake. Adult Jason shows up and kills them. As they were being killed, I was thinking wow, they're getting killed off pretty fast. This movie's gonna be over in no time. Well, after the last one is killed, the title of the movie appears. Oh, I get it. Its a pre-title sequence, just like in James Bond. Then we get introduced to a new batch of teenagers. We will spend the rest of the movie with them.

The movie is a lot of fun, if you like slasher movies. We get pretty much everything we want in a movie like this: good kills, boobs, and some good scares. The only complaints I have is the characters aren't well developed. There are 4 main guys: the guy looking for his sister, the rich asshole, the black guy, and the asian guy. But I lost track of how many girls there were. There are a couple of hot blondes, and a couple of hot brunettes. They weren't written very well, and the actors weren't very good. They were so forgettable that at the end when one of the girls was killed, I wasn't sure which one was killed, the sister or the other girl.

Other than that, I liked the movie. I will have to go back and re-watch the other movies to decide where this one falls in my scale of the best to the worst of the Fridays. But I still like Part 4 - The Final Chapter the best.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Push - 1 1/2 stars

One of my favorite Stephen King stories is Firestarter. Its about a girl with powers. She got them because in the '60s, her parents participated in an experiment. A government agency called The Shop was experimenting with psychic drugs. This girl's parents both developed psychic powers, and she inherited them. Her father could push people and make them think whatever he wants them to think. When he gives a cab driver a dollar bill, he makes the cab driver think its a five hundred dollar bill.

The movie Firestarter starred Drew Barrymore, David Keith, Martin Sheen, and George C. Scott. Of course the movie is not as good as the book, but its still pretty good. I bring this up because that's what Push reminded me of. Dakota Fanning is the young girl with powers. Chris Evans plays the girl's father figure, and he also has powers. Just like in Firestarter, there is a government agency that is after them.

I don't know if the makers of Push were influenced by Firestarter or not. They could just as easily be influenced by X-Men or Heroes. The big problem with the movie is its boring. There are a lot of scenes where the main characters just sit around and wonder what to do. The movie is almost 2 hours, and they should have cut it down by about 20 minutes.

There is some cool stuff in the movie. When they are using their powers to fight, it reminds me of playing Force Unleashed. Using 'the force', they pick people up and throw them into walls or off of buildings. There are a couple of guys who can scream so loud it breaks glass and ruptures internal organs. The big final fight at the end of the movie was really cool. I just wish there was more of that in the movie.

The Pink Panther 2 - 2 stars

I was dreading this movie. I didn't see the last Pink Panther movie with Steve Martin, but I saw enough from the previews to get an idea of what the movie would be like. Its a kids movie. I think kids may enjoy seeing Steve Martin do a goofy french accent and make faces. I didn't hate it, but I can't recommend it. I think I laughed a few times and chuckled a few more times. That's about it.

One strange thing about the movie is Jean Reno's performance. He is a French actor. He has been in many American movies where he speaks English. When he does, he already has a French accent. But in this movie, he sounded strange. I think he was kind of copying Steve Martin's accent. So you have a French actor doing an exaggerated French accent. Weird.

You can see most of the jokes coming a mile away. There is a scene with The Pope where Steve Martin puts on The Pope's robes and hat and goes to the window. Boy, I wonder if the crowd is going to think he is The Pope??? Then he leans over the railing. What a surprise it will be if he falls over! I think Eurotrip did a 'mistaken for The Pope' gag much better.

Lily Tomlin is in this movie. Watching her and Steve Martin together, it made me really want to watch All of Me again.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, I have never seen a Pink Panther movie before. I haven't seen any of the ones with Peter Sellers. I have heard they are great, and I'm ashamed to admit that this is the first Pink Panther movie I have seen. I head A Shot in the Dark is one of the best. Better put that on my netflix queue ...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Buddy and Me

Growing up, we had a hamster, two rabbits, a pot bellied pig, and one dog (all at different times). The dog was a beagle named Barney. We did our best with him, but he was a huge pain. He would need to go out at 2 am, and once outside he would start howling at the moon. Sometimes he would bite. I remember my brother and his friends would run from the back door to the trampoline so Barney wouldn't bite their ankles. Eventually we took Barney to the humane society. I always felt like we could have done a better job training him, and I thought it would be a bad idea to get another dog.

In 1998 my brother bought a dog. Me, my brother, and my sister were all living at home with my mom at the time. I remember it came as a surprise to me. But I was happy, because even though I felt like a failure as a dog owner with Barney, I was happy to try again. Buddy was a golden retriever. We got him from my sister's friend, who bred and sold them. Pure bred, with papers. Buddy was the cutest thing I had ever seen. Usually when you pick up a dog, they want to be put down. Not Buddy. I would pick him up and he would lay his head on me.

Golden Retrievers are puppys for a long time. I think at the age of 3 he was still very hyper. He would always jump on people. This wasn't a problem when he was small, but as he got bigger it was a problem. When we would take him over to my grandparents' house, we would have to hold him so he wouldn't knock my grandma down. He also chewed everything in the house. We quickly learned not to leave anything even remotely edible on the counters, because he could get to just about anything if he smelled it.

I lived at home with Buddy there for maybe 5 years. Then I moved out. But only a year or so later, my brother got married and he couldn't keep Buddy. So Buddy came to live with me. I think I had him for 3 years before my brother bought a house and he could take Buddy back. Even though he was always technically my brother's dog, I got used to calling him my dog since he lived with me for so long.

My grandpa owned a large property in Midway. He was a train buff, and he had a miniature train called the Midway Shortline Railroad. It became famous. People would stop by and we would give them rides. Except for the fact that we didn't charge for rides, it was practically a business on Saturdays and holidays. For years, every Saturday I would go up there and drive the train. When Buddy was living with me, I brought him up there. I think he had the best time of his life up there. The yard was huge and well-maintained. The first thing he would do when we got there was to roll around in the grass (I didn't have a good lawn at my house).

While my aunt and I drove the train, and my grandpa sat up there supervising, Buddy would sit up there with us. Hundreds of kids would ride the train, and they all wanted to pet Buddy. He had many acres of field he could run around in. Then at the end of the day, we would put the train away and go back to the house. We would sit on the porch in the shade, drink cool drinks, and Buddy would lay at our feet.

Yesterday morning, my brother called to tell me there was something wrong with Buddy. I went up to his house and we took Buddy to the vet. The doctor was pretty sure he had a tumor on one of his internal organs, and he was hemorrhaging. He could operate, but it would be a very difficult recovery and at 11 years old, the odds were against him. The doctor recommended euthanasia. We agreed it was for the best, and so while my brother and I comforted him, he went to sleep for the last time.

Buddy was a good dog.

a few movie reviews

My Bloody Valentine 3-D - 1 1/2 stars

I like a good slasher movie, and this is not a good slasher movie. Its not terrible. Just very forgettable. There are some interesting scenes, such as the scene at the motel where one female victim is naked for about 5 minutes, and a midget is killed. The scene with the killer in the grocery store had potential, but it wasn't done very well.

The end reminded me of Scream. Remember when Sydney has the gun pointed at Randy and Stuart, both insisting that the other is the killer? Something very similar happens in this movie. The reveal of the killer is supposed to be a surprise, but I guessed who it was and what was going on 30 minutes into the movie.

I did like the 3-D effects. Most of the time, it wasn't about things flying at the audience. It just made the events on screen look more realistic. I'm really excited to see what James Cameron does with Avatar, which should come out at the end of this year.

Revolutionary Road - 3 stars

This is a hard movie to like. There is very little humor in it. Pretty much every character is depressed the entire movie. I am fine with a depressing movie and a depressing ending, but this was almost too much for me. This movie is reason number 1,937 why I will never get married and have kids.

The performances were all good, especially Michael Shannon as the mentally disturbed neighbor. His scenes are the most enjoyable in the movie.

The Wrestler - 3 stars

I've never been a huge Mickey Rourke fan, but now I am. This was an incredible performance. He plays Randy 'The Ram' Robinson. In the 80's he was one of the biggest wrestling stars in the world. Now, he is relegated to working in a grocery store and wrestling on the weekends in front of a hundred or so people in a school gym.

There is a lot of talk in the movie about how much better the 80's were. I agree with everything he says about that. Music in the 80's was great, and then grunge came along and killed hair metal. This topic is close to my heart considering I formed an 80's hair metal tribute band about 4 years ago (Sunset Strip). I think you could compare wrestling to those great hair bands. In the 80's, bands like Ratt, Warrant and Winger were playing to stadiums. Now, they tour and play in clubs. In the 80's, The Ram was wrestling in huge arenas. Now, his matches are small affairs.

My favorite scene has to be when he is walking from the back room of the grocery store to the deli counter. As he walks the hallways, we hear the sound of the crowd cheering, and he is imagining he is walking out to a big wrestling match. Then he walks thru the doorway and he is in a deli with customers waiting to be served. Breaks your heart.

He has two relationships in the movie. One is with a stripper played by Marisa Tomei, the other is with his daughter played by Evan Rachel Wood. The scenes with his daughter are also heart breaking. We know he was a bad father, but we don't know exactly what he did. We are torn between hating him for being a bad father, and wanting her to forgive him so he can have that relationship he wants so bad.

Taken - 3 stars

Taken is a rediculous movie but its a lot of fun. The trailer tells us everything we need to know about the setup: Liam Neeson is an ex-CIA, James Bond type of guy, his daughter is on vacation in Paris and is kidnapped, and he tells the kidnappers he is going to find them and kill them. The biggest question I had going in was how is he going to find them? Well, I can kind of buy some of it, but there are a lot of lucky coincidences that have to happen for him to find the bad guys.

First, we have the spotter. Now, when the girls arrive in Paris, a nice guy introduces himself and they share a cab ride from the airport. Now, anyone with half a brain knows that this is one of the kidnappers, or at least the guy who tells the kidnappers where to go. But the movie has to show us that he is a bad guy. After he drops the girls off, he gets on the phone to the bad guys to tell them about the two girls. Did we really need to see that? Was anyone in the audience surprised to find out he was a bad guy? Oh well.

When Liam Neeson arrives in Paris, the first thing he does is look for the spotter. He knows what he looks like because luckily his daughter got his silouette in a picture with her camera phone. He cases the airport near the same area where his daughter met him, and of course he is lucky enough to see the spotter trying to pick up another girl. Now, I can believe that. But it seems like there is a lot of curb area where the spotter could be working, and does he go there every day? At the same time of day? A little coincidental.

I especially enjoyed the scene where Neeson goes to an old friends' house for dinner, and what he does to get information out of the guy. I won't spoil it for you, but at the end of the scene he says "apologize to your wife for me."

There are many scenes where he takes out 10 - 20 bad guys single handedly. Sometimes they are shooting him with machine guns and they can't hit him. At one time, he is captured by the bad guys and they are going to kill him. The way he gets out is a big cheat. Luckily, the pipes are loose ...

finally, an update

I haven't posted for a while. Right in the middle of the Sundance Film Festival, I moved. This meant that for the first half of the festival, I was packing. I would try to get some done in the morning before I left, and when I got home (sometimes after midnight), I would try to get some more packing done. On top of moving, I didn't have the internet set up for the first several days I lived here. So that made it a little difficult to post updates.

I also had several band shows and rehearsals going on. Sunset Strip played on Friday and Saturday the 23rd and 24th, and Rage for Order and Black Vengeance played on Friday the 30th (yes, I'm in a lot of bands). So with everything else going on, I had to get a few rehearsals in.

The really bad part was the break in. After living in my new house for just a few days, I went to my car in the morning and found the passenger side window smashed. Someone had broken in and taken my backpack. In the backpack was my new camera, digital voice recorder, a library book, and various Sundance materials.

So while the first half of Sundance was a great experience for me, the second half was a complete bust. I didn't even go to Park City for the last several days. Next year, I plan to a) not move in January, b) not schedule any band shows (or rehearsals) during the festival, and c) hopefully not have any break ins.

I'm bummed that I missed out on the end of the festival. There are a lot of movies I wanted to see that I missed, such as The Cove, Kimjongilia, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, Reporter, Moon, Bronson, and many others. Hopefully most of them will be released in SLC.