Sunday, November 09, 2014


Early reviews for Interstellar have generally been positive, but varied. The Christopher Nolan flick been called "sentimental" and "thrilling", "clunky" and "epic." Like many movies of this scope, Interstellar has its hits and its misses.

Where it doesn't miss? It tells one hell of a story!

Despite its ambition, Interstellar stays focused on the narrative. It doesn't allow special effects -- there are plenty, and they are cool -- or the characters to overshadow the story. The story is told so well the audience can feel the emotional bond between pilot-turned-farmer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and Cooper's daughter, Murphy, even though the two have few scenes together after the first act.

Nolan's epic -- and it is an epic -- may be flawed. But those flaws are forgiven.

Interstellar is just that damn good.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gone Girl

From Se7en, and on through Fight Club, Panic Room, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I've admired the work of David Fincher. His stripped down, stark, in-the-moment narration keeps me riveted to the screen, captivated by the story.

Gone Girl was no different.

Fincher's raw, in-your-face storytelling reminds viewers that we humans have dark, sinister places deep within our souls. And way too often -- to get what we want, especially -- we go there, despite how our actions might affect others. Even others we are supposed to love.

Affleck is fine in his role as Nick Dunne, and Rosamund Pike is brilliant as Amy. But it's the structure of the film, along with the visual tone set by Fincher, that gets the flick across.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Edge Of Tomorrow

It took me about a decade to earn my first degree from Marshall University. There were some legitimate reasons for the delay: I changed my major three times in the first four years, and took a semester off here and there to work. With hindsight, however, it's clear there was  one primary reason for my slacker behavior:

The video game arcade housed in the university Student Center.

It will make little sense to Millennials, but in the mid-1980s one had to travel to an arcade (while carrying a pocket full of quarters) to play one's favorite video game. The university arcade had all the games: Pac-Man, Tron, Donkey Kong, pin-ball machines, foosball. Whatever your taste, it was there for a quarter.

And I spent my quarters on Commando.

Super Joe, the soldier who kicks ass and takes names in the world of Commando, gets airdropped into the jungle and has to shoot and grenade his way past enemy soldiers to complete his mission. Commando progressed through increasingly difficult levels. Players became experts at Commando by playing it over and over again, learning from each failure to advance another level.

The formula was always the same: Drop a quarter, get shot and lose a Super Joe, remember the pattern of the enemy specific to that level and space, drop another quarter and don't make the same mistake again.

I spent a lotta time as Super Joe. I recall once skipping a History final exam so that I could keep riding the great game I was having. (Like I said, I wasn't the most dedicated of students.)

Edge Of Tomorrow reminded me of those days as an undergraduate, plopping in quarter after quarter for a new Super Joe. Major William Cage, the character played by Tom Cruise, lives the last 48 hours of his life hundreds of times as he tries to save the planet from an alien invasion. Learning from each experience, Cage lives, dies, and repeats until he finally gets it right. The flick was surprisingly fun to watch. Dramatic and complete with appropriate moments of humor, Edge Of Tomorrow kept my attention and had me craving more.

I'm just thankful I didn't have to miss a History final exam to watch it.

A Million Ways To Die In The West

I've discovered Way To Die # 1,000,001: Sitting through the entire 135 minute runtime of this Blazing Saddles wannabe.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

When The Game Stands Tall

Too little passion
Caviezel speaks in whisper
Throughout the whole flick

Still . . .

I choked up a bit
At Chris Ryan's late game stand
Brotherhood trumps self

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Other Woman

An open letter to Mark King, the cheating husband who serves as the comic foil for leading ladies of the film:

August 3, 2014

Dear Mr. King,

After spending nearly two hours with your wife, Kate, I have to say:

I understand.

The Film Geek

Friday, August 01, 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Back in the mid-70s, when comic books cost a quarter and stories were thirty - plus pages long, I'd buy a dozen or more each Saturday from the Ben Franklin and spend an entire afternoon reading.

The X-Men. Hulk. The Avengers. The Defenders. Tons of DC stuff. The fantasy world of comics was intoxicating; I read any and every title I could get my hands on.

Except Guardians Of The Galaxy.

Because I didn't like the first few issues of the comic,  I plunked down my two-bits for other titles. My memory  of the first run of that comic -- summed up pretty well as "Meh,"  -- made me doubt I'd enjoy this flick.

Boy, was I wrong.

James Gunn's space opera wastes no time drawing the audience into the story of Peter Quill. Quill loses his mother to cancer and gets abducted by space pirates within the first few minutes of the film. What follows is 115 minutes of pure popcorn fueled adrenaline. Guardians is a balanced blend of melodrama, romance, suspense, humor, action, 80s pop songs, and references to Kevin Bacon.

And it's the most fun I've had watching a Marvel flick since The Avengers.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


For several years an on-going series was posted on this site called "Flashback! Bad Movies That Haunt Me." The bit generally involved me ripping on some movie I saw as a kid that was so poorly made that I remembered the badness as a result.

Is there a statute of limitations on the number of years before I can add Lucy to that list?

Luc Besson's flick begins with promise. Scarlett Johansson in the lead role is a huge get. Add a plot involving an international drug ring, plan to tell the story with interesting imagery, and sign mega-star Morgan Freeman to co-star and you might expect producers to sit back and rake in the cash and critical praise.

The problem is, Lucy doesn't deliver on its promise.

Freeman -- once an actor's actor who delivered masterful supporting performances -- is used in such a deeply peripheral role he hardly seems connected at all to the movie. The drug ring portion of the plot has no substance after the first half of the flick. And the imagery --especially the quick shot of a mouse about to be captured in a mousetrap -- comes across more pretentious than interesting.

The audience is told over and over again that we humans use only about 10% of our brain capacity. (The 10% bit isn't true science, but it's an important MacGuffin for this plot.) After watching Lucy, however, I'm afraid my brain capacity may have significantly diminished.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Four score and seven
Days ago, my wife brought forth
a new DVD

Honest Abe, it seems,
Was obsessed with killing vamps
With a silver ax

Monsters, bloodsuckers,
Civil War and slavery;
In the end, Abe wins

He reconnects states
Gets revenge for his dead mum.
Then heads off to Fords

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Odd Life Of Timothy Green

Dear Wayne LaPierre:

Perhaps I should have written this open letter to the President of the National Rifle Association, David Keene. But presidents seem to come and go at the NRA; you, as Executive Vice President, seem a pretty consistent face in the organization. So, this open letter is addressed to you.

My children and I enjoy movies. We watch a lot of them together at home, but we really enjoy the experience of a theater. The big screen, digital audio, the smell of popcorn, sharing the experience with a large community of people -- that's what going to the movies is all about. On this rainy Labor Day we decided going to the movies sounded better than sitting around bored at home, so we headed downtown for a matinee of The Odd Life of Timothy Green. It was while standing in life for the tickets that it happened.

"I'm nervous, Daddy." My 11-year-old daughter's comment was so outside the norm for the context -- we were, after all, standing in line for a PG-rated flick -- that it didn't register clearly at first with me.

"What," I asked, focused on finding my wallet so I could pay for the tickets.

"I'm scared. I'm so scared I'm shaking."

I signed the receipt at the window, then pulled her to the side so we could talk. "I don't understand, what is making you feel scared?"

"You, know," and she paused, and looked at the ground . . . "What happened in Colorado at the Batman movie. Do you think that could happen here? Today? To us?"

I realized this was the first time she's been inside a movie theater since that tragic July shooting at the Colorado opening of The Dark Knight Rises. She was scared. I grabbed her and held her close, and reassured her.

"No, honey, it couldn't happen here. And always remember: if something bad like that happens, I'll always protect you." But even as I said those words I knew they weren't true. It can happen anywhere, at any time. It's happened once, and it will happen again. And when it does, people will be helpless to protect themselves.

The NRA, Mr. LaPierre, spends obscene amounts of money lobbying members of congress and other politicians to ensure the interests of the organization are looked after when gun legislation is created. The NRA spent nearly $7 million dollars on elections during the last mid-term, and about $75 million on campaigns during the last two decades. That kind of money buys a lot of favor in D.C., Mr. LaPierre, and influences a lot of votes when it comes to decisions made about gun control.

I'm curious: In a culture that is no longer shocked by nearly 9,000 gun murders each year, and in a society not disturbed for more than a 48 hour news cycle about public shootings that occur in malls, at the workplace, in movie theaters, and at schools, I ask -- Who lobbies for the safety and psychological comfort of my daughter? The rights of American citizens to purchase guns does not supersede the right of my 11-year-old to feel safe -- and be safe -- as she travels about in her home community.

Sure, I know the NRA will continue lobby for broad access to firearms, and it will continue to point the finger of blame at individual criminals who use guns to commit horrific crimes. Many in the American public will continue to blend the Second Amendment with Jesus, and talk about this insane concept called God-given rights.

In the meantime, I'll hold my daughter's hand a little tighter, and tell her more lies about how safe she is on our public streets.