Category Archives: Movies

I Laughed, I Cried

Last night we saw the greatest movie. Within the first two minutes I was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my cheek. Young@Heart is the touching story of an elderly chorus that tackles classic rock songs, and I’m here to tell you that the film walks you through hilarious episodes of them trying to learn the music, and heart wrenching scenes of human frailty. Its beautiful because the singers are endearing, you instantly like each one of them. Throughout the movie I kept thinking to myself that these people are so interesting, I’d love to have a cup of coffee and just visit with them. One of them reminded me of my great uncle Greenie, and that just brought a whole other set of emotions into the mix.

The music is nothing short of brilliant. The group covers The Rolling Stones, The Ramones, Coldplay, Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Gloria Gaynor, The Bee Gees, David Bowie and more. You’ll notice that none of this music is from their generation, and therein lies the beauty. When they sing the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”, or Talking Head’s “Life During Wartime” it brings a fresh perspective to the song, first because they sing it so well that its almost like the music was written for them and second because you know that these songs mean something different to them than it would to you or me.
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Bourne

We went to see the Bourne Ultimatum last weekend. Just as others have said, this movie is fantastic. I know that there were only three books, but they totally left it open for a fourth movie. That got me to thinking. Matt Damon has another good 30-40 years in him, so they could conceivably come out with 5-10 more movies in the Bourne movie franchise. The trick will be to keep this title theme going. Here are some humble suggestions, by yours truly:

  • The Bourne Challenge
  • The Bourne Declaration
  • The Bourne Democracy
  • The Bourne Proviso
  • The Bourne Confrontation
  • The Bourne Assertion
  • The Bourne Retirement
  • The Bourne Senility
  • The Bourne Demise
  • The Bourne Apparition

Some of those may be a stretch, but still…

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The Simpsons

I saw The Simpsons a couple of weeks ago. We went to see it on a Monday night, which I assumed would be less busy. WRONG. We arrived at the theater 20 minutes before showtime, and the only spot that was available was on the front row. Zuh? Granted, we were at the Alamo Drafthouse for a 7pm showing, but still.

Okay, so you’re in your seat and ready for the show. This is a good movie. I laughed. I was suspicious that I wasn’t going to like it because the newer Simpsons episodes haven’t done it for me. They skipped the opening scene and credits, which I like. Everyone knows the theme song by heart now, and the characters, and the whole sequence, so you might as well just start the movie. Okay, so that’s fresh, I’m open to more. The first 30 minutes they go overboard with gags and quick one liners. I became more suspicious.

About an hour into the movie I realized that they had me into the plot. The movie actually has a plot. Woo Hoo! That’s when I knew that I like the movie. Its not a realistic or plausible plot, but you never expected plausibility or realism from The Simpsons anyway, so why should the movie be any different?

One character dies in the movie. I’ll be curious to see if they survive in the TV show. Oh, and there’s brief nudity (HA!). If you think about it for 20 seconds I’ll bet you can figure out who. I thought it was pretty funny.

I’m glad that I saw the movie, I enjoyed it. I know that I’m not giving it a glowing review here, the truth is that I don’t think it is fantastic. I’m not dying to go see it again, but it was worth my $7. If you’ve ever enjoyed the TV show, then its worth seeing once, even if you wait until its out on DVD. I would guess that there’s a good chance I’ll see it again on DVD.

Shallow

I recently posted about how much I enjoyed seeing a movie with an encouraging and uplifting message, a movie with substance. Since then I’ve seen no less than three movies with considerably less substance, and I’ve enjoyed them as well.

A couple of week’s ago we decided on sushi and a movie for date night, and Ocean’s Thirteen was the choice. You know to expect from this movie, some witty banter between George Clooney and Brad Pitt, a few funny quips from Bernie Mac and snide ones from Al Pacino, progressive jazz riffs in the background, all set in the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas. You’re right, that’s exactly what it is. I loved it. Ocean’s Thirteen may be predictable, but its fun. We both laughed all the way through. You will, too.

Next up, I went to see Live Free or Die Hard with some of the guys in my bible study. Its totally a summer blockbuster, but I loved it. Its completely predictable, just as the other movies in the Die Hard franchise have been, but it also totally delivers on fantastic action. There were about 427 scenes where characters should have died but didn’t, followed by another 427 scenes with action shots that are physically impossible, but somehow the story line is strong enough to carry the movie in spite of these shortcomings. At the end of the night, I felt like I had gotten my money’s worth. If you’re a sucker for action I bet you’ll give it two thumbs up.

Finally, this past Monday I went to see Transformers. Once again, its totally a summer blockbuster. If you’re willing to overlook things like dialog and plot then you’ll likely enjoy it. The special effects are fantastic. The Autobots and Decepticons look great. They show them outside in the sunlight, in dark buildings and they never look like CGI. The imagery is seamless and realistic enough to be plausible (apart from the fact that its physically impossible). As a treat, one of the Autobots disguises himself as a new Camaro, so you’ll see some footage of a sweet car. I do like this movie. Lets just say it won’t be nominated for an academy and leave it at that.

What is it about predictable escapist movies? I can’t say they’re my favorite, but I definitely enjoy them. If you had to pick only one out of these three, I’d say either Ocean’s Thirteen or Live Free or Die Hard depending on your taste. But, you could definitely do worse than Transformers (Sicko, for example).

I’m going to have to find a movie with some substance to cleanse myself. Feel free to make recommendations.

Bella

Last night we got to preview a movie called Bella. The showing was sponsored by our governor Rick Perry, so we anticipated an agenda. How often do you get invited to see a movie before its official release though? So we went.

The showing was at Rivebend Centre. Traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as we anticipated so we stopped at Dragon Gate for sushi. Yum. The sushi was a bonus though, and not really relevant to the story.

I didn’t know anything about the movie when we went. Honestly, I didn’t even remember the title. And then, just wow. Its one of the best movies I’ve seen in the past year. I don’t want to give the story away, because you really should see it yourself. I won’t be giving too much away when I tell you that its the story of a single woman’s unexpected pregnancy, and one friend going out of his way to encourage her to not abort the baby. Its quite powerful, I was encouraged by the film.

After the showing, the executive produce said a few words, and then the lead actor, Eduardo Verástegui, came up to speak. He was an inspiration himself. I had never heard of him, but apparently he’s had success in both music and acting. After several years of acting on Mexican telenovelas he found a few roles in American film. He quickly recognized that he was being type-cast as either a Mexican criminal or a Don Juan style player, neither of which is very flattering to the Latino image.

Verástegui decided that he would change direction and only participate in films that he would be proud of. In his words, “I don’t want to have to cover my parents eyes when showing them my work.” Whoa, there’s a fresh perspective in film making! He went on to recognize that film is a very powerful medium, and that he wants to use his art to influence people in a positive way.

This change wasn’t without consequence. Verástegui spent three years out of work while looking for a film role that met his new criteria (that’s a sad commentary on our entertainment industry, eh?). He finally came to the conclusion that the only way his film career was going to continue was for him to produce his own movies. A few coincidences led to a collaborative effort with director Alejandro Monteverde, and with a few investors they formed Metanoia Films.

Bella is their first fruit, and its fantastic. It has already gotten the attention of the film industry through awards at several prominent film festivals. It opens in Texas on August 15 (Austin, Dallas, Houston & San Antonio). Depending on how successful it is in Texas it’ll open nationwide in September.

Honestly its funny to me that governor Rick Perry sponsored the viewing (not ha ha funny, perplexing funny). Not that he shouldn’t be endorsing the film. Frankly I can’t think of a better film for anyone to endorse. Its just vexing to me that a politician would promote a movie.

Either way its a great film. Go see this movie, you won’t be sorry.

Moviegoer

This was a movie weekend, sort of. Friday night we rented Stranger Than Fiction. Very clever. It covers new ground in a fun and compelling way, and the characters are interesting. It was as interesting as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but without the creepy undertones. Will Farrel is not my favorite. He’s not even on my list. But, he wasn’t his over the top SNL self in this role, and he did a great job. His interaction with Dustin Hoffman was believable and really entertaining. At the end of the movie you just kind of feel better. I give it two thumbs up, this was a really fun movie.

Then, on Saturday afternoon a friend and I went to a matinée showing of 300. OH. MY. GOSH. Let me start by saying that if you didn’t like Gladiator, Braveheart or Saving Private Ryan, then you should skip this one. The goriness factor was close to that of The Evil Dead. There are several scenes where you see the insides of, well, you just see a bunch of stuff that you probably didn’t want to see. And while I’m focusing on the negative, you should also know that there are some, ahem, naughty scenes as well. Not many, but enough to warrant mentioning. So if you’re easily offended, this isn’t the movie for you.

If you’re still interested, then get ready. First, the story line. King Leonidas leads 300 Spartans into certain death to defend their people’s freedom against the imposed leadership of the Persian Emperor Xerxes, and his million man army. It isn’t quite good against evil, its more like bravery against evil. It is supposedly based on historical events, but I’ll let someone smarter than me discern that. All I’m saying is that I was a complete sucker for Leonidas’ show-no-fear-hero complex. Spartans were a people that bred themselves for battle and trained through fear, so when their king announces on the battlefield that “no Spartans will die today”, you just know there’s going to be a lot of Persian blood. Its totally escapist Hollywood film making, but I’m telling you, I thought it was great.

Next, cinematography. Visually the movie was fantastic. Riveting, actually. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen. It wasn’t quite real, and it wasn’t quite a cartoon. Parts of it were made to look two dimensional, and parts of it were made to look three dimensional. The color of the entire movie was ominous. The lighting was always dark, the sky was cloudy and most colors were muted. Red was not muted, so when you saw red it was significant. The characters and costumes were also great. The Spartans were all muscle, so you believed that they would do some damage in a fight. And when the Persian army came out, the warriors looked evil. Xerxes looked like a maligned, self-absorbed, hedonistic idiot on the screen. I wanted Leonidas to make him feel pain.

And then finally there’s the testosterone induced, take no prisoners attitude of the Spartan army. I was completely enthralled with the Spartan’s confidence in the face of death. At one point a soldier in an allied army said “The Persians will launch so many arrows that they’ll blot out the sun.” A Spartan soldier quickly quipped “Then we will fight in the shade” with his gritty voice. I almost started crying. But I DIDN’T!

Throughout the entire movie you knew that the Spartans were going to die, but that they were going to die gloriously. And they did. They punched and stabbed and decapitated and impaled and spun around to do it all again, through wave after wave of advancing Persians. They fought against foot soldiers, flying arrows, men on horses, and more. When they died… I won’t spoil it, but it was awesome. The fight scenes were just incredible. It was epic.

You should know that the buddy that went to see 300 with me did not like it. It was too much for him. We talked about it on the ride home, and he thought the whole production was overdone. From what I understand, it wasn’t any one thing in particular, but the sum of all the produced battle scenes with metal guitar riffs and never say die dialog was too much for him. He did like all of the other movies that I mentioned above, but 300 didn’t seem plausible to him so while I was thrilled in the battle scenes, he was wondering how much longer ’till the movie gets out.

The overproduction is what I loved about this movie. The visual effects were the selling point for me. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again, actually. If you liked Gladiator, Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, then maybe you’ll like 300 also. I say thumbs up.

Nativity Story

A couple of nights ago my Dad and I decided to get out of the house, so we went to see the Nativity story. He had been talking about it since I arrived, and I assumed that it was a play. It didn’t even occur to me that it might be a movie because I hadn’t heard anything about it. I hadn’t seen any trailers for it, or read any reviews.

Turns out, this is a terrific film. Its exactly what the name implies, the series of events that leads up to Christ’s birth and includes several facets of the story. It starts with Zechariah being told by God himself that his wife Elizabeth will bear a son that will prepare the way for Jesus, and that the child should be called John. It also chronicles the three kings desire to worship who they believe will be the next king, and their journey to find Jesus. And finally, it shows king Herod’s ruthless treatment of anything that he perceives as a threat to his authority.

I was impressed by the breadth of scope in showing the birth of Jesus. I also enjoyed the movie’s pace and simplicity. Those who have accepted Christ as savior will, of course, already know each character and the gist of the story. Character development is compelling, and the plot moves along quickly enough to hold your attention, yet not so fast that you miss the significance of what’s happening. The film itself is unpretentious in its presentation of the material, and while I’m no expert I felt that it was true to scripture.

My Dad and I both enjoyed the Nativity story. As we left the theater I was again struck by the beauty and magnitude of Jesus’ birth. I give it two thumbs up.

Thank You For Smoking

Liz & I saw Thank You For Smoking last night. I anticipated it being good, the whole concept is clever. I was very impressed, we both loved it.

The story’s main character and narrator is Nick Naylor, the main lobbyist for a conglomeration of tobacco companies, and as such is not well received most places that he goes. But, he’s a likable guy and I found myself on his side early in the film, in spite of the product that he’s defending.

If that weren’t enough, his two best friends are lobbyists for alcohol and gun conglomerates. All of this tension leads to hilarity throughout the film. I was laughing out loud through most of the movie. In fact, I kind of want to see it again because I’m sure I missed some great lines while I was laughing.

And just to keep the plot from becoming too serious, Naylor pokes fun at himself as he teaches his son the loose ethics required to do his job well. This was both thought provoking and fun.

I say two thumbs up.

I don’t think I’ve seen any of Jason Reitman‘s previous films, but I want to see more. Oh, and here’s his blog.

Dang

Last night my girlfriend and I went to Alamo Drafthouse to see Walk The Line with her parents. Having listened to a bunch of Johnny Cash songs on my new iPod, I’ve been wanting to see it. And we all figured that since it was already out on DVD, this was the perfect time to go see it in the theater.

It was sold out (!?!?), and wanting to see something we picked the next movie that was starting soon, which was Johnny Depp’s The Libertine. I figured hey, Johnny Depp, I’ll be okay with it. Plus, the libertine just sounds like some revolutionary person setting people free, doesn’t it? It might have helped if one of us had known the definition of the word.

  1. a dissolute person; usually a man who is morally unrestrained
  2. debauched; unrestrained by convention or morality

Yeah, it was A LOT more like that. I might add:

  1. lacking any redeeming qualities
  2. NOT the type of person that you want to watch a movie about
  3. especially when you’re at the movies with your girlfriend’s parents

It was truly aweful.

After the movies we needed to do something wholesome and redeeming. So my girlfriend and I came back to my place then walked to get some ice cream.

OH! But this is cool. One of my room mates had an iPod radio adapter that he wasn’t using anymore, and gave it to me! So we got to listen to Radiohead while we were driving to the movie. I know, we should have been listening to Johnny Cash since that’s who we were going to see. I figured that out and changed the song about 5 minutes before we got to the theater. But the point is that now I can listen to my iPod in my truck. Very cool.

Listening to Radiohead.

Movie Meme

Fellow blogger Gary has tagged me to complete a movie meme. I enjoyed completing the book meme that I received from Micah a couple of months ago, so why not.

Total number of films I own on DVD and video:
While I enjoy films immensely, I’m not much for collecting them. But, I do happen to own a few great films that I have received as gifts.

  • The Fellowship of the Ring – of all the films ever made, this has to go down in the top 10 list. I can honestly say that this is one I enjoy owning.
  • The Matrix – another movie worth owning. I just watched this again last week, and I don’t plan to get tired of it anytime soon.
  • The Simpsons – The Complete Second Season – its not a movie, but I can’t leave it out. If you know anything about me, you know that Homer is my favorite character, bar none. Bart is second.

I’ll give a little extra here and say that there are a few movies that I would like to own.

  • The Nightmare Before Christmas – I like Tim Burton’s work, but this one is just classic. It has become a tradition to have friends over to watch this each fall between Halloween and Christmas. The animation is perfect, and the story line is clever and entertaining.
  • Apollo 13 – I’m studying to be a rocket scientist, so this is pretty much required. Plus, it ties Kevin Bacon to Tom Hanks, which I have found to be a crucial connection when you’re playing that Kevin Bacon game at parties.
  • The Incredibles – I love animated movies. Pixar produces some of the best. This is my favorite of all the Pixar movies. With all that going for it, how could I leave it out?

Last film I bought:
I’ve never actually purchased a movie for myself. I did get The Nightmare Before Christmas and Seabiscuit for my Dad for Christmas last year.

Last film I watched:
My gift to myself this summer was a subscription to Netflix, so I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately. Last Saturday night I watched Ray. Its not hard to see why Jamie Foxx won awards for his performance in this one. Neither is it difficult to see why Ray Charles was such a captivating public figure. I really enjoyed it.

Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order):
I only get five?

  • The Color of Paradise – this import is so striking. I’ve only seen it once, about five years ago, but it left a definite impression on me. I have been looking for it in video stores for the past year in an effort to watch it again, but it wasn’t a large release (that I know of), so not many stores have it.
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – yeah, I know, blockbuster city. I don’t care. The story, the visuals, the characters, the cast, what it all represents; this trilogy is perfect. I’ve already seen each of the movies too many times to count, and I’m not done yet. J.R.R. Tolkien & Peter Jackson make a powerful team.
  • Hands on a Hardbody – there really is no description for this, but you will die laughing. I saw it at least five times while it was still in the theaters! My mind’s gonna be focused on dat truck.
  • Gladiator – Maximus is awesome. The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor. I think I’ve seen this at least 10 times.
  • Life is Beautiful – this is such a moving film. Its not often that I cry in movies, but when little Giosué sees the tank… are you kidding me?

Here’s an extra question for free.
If you could be any character portrayed in a movie, who would it be?:
Oh that’s easy. Frodo. He’s humble enough that no one would pick him, has enough character to resist the power of the ring, and brave enough to complete the task. He saved the world from the forces of darkness.

I’ll tag Micah, FreedomDefender and Mike.