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December 19, 2018: 10 Holiday Movies to Watch

 

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It’s December and another year almost finished. For the first time in a long time, I will be in another state from which I live for the holidays. I finally watched It’s a Wonderful Life and The Hebrew Hammer along with a few more I’ve never seen. I admit some were better than others so fair warning. Here they are in no particular order.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

I had never seen this film and had to push myself to watch it. I was expecting sappiness dripping all over the place, but surprisingly there was little of that in It’s a Wonderful Life. I was most impressed by the production design and the dialogue was about as crisp as it could be in a movie. James Stewart as George Bailey and Donna Reed as Mary Hatch were first-rate. This movie had a kind of darkness I was not expecting and the ending, while a little cheesy, was justified. The theme of helping others and second chances should be reminders to us all.

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Hebrew Hammer (2003)

The first time seeing this movie and say it’s decent enough. It followed similarly the humor in Bad Santa 2, but had a little more substance that was seen in Office Christmas Party. Adam Goldberg stars as Mordechai Carver. He is all Hebrew and all Hammer. Mordechai is an outsider in the Jewish community, but is sought when Santa Claus’s son threatens to destroy Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. He along with Esther (Judy Greer) and Mohammed (Mario Van Pebbles) work together so Damian doesn’t get his Christmas wish. Hebrew Hammer does have some stereotypes and strong language, but hopefully the viewer understands its Comedy Central ties.

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Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

This is another movie I’ve seen for the first time. I ended up watching both the original and the 1994 remake. Miracle on 34th Street is definitely the quintessential Christmas story and the original is better of the two. Who knew Drunk Santa was a such a popular theme back the mid 1900s. A young Natalie Wood plays an adult mind trapped in a child’s body. She doesn’t believe in Kris Kringle much to her mother’s dismay. Her mother has personal issues of her own and as their lives intersect with Kris Kringle and Fred Gailey, it makes for a family friendly movie including kids that don’t believe in what is known more today as Santa Claus.

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Krampus (2015)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie, but I was impressed by it by the end. Yes, there was Krampus coming out at night along with his elves and other toys to wreak havoc on a family wanting to enjoy Christmas, but it was more than this. The backstory was portrayed nicely via animation. The costumes and special effects were done well and while many of the scenes were hokey, there were others more serious. The ending had a nice twist to it. Bottom line, I really liked Krampus.

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White Christmas (1954)

With all the controversy over the song “White Christmas” and also Irving Berlin’s movies, I thought I should give this movie a try. Go where the controversy is, right? While I did see some set decorations in one of the musical sets that might be construed as questionable, it wasn’t enough to detract me from watching White Christmas. I was wondering how they would bring the Army presence back since it was so strong in the opening scene. I liked how they finally brought back the Commanding General. The dance choreography and accompanying music numbers were part of why I watched it in the first place. Good story and movie.

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Mixed Nuts (1994)

I saw this a while ago and still like it mainly due to Steve Martin. Mixed Nuts is about man named Philip who works for a suicide hotline. His life is turned upside down, although it was never right side up to begin with, when the night doesn’t go as planned. It involves a serial killer, a cross dresser, a pregnant woman, and roller bladers (remember when those were all the rage). It has enough laughs and can you go wrong seeing Liev Schreiber in drag? Not really. It was his first role in a movie too.

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Office Christmas Party (2016)

I saw this last year, but still crazy in every sense of the word. This is the second raunchy of all the holiday movies in this list. It’s about an office manager and CTO, played by T.J. Miller and Jason Bateman, working together to gain a potential client while the looming threat of having their office permanently closed hangs over their heads. There’s protocol to follow that HR sets on paper and verbally, but in Office Christmas Party, the rules are broken one by one as the night progresses. It has some SNL cast as well as other notable comedic cast like Jason Bateman, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn, and Jennifer Aniston.

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Bad Santa 2 (2016)

This is the most raunchy of holiday movies this year in terms of language and sexual innuendos. While I liked Bad Santa, this one recycled too much of the same dirty language. It was used as a solution for cheap humor instead of coming up with things that could and would’ve been funnier. The story was decent enough where sometimes mothers can be the biggest bitch of all. So why am I recommending it? Because if you can get past the repetition coming out of Kathy Bates’ mouth and others as well, Bad Santa 2 does have an ending that is satisfactory for a movie about a drunk Santa and his revengeful sidekick.

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

This is another movie I saw quite some time ago. Despite what you think of Chevy Chase, this is a good movie to watch for the comedy and hopefully a few laughs. It has the usual squabbles within the Griswold family and even more when the relatives come knocking at Clark’s door. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation involves too many tangled up lights, not enough money, misbehaving animals, and a SWAT team, but by the end everything is wrapped up with a nice red bow. It’s your typical Lampoon’s movie, but this time with a young Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis.

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Love Actually (2003)

This movie is what I would call whacky with different people coming together on the holidays. I wasn’t sure how it would play out, but by the end I thought it was good. There was a decent mixture of harsh reality with entertaining moments in Love Actually. Seeing Bill Nighy shirtless while singing was quite memorable and seeing Alan Rickman getting more impatient by the second during the gift wrapping scene was comical and afflicted at the same time. Not everyone got everything they wished for by the end, but this is the reality for all us.

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December 8, 2018: Today is Bryan Cranston Day

Quote from Trumbo by Dalton Trumbo: (challenging John Wayne) “If you’re gonna talk about World War II as if you personally won it, let’s be clear where you were stationed – on a film set, shooting blanks, wearing makeup, and if you’re going to hit me, I’d like to take off my glasses.”

Quote from The Infiltrator by Robert Mazur: “Roberto, I am glad you are here. But there is a part of me that wishes you hadn’t taken that risk.”

The first thing I actually remember Bryan Cranston s

tarring in was an X-Files episode called “Drive” where he played Patrick Crump although is most known for his role as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle and Walter White in Breaking Bad. Trumbo and The Infiltrator are based on true stories, which lends itself to interesting subject matter. There were more opportunities to inject humor into the dialogue in Trumbo versus The Infiltrator, but Trumbo didn’t have the opportunity for the tension you’d find in crime drama. I put them pretty much neck and neck in terms of production value. Below are short descriptions and ratings for both.

Trumbo (2015) is a drama about the screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted in Hollywood during the late 1940s, and the result of it impacted his family, friends, and most of all himself. His story is adapted from the book by Bruce Cook and the screenplay is written by John McNamara. It is directed by Jay Roach and stars Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo and Diane Lane as Cleo Trumbo. In addition to Cranston and Lane, David Maldonado plays Rocco, Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper, Michael Stuhlbarg as Edward G. Robinson, Alan Tudyk as Ian McLellan Hunter, and Louis C.K. as Arlen Hird. It has a MPAA rating of R for language including some sexual references and is 2 hours and 4 minutes long.

The film opens with Trumbo being a top screenwriter for the studios until his Communist Party alignment comes under the spotlight by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He is forced to serve eleven months in a federal prison and when he gets out, as the saying goes, he’s a changed man. He now has to write under the radar and does so with the help of his family and screenwriters who weren’t blacklisted. This lead to him not being able to accept the Academy Awards for Roman Holiday (1953) and The Brave One (1956), but also lead to hardships on a personal level. He was contacted to write Spartacus (1960) and because of the change in political climate including the election of a new President, the power of Hedda Hopper and anti-Communist Hollywood elites lost their traction. Trumbo and the other blacklisted writers were no longer seen as villains, and his family was able to resume to more of a level of normalcy. I give Trumbo a rating of 90%.

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The Infiltrator (2016) is a crime drama about a U.S. Customs Service agent, Robert Mazur, who infiltrates the drug underworld using the alias Bob Musella. It leads him to the key players under Pablo Escobar and their money laundering schemes. This adaptation is based from Mazur’s own book and the screenplay is written by Ellen Sue Brown. It is directed by Brad Furman and stars Bryan Cranston as Bob Musella, John Leguizamo as Emir Abreu, Diane Kruger as Kathy Ertz. Other cast include Juliet Aubrey as Evelyn Mazur, Joseph Gilgun as Dominic, Yul Vazquez as Javier Ospina, Michael Paré as Barry Seal, Benjamin Bratt as Roberto Alcaino, and Elena Anaya as Gloria Alcaino, and Carsten Hayes as Rudy Armbrecht. It has a MPAA rating of R for strong violence, language throughout, some sexual content and drug material. It is 2 hours and 7 minutes long.

The film opens with Mazur finishing an undercover operation, only to be sucked into another one after some convincing by Emir Abreu. With the help of Abreu and Dominic, Bob Musella takes shape and works his way up the underworld food chain where he goes through a series of tests. Operation C-Chase would last two years, which proved hard on himself, but he eventually finds himself where he wants to be. He is now near the top of the food chain and befriends Robert Alcaino and his wife, Gloria. Mazur likes to work alone, but is given no choice to work with another undercover agent named Kathy Ertz. She plays his fun-loving fiancée who has an eye for finer things, but as they continue to work as a team, Ertz becomes even more of a vital part of their undercover operation. Using the backdrop of a wedding as the operation comes to a close, it is clear to Mazur and Ertz that even though you are paid to bring down the “bad guys” it doesn’t mean relationships aren’t formed. By the end of Operation C-Chase, these were broken as well as the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) members arrested and charged. I give The Infiltrator a rating of 90%.

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November 15, 2018: 10 Random Movies from My Collection

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1

Nine (2009) is a musical drama about an egotistical Italian film director who tries to find balance with his personal and professional lives. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Guido Contini with Sophia Loren as his Mamma.

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2

The Great White Hype (1996) is a sports comedy about two boxers, one retired from the ring and one in the best shape of his life, that come together for the big fight. Damon Wayans and Peter Berg play the fighters. Samuel L. Jackson plays the promoter.

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3

The Good Girl (2002) is a drama about a store clerk who has an affair with a stock boy who thinks he’s Holden Caulfield from A Catcher in the Rye. Jennifer Aniston plays the bored wife, John C. Reilly as her husband, and Jake Gyllenhaal as the boy.

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4

Machete (2010) is an action thriller about man who has been set up during an assassination. With help from his brother, he gets his revenge. Danny Trejo plays Machete and Cheech Marin plays his priest brother.

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5

Rat (2000) is a comedy drama about a family man, Hubert Flynn, turning into a rat. His family has different plans for him, but it’s clear this can’t go on forever. Pete Postlethwaite is Flynn and Imelda Staunton is his wife.

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6

I Shot Andy Warhol? (1996) is a biography drama about the true story of Valerie Solanas who shot Andy Warhol after he ignored her requests to have her script made into a film. Lili Taylor plays Solanas and Jared Harris plays Andy Warhol.

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7

Undertow (2004) is a drama thriller about a father and his two sons who are forced to move to a farm in rural Georgia after his wife dies. He reestablishes a relationship with his own brother. Dermot Mulroney plays John Munn and Jamie Bell and Devon Alan play his sons. Josh Lucas plays Deel Munn.

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8

Casa de mi Padre (2012) is comedy western about a man, Armando Alvarez, who works on his father’s ranch and with the help of his brother hopes to bring it out of debt. The problem is that Alvarez falls in love with Sonia and becomes the target of a drug lord. Will Ferrell plays Alvarez, Diego Luna plays his brother Raul, and Gael García Bernal plays Onza.

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9

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) is a drama about a couple living the married life of alcoholism, bitterness and verbal fighting. It is only fueled when they are around other people. Elizabeth Taylor plays Martha and Richard Burton plays George.

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10

Hairspray (2007) is a musical comedy/drama about a teenager obsessed with the Corny Collins Show. She finds herself center stage on the show and decides changes need to be made to make it more inclusive. Nikki Blonsky plays Tracy Turnblad, John Travolta plays her mother, and James Marsen plays Corny Collins.

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October 30, 2018: How Long Will Movie Theaters Last?

I’ve been thinking about the longevity of movie theaters and how long they will be in business. The need for a fairly cheap diversion from reality and entertainment is the reason why they will always have a place in the world, but I feel over time the desire will decrease if the trends keep going as they are. Much like drive-in theaters are a phenomenon of the past, it maybe that theaters as we know it today are few and far between. While it won’t be on the level of Blockbuster where only one store exists and that is in Bend, Oregon as of August 2018, the ability to watch movies on big screens in the confines of your home or apartment/loft has already made an unwanted dent in Hollywood and un-Hollywood movies.

There are some, like myself, who frankly wishes that studios would give more of a chance on other movies besides remakes and comic book heroes/heroines. I know there are other independent movies (that meaning has definitely changed over time) and adaptations that are worthy of viewing. The thing is I’m now willing to wait for movies to either come on Netflix or Hulu and if I feel the compulsion, go to Redbox or something similar to it. If I miss those opportunities, I can always buy it online. Let’s face it. The flooding of the ways in which to view movies has made the current experience of going to the movie theater less appealing to some. I used to be gung-ho in buying the ticket, waiting in line for the popcorn (large with butter please if you’re at Arclight), watching the previews, and finally 20 to 30 minutes later enjoying the movie.

Now, I’m less willing to sit in the theater although the current one has reclining seats to the point of you could fall asleep if you wanted, but you don’t because these days movie tickets aren’t cheap. The prices for me ranged from eight to 17 dollars when I lived in Los Angeles. For years, I went to AMC with their discounted tickets. Sometimes, I went to Arclight where the movies were the highest priced, but had the best popcorn. I liked Laemmle Theatres as it was a family run movie theater. I went to Regency right before I left Los Angeles. Now, they are around 12 dollars. The other reason I’m less willing to watch a movie in the theater because I’m pickier nowadays with the movie quality.

The movies I thought had opportunities to be good and possibly great viewing experiences were mediocre when the credits rolled. I was disappointed one too many times. Yes, movie reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. I’ve read enough to know there is something missing in many movies being released today. I can’t put my finger on it, but from what I’ve seen, there isn’t enough depth. The characters have backstory, but the actions only go halfway into the belly of the problem or issue. I’m severely missing that layer of fat. Not that I want eat it, but I want definitely want it dangling in front of my nose. Take off the saran wrap, please. Let me experience the smell.

I plan on seeing Bohemian Rhapsody in the theater. Not sure on opening weekend, but I will go eventually. I think the days of seeing movies every month are gone for me. I’m finding it too time consuming. Bad, I know, but times have changed. The large bucket of popcorn should be enough for a family of four, but now it is usually deemed as suitable for one or two people. Then, you get the refill. I’m not sure what will replace the movie trend of remakes and comic book adaptations, but when it does, I’ll be looking forward to it.

October 6, 2018: 10 Horror Movies to Watch

As October 31st comes creeping around the dark corner, here are 10 horror movies decent to watch for either their cheesiness, gore, hilarity, and in a few cases suspense. Not everyone needs to die and blood doesn’t need to be shed to be a Halloween movie, but it sure helps. I pretty much kept it to the so bad it’s so good or looks good but was okay movies. Here is my list this year, in no particular order, I watched (most again/a few for the first time).

Dr. Giggles (1992)

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Terrifier (2017)

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House of Wax (2005)

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Six Souls (2010)

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American Psycho II: All American Girl (2002)

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Children of the Corn (1984)

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Pumpkinhead (1988)

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Sacrifice (2016)

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People Under the Stairs (1991)

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Cult of Chucky (2017)

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September 30, 2018: Movies from 1990 to 1999

I look back at the 1990s with some fondness. There were many good movies that poured out of the studios in this decade. Here are my ten movie picks, one for each year, that are still great to watch.

Misery (1990)

Paul Sheldon should count his lucky stars he has such a huge fan base. He was doing so well until Annie Wilkes came into his life. She’s the nightmare all writers fear. Heck, she’s the nightmare everyone fears. This is based from the Stephen King novel of the same name. James Caan plays Sheldon and Kathy Bates plays his crazed number one fan. Good thing you don’t need your legs for inspiration or to write.

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Cape Fear (1991)

Max Cady is not someone you want to mess around with in either the 1962 version or this one. Sam Bowden learns the hard way when Cady is released from prison and seeks revenge on his family. It stars Robert DeNiro as Cady, Nick Nolte as Bowden, Jessica Lange as Leigh (wife), and Juliette Lewis as Danielle (daughter).

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Bram Stokers: Dracula (1992)

Everything is not right in love and dracula. This is an adaptation by Francis Ford Coppola with Gary Oldman as Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina, and Keanu Reeves as Tom Harker. This centers around Dracula’s longing to love again and becomes fixated on Mina. The soundtrack is really good too and Tom Waits has a small role.

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Ba wang bie ji (original title)
Farewell My Concubine (1993)

This is the longest movie I’m recommending because it spans quite a bit of time. It’s an adaptation from Pik Wah Lee’s (Lillian Lee) novel that focuses on two performers in the Peking Opera. It follows their lives, competitive in career and love, as they navigate their way through the political turmoil in China. It stars Leslie Cheung as Chen Dieyi, Fengyi Zhang as Duan Xiaolou, and Li Gong as Juxian.

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Léon (original title)
Léon: The Professional (1994)

The first movie that Natalie Portman starred in and as a 12-year-old girl named Mathilda. She finds life again under the tutelage of a hitman and her emotions don’t run deep for her parents and sister. Her brother is a different story, and this is why she pesters Léon to the point of him teaching her how to hold a gun and shoot properly. Little does he know the only thing she wants is revenge. You can’t go wrong with Jean Reno and Gary Oldman either.

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The Usual Suspects (1995)

This remains one of my favorite Benicio Del Toro and Kevin Spacey movies. The whole cast is great and the interaction among them all is first-rate. The whole time you’re trying to figure out why everyone is there and if you’ll actually find out who Keyser Söze is by the end. Sometimes the truth can be right in front you, but sometimes it is very far away.

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Sling Blade (1996)

The second movie Lucas Black was in and complete in his underwear. He plays Frank Wheatley who befriends a man named Karl Childers who was recently released from a mental hospital. This movie was written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton and stars himself as Childers. It’s a great drama with great small roles played by Robert Duvall, John Ritter, and Dwight Yoakam.

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Le cinquième élément (original title)
The Fifth Element (1997)

We zigzag back and forth from the 23rd century to the past, about 5,000 years, when the people with good intentions are still battling those with only evil intentions. All will be lost if the four stones aren’t found, but have no fear because Korben Dallas played by Bruce Willis and Vito Cornelius played by Ian Holm come to the rescue, sort of. Milla Jojovich as Leeloo is the Fifth Element.

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Lola rennt (original title)
Run Lola Run (1998)

This movie is for all those girlfriends who have boyfriends who can’t stay out of trouble and put them in predicaments they’d rather not be in. Lola played by Franka Potente has to fix her boyfriend’s screw up. She’s a woman who keeps running in order to get 100,000 Deutschmarks so Manni doesn’t get killed or have to rob a bank. There are many different ways this day could end and all in 20 minutes.

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Being John Malkovich (1999)

This gem of a movie is written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze. It deals with getting inside someone’s mind, and in this case, John Malkovich. As the puppeteer who found this portal, Craig Schwartz, he begins to ponder the true meaning of life and all it has to offer him. He shares his secret with others and this soon leads to problems for everyone involved. It stars John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, and of course, John Malkovich.

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September 30 2018: My Top Ten Lists of Best Actors/Actresses

I was going to write down the reasons why I picked these actors/actresses, but then I decided against it. My choices speak for themselves. My mark of a great actor/actress is his or her ability to transform on the screen as well as the capability of having range. These are in no particular order, but might change by next year. For now, here they are.

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My Top 10 Under Age 55 Actors (Living)

Michael Fassbender was born on April 2, 1977.

Christian Bale was born on January 30, 1974.

Brad Pitt was born on December 18, 1963.

Ryan Gosling was born on November 12, 1980.

Domhnall Gleeson was born on May 12, 1983.

Peter Dinklage was born on June 11, 1969.

Will Ferrell was born on July 16, 1967.

Tom Hardy was born on September 15, 1977.

John C. Reilly was born on May 24, 1965.

Joaquin Phoenix was born on October 28, 1974.

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My Top 10 Under Age 55 Actresses (Living)

Emily Blunt was born on February 23, 1983.

Kate Winslet was born on October 5, 1975

Charlize Theron was born on August 7, 1975.

Nicole Kidman was born on June 20, 1967.

Laura Linney was born on February 5, 1964.

Anne Hathaway was born on November 12, 1982.

Cate Blanchett was born on May 14, 1969.

Jessica Chastain was born on March 24, 1977.

Lili Taylor was born February 20, 1967.

Marion Cotillard was born September 30, 1975.

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My Top 10 Over Age 55 Actors (Living)

Daniel-Day Lewis was born on April 29, 1957.

Steve Buscemi was born on December 13, 1957.

Forest Whitaker was born on July 15, 1961.

Sean Penn was born on August 17, 1960.

Samuel L. Jackson was born on December 21, 1948.

Bill Murray was born on September 21, 1950.

Sidney Poitier was born on February 20, 1927.

Christoph Waltz was born on October 4, 1956.

Choi Min-sik was born on April 27, 1962.

Christopher Plummer was born on December 12, 1929.

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My Top 10 Over Age 55 Actresses (Living)

Helen Mirren was born on July 26, 1945.

Judi Dench was born on December 9, 1937.

Angela Bassett was born on August 16, 1958.

Glenn Close was born on March 19, 1947.

Francis McDormand was born on June 23, 1957.

Meryl Streep was born on June 22, 1949.

Katey Sagal was born on January 19, 1954.

Tilda Swinton was born on November 5, 1960.

Jennifer Jason Leigh was born on February 5, 1962.

Jamie Lee Curtis was born on November 22, 1958.

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My Top 10 Actors (Not Living)

Gregory Peck was born on April 5, 1916 (died 2003).

J.T. Walsh was born on September 28, 1943 (died 1998).

Humphrey Bogart was born on December 25, 1899 (died 1957).

John Hurt was born on January 22, 1940 (died 2017).

Philip Seymour Hoffman was born on July 23, 1967 (died 2014).

Marlon Brando was born on April 3, 1924 (died 2004).

James Dean was born on February 8, 1931 (died 1955).

Paul Newman was born on January 26, 1925 (died 2008).

Alan Rickman was born on February 21, 1946 (died 2016).

James Stewart was born on May 20, 1908 (died 1997).

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My Top 10 Actresses (Not Living)

Grace Kelly was born on November 12, 1929 (died 1982).

Elizabeth Taylor was born on February 27, 1932 (died 2011).

Judy Garland was born on June 10, 1922 (died 1969).

Marilyn Monroe was born on June 1, 1926 (died 1962).

Ingrid Bergman was born on August 29, 1915 (died 1982).

Natalie Wood was born on July 20, 1938 (died 1981).

Lynn Redgrave was born on March 8, 1943 (died 2010).

Vivien Leigh was born on November 5, 1931 (died 1967).

Audrey Hepburn was born on May 4, 1929 (died 1993).

Lauren Bacall was born on September 16, 1924 (died 2014).

September 7, 2018: Lowest and Highest Grossing Movies

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July 24, 2018: Movie Fight 1

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I decided to compare briefly two movies I’ve seen within a few days of each other. These happened to be on Hulu and basically watched them because I’m doing a Cheers marathon right now while sometimes unpacking. It brought up other options I might be interested in and The Brady Bunch Movie came up. Plus, both were expiring soon so I thought why not watch some nonsense for once. I even watched the sequel to The Brady Bunch Movie.

Dirty Grandpa stars Robert De Niro as grandpa and Zac Efron as grandson. Grandpa, who’s wife just passed away, wants to live life as his departed old wife wanted him to do. He persuades his grandson to drive him to Daytona Beach, Florida, where many fine looking female students go for spring break. The only problem is grandson is getting married soon, and his demanding fiancée wants him all to herself. He wants this too, but grandpa has other plans for his used to be fun grandson. It’s a road trip with some endearing moments, but it has more foul language and sexual references than I care to count. I guess I sort of understand what the writer and director was trying to do with this film. It just falls way short of the finish line for De Niro and Efron in terms of utilizing their acting skills and seems to rely too heavily on the over the top comedy routine shtick.

The Brady Bunch Movie stars Shelly Long and Gary Cole and all their children. The most notable being Christine Taylor and Jennifer Elise Cox who played Marcia and Jan Brady. I did like the constant arguing between them. I liked Jean Smart and Michael McKean as the Dittmeyers. I liked RuPaul as the school counselor. Even despite all the complaining from Jan, I found Cindy the least likable. I don’t know why. So sorry Cindy. You know the family in some way will have a problem and need to put their differences aside. They do just this to help their parents. The movie had some funny moments, but the dialogue was a bit too much for me. I don’t know what it was, but it seemed somewhat forced and stiff. I can forgive it more because the movie is supposed be goofy. It captured what living in a large family can be like and luckily I never grew up in that although I was definitely born into it.

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Since I’m the only judge, I score the contest where The Brady Bunch edges out Dirty Grandpa by a few punches. I laughed more in Dirty Grandpa, but overall The Brady Bunch is the winner due to its subtle humor and a tad more realism.

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April 18, 2018: 10 Sports Movies You Probably Don’t Want to See

These ten sport movies could be lumped into the category of bad for several reasons. I’d probably watch a few again, but most I would not. This list is my picks for box office sport baddies. There are spoilers in most of my short descriptions so don’t read them if you want to give any of them a try. I have given you fair warning because as you will see some are pretty ridiculous.

Racing Stripes (2005)

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I know this is a children’s movie, but damn, this movie makes no sense. A zebra having brain capacity to want to be a horse, and compete at the highest level for horses. We all can suspend reality if there’s good reason, and more importantly, we must be convinced to do so. Racing Stripes does not give any explanation for why the zebra, aptly named Stripes by the daughter of the man who rescued him from a circus, is hell-bent on competing in the Kentucky Crown. In spite of being born in captivity (I’m assuming) and forgotten when the circus left, the zebra still retains some of its genetic makeup. Yet, there is little indication of this throughout the movie. I’m not expecting some magical potion that allowed this zebra to think like a horse, although it might have pushed the story along. There needed to be some plausible reason for this. The voices for the animals were done by quality actors and actresses, but it wasn’t enough to make it a worthwhile movie. I wouldn’t bet on this wannabe horse at any race track if I was into this kind of gambling, which I’m not.

8 Seconds (1994)

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It’s hard for me to root for a movie where the main character rides bulls for a living. I’m not into bull riding nor do I see any advantage of this sport (if you can call it that). It’s a highly dangerous activity, and this movie proves there are consequences. Yes, Lane Frost’s untimely death is tragic. Yes, his quick fame lead to an ego in overdrive. You might wonder how his head fit through saloon doors. While there’s no denying he was attracted to thrills, the portrayal of the rodeo lifestyle seemed at a distance. Lane’s personality flaws were obvious, which is fine, but he didn’t have enough on his good side to make him truly likable. The fact it starred Luke Perry might have detracted from telling the story because we all know how much girls lusted over Dylan McKay in 90210 or maybe that is why he was hired. Either way, it wasn’t enough for me to go my pile of good sports movies.

Summer Catch (2001)

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Summer Catch’s awfulness isn’t because of Jessica Biel or Freddie Prinze Jr’s acting, but due to the poorly written coming of age script. It isn’t that baseball and teenage romance can’t go together. I’m the first one to admit I find baseball boring as all hell, but a well written script will make me forget the boring as all hell part. This movie is mind numbing because the local baseball player completely ditches the game for the woman he realizes he loves while scouts are present. No, I don’t think so. To be overly dramatic, PULEESE!!! Then, to make it even more unlikely, she forgoes her job in San Francisco to stay with him while he proves himself as a minor league player. I’m not saying some people get lucky breaks, but if baseball meant everything to the character of Ryan Dunne, he wouldn’t have left his game during the middle of it. Everything happened a little too nicely at the end.

Gleaming the Cube (1989)

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I remember watching this movie thinking whoever is skating during the credits is pretty damn cool. I knew it wasn’t Christian Slater, but at the time I didn’t realize that the technical advisor was one of the original Z-Boys. Stacy Peralta was able to get skaters, such as Mike McGill, Tony Hawk, and Mark Rogowski, to do the stunts. They were the best part of the movie. Christian Slater over acted during the emotional scenes. Whether that was himself or the director wanting it, I’m not sure. Gleaming the Cube was full of cheesy lines. The moral of the story is if you’re a Caucasian skateboarder, you will be able to stop the bad guys by blending so well into the Vietnamese community. It would make more sense for your adopted Vietnamese brother not to get killed, but what do I know? Like I stated earlier, I watched it for the skateboarding, which led to me thinking skateboarders were rad. I’m still waiting for a skateboarder to sweep me off my feet and carry me into the sunset.

The Cutting Edge (1992)

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If you know anything about skating, it’s that hockey skaters and figure skaters are two different disciplines and most noticeably the toe pick. I’ve seen this movie many times, and one I’d probably watch again. I almost feel guilty for including this into the bad pile, but it’s one where paying close attention is not needed to understand it. The verbal jabs back and forth on and off the ice are enjoyable, but the cutting between actual figure skaters and actors of D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly is quite choppy. Parts of the script seemed far-fetched such as the skaters being good enough in a short amount of time to compete in the Olympics. I wonder how many people clapped at the end of this movie when it was released.

Rocky V (1990)

I rocky vthought this series should have ended when Rocky went head to head with Ivan Drago. I don’t care what anyone says. I like Dolph Lundgren as an actor. He’s as tall as you’d think in person. At first glance, I thought he was a waiter. Anyway, this movie is bad. Rocky V has nothing in it that made the first movie great. The acting is sub par and the lines feel forced. Fame and fortune came and went quicker for Rocky in between IV and V. I want to ask Rocky what was he thinking for not fighting Drago for money, but I guess remembering and honoring your friend was more important. Even when he finds himself penniless, he won’t fight inside the ring, but eventually fights outside the ring, on the mean Philly streets. It doesn’t make sense given his past actions. How many times did he tell Adrian he was a fighter. The only endearing thing is seeing his real life son, Sage, be his son in the movie. Enough said before I get overly verklempt.

Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)

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I never thought I’d have to stop a movie because it was that BAD. This was one of them. I couldn’t even keep it on while working on something else. It was THAT BAD. Georges St. Pierre nor Jean-Claude Damme could convince me to stay the course. This says a lot because I like both of them for different reasons. I’m not expecting anything spectacular, but as I watched this monstrosity unfold I turned it off to rescue my eyes and ears. The shame is this could have been a decent remake. Kickboxer: Vengeance was so off the mark with a bad script, bad acting, and just bad everything. I got all this from just watching a quarter of the movie.

Snowdogs (2002)

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When you take one of the hottest, muggiest areas of the United States and place one of its inhabitants into one of the coldest, harshest areas, you might find yourself watching Snowdogs. I know this is a children’s movie, but would a man who grew up and lived his whole life in the city want to brave the outdoor elements with dogs that don’t like him? Get to know the dogs first and have them be comfortable with you before striking out with them, meaning you trust them and they trust you, on the Arctic Challenge. I’m all for getting acquainted with your roots, but it’s not very realistic. Even Cuba Gooding Jr. realized it wasn’t a good movie so yes, watch at your own risk. I guess the only saving grace were the dogs because I like dogs.

Swimfan (2002)

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The title of this movie is about as on the nose as you can get. This is about swimming and fans. I remember a family member stating “what a terrible looking movie.” He was right, so very right, and should’ve heeded his words. When you combine a recovered addict who is a swimmer, his girlfriend who also is a swimmer, and a girl who doesn’t know how to swim, it makes for a questionable movie. It has all the elements a bad teenage thriller would have and for being such a bad girl, Madison sure has a lot of good luck minus her predictable ending. And let’s not forget Stanford was chomping at the bit to get a piece of Ben’s wake he left with his powerful kick.

Ladybugs (1992)

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This is one of the bad movies I wouldn’t mind watching again. Long live Jonathan Brandis and Rodney Dangerfield, but more Jonathan Brandis. While there isn’t much substance in the dialogue and obvious misconception of girls as shitty athletes, it does play around with crossdressing. Wasn’t Matthew’s wig so convincing? There’s no denying that Chester is a misogynistic asshole throughout most of the movie. You pretty much predict what happens with Matthew/Martha and the girls soccer team. I almost want to shield my eyes for how intense Rodney Dangerfield’s gaze is on this one sheet.

 

 

 

February 28, 2018: 10 Sports Movies You Should See

These ten sports movies are in no particular order. They are the ones I liked and thought were worthy of my eyes. If you’re wondering why I didn’t include Rocky, it’s because I’ve sort of spoken about it before. Let’s begin before the night ends.

A League of Their Own (1992)

aleagueoftheirownWhile the men serve their country in WWII, in come the women to prove that they have just as much right to swing a bat and fight with each other. Dottie and Kit Hinson who are sisters along with other females aren’t taken seriously during the women baseball tryouts until publicity and interest can’t be ignored. Sibling rivalry, competitive game playing, and sporting legacies are all a part of this movie. It was one of the selections to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry in 2012 for good reason. A League of Their Own is directed by Penny Marshall. It stars Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Tom Hanks, and David Strathairn.

The Wrestler (2008)

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2008 was the year when many thought Mickey Rourke would win the Oscar. He didn’t win, but he secured a roll of a lifetime. It was personal and professional in the same vein for him. This movie digs into the wrestling world. The character of Randy Robinson finds himself past his prime. ‘The Ram’ works on making his career relevant again and personal relationships better. The Wrestler is directed by Darren Aronofsky. It also stars Marisa Tomei and Rachel Evan Wood.

The Fighter (2010)

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This is based on the true story of two boxers, Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund. The half-brothers also have too many sisters to count including one played by Conan O’Brien’s sister, Kate. Micky Ward overcomes his Lowell, Massachusetts odds, including his overbearing mother and his drug addicted brother. He is presented with a chance to prove himself in the world light welterweight title. Let the training begin. The Fighter is directed by David O. Russell. It stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, and Jack McGee.

Moneyball (2011)

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Billy Beane is not your average guy in baseball. He’s the Oakland Athletics GM who builds a team with the help of Peter Brand. He finds resistance in his scouting approach, but stays the course. As time passes, he reaps some rewards, never wavering from his principles. This is less focus on an actual game and more on the activity behind the scenes. It is well worth the watch. Moneyball is directed by Bennett Miller. It stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Foxcatcher (2014)

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The antagonist in this movie is the heir to the du Pont chemical company, and based on a true and tragic story. Today the company advocates genetically modified foods, but back in the 1980s John du Pont immersed himself into the world of wrestling. Piggybacking on the success of the Schultz brothers in the 1984 Olympic Games, du Pont sought the help of Mark Schultz to help him have a successful wrestling team in the 1988 Olympics. It was during this time that events happening at his training facility led to him being in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons. Foxcatcher is directed by Bennet Miller. It stars Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Vanessa Redgrave.

The Karate Kid (1984)

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You love to love this movie. Daniel from New Jersey becomes Daniel-san of California under the direction of Mr. Miyagi. As he moves through the painful halls of his new high school, he becomes more disillusioned with his situation, and you become more sympathetic. He’s not just a bratty Italian teenager from Newark with enemies all around him. He really is picked on by Johnny and his friends. It’s just not fair. His journey is one of self-discovery and redemption as he masters the crane kick. The Karate Kid is directed by John G. Avildson. It stars Pat Morita, Ralph Macchio, Elisabeth Shue, William Zabka, and Randee Heller.

Raging Bull (1980)

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Jake La Motta knows how to be a bull inside and outside the ring. While it serves him well inside the ring, outside is a different story. He has a way of offending friends and family members where many abandon him during this period in his life. Time heals most things. La Motta was remembered for his world middleweight champion win and stand-up comedy routines. Raging Bull is directed by Martin Scorsese. It stars Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, and Frank Gallo.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

milliondollarbabyClint Eastwood remains one of my favorite directors. He knows his craft to the point of ridiculous. He often chooses stories that have subtly within them. This movie is no different. Maggie Fitzgerald is past her prime, but finds passion in boxing. Under the direction of a washed out grumpster, she rises the ranks of the lightweight boxing division. There is retribution and amends to be had for the major characters. It’s a great movie from start to finish, and really touches home if you have a heart beating inside your chest. Million Dollar Baby is directed by Clint Eastwood. It stars Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank, Michael Peña, Anthony Mackie, and Jay Baruchel.

Prefontaine (1997)

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If you ever visit Oregon and specifically Eugene where the University of Oregon is home, there is a household name in running, and that is Steve Prefontaine. A long distance runner who worked closely with Bill Dellinger and Bill Bowerman (look up Nike), Prefontaine competed in the Munich Games of 1972. After this experience, he works even harder to prepare for the Montreal Games of 1976. This is no thrills story where the only way to attain your goals is by doing it. Prefontaine is directed by Steve James. It stars Jared Leto, R. Lee Ermey, Ed O’Neill, Breckin Meyer, and Amy Locane.

Chaempieon (2002)

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This is a true story about a boxer from South Korea. Not letting his childhood affect him, Kim Deuk-Gu rises to become a force of nature during the 1980s. ‘Gidae’ fought in Las Vegas in 1982 against Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini. The movie is a look into the sacrifices people often are forced to make. It is a movie that also gives you perspective about life in general. Chaempieon is directed by Kwak Kyung-taek. It stars Yu Oh-seong, Chae Min-seo, and Jung Doo-hong. There is also a worthwhile documentary The Good Son that includes that speaks of this particular fight.

 

 

 

 

 

February 10, 2018: All Things Christopher Plummer

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Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hollywood trends have come and gone, only to come back again, and things have rapidly changed with social media. Things are more accessible to create your own little movie, but of course, they will usually not be the blockbuster you think it will be. This can be a blessing and a curse. Let’s face it: watching an amateur video on YouTube is not the same experience as watching a movie in the theater or on your television from a DVD or Blu-ray. This technological modernization of the world, which includes Hollywood has also produced effective “cheaper” made movies with stories seemingly realistic. The acting profession might not have the glamour and glitz it once did. There continues to be crossover from other professions: music and fashion. This isn’t to say it is easy to get into Hollywood because for the majority it is damn hard. You must want it bad. It takes an equal amount of work to stay relevant. The writers’ focus has long forgotten about most epic stories or ones that require an overabundance of thinking by the audience. The audience has spoken. It’s become all about comic book adaptations. Think movies with more action than story, but enough of the latter to not be thought of as one trick cinema.

I tend to be drawn toward roles where actors/actresses are able to showcase their acting range. I firmly believe that a great actor/actress has range. S/he is able to absorb into a role, and if it is one that flies in the direction opposite from where s/he stands in reality, then all the more reason to stand up and clap for him/her. My take on what makes a great actor/actress might differ from the mainstream, as I look to someone who is able to convincingly portray a good person as much as a bad person, and better yet if it is in the same movie. This isn’t to say an actor/actress playing the same role over and over isn’t good, but to launch them into greatness takes work, and then to become one of the legends takes an even larger body of work, and an understanding few attain. A great actor/actress is multilayered in techniques, able to gain access to that “needed thing” effortlessly, and quickly transition within scenes and between performances. I have more to think about what makes a legend, in any profession, but would venture to say it’s a combination of longevity and relevance.

I was first introduced to Christopher Plummer from my grandma. She watched The Sound the Music every year. This was my first introduction to musicals. While this was not his defining role, it surely made him a household name, and this musical is still one of my favorites. I continued watching all kinds of movies as I left my teenage years and ventured into my twenties, thirties, and now forties. I have become enamored, in a non-romantic way, with Plummer as I have with Humphrey Bogart and Sidney Poitier. There is something when seeing an actor/actress who’s walked the streets of Tinseltown year after year, and is no longer considered a “new face.” The Treasure of the Sierra Madre remains one of my favorites for Bogart and In the Heat of the Night for Poitier. My favorite, so far for Plummer, is The Fall of the Roman Empire.

As I watched Plummer in his role as J. Paul Getty, it dawned on me how much I enjoy his performances. I thought about him playing Kaiser Wilhelm II, Leo Tolstoy, Aristotle, and John Barrymore. I thought about his ability to equally play a warmhearted soul and one that is wicked in nature. He’s an actor continuing on his path of promise and deliverance. It almost seems silly for me to even comment because he doesn’t need my accolades. He has already proven himself, but lately I’ve wanted to see faces of “older” actors/actresses. Hollywood likes newcomers, the next big thing, so this is my way of saying I want continued space for veteran actors/actresses. If anyone is deserving of a Hollywood spot, one should be reserved for Christopher Plummer.

February 5, 2018: Humphrey Bogart Quote

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January 17, 2018: New Movie Rating

I’m getting there piece by piece. I can’t wait to apply this to my two reviews and future recommendations. The lower the rating, the smaller the finger size. Symbolism has to count for something.

Cheers and Happy Movie Watching Everyone!!!

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