Movies

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June 9, 2017: Movie Recommendation
This has spoilers so stop reading if you do not want to know the ending of this movie.

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Director: Randall Miller
Screenwriters: Jody Savin, Randall Miller, and Ross Schwartz
Story: Ross Schwartz, Lannette Pabon, Jody Savin, Randall Miller
I saw this in the theater, which I’m sure was a limited release since it was an independent movie. This movie had enough substance behind it to keep my attention. The story was intriguing especially since I can find a good handful of things to drink besides wine. The mark of a good script.
The film hinges on a character/actual person named Steven Spurrier. He is played by Alan Rickman who captures the essence of being a struggling wine shop owner in Paris. He flies to Napa Valley, California to find suitable wines for his Judgement of Paris contest, hoping it increases foot traffic in his store.
He brings back a Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena, which will be competing against the best wines France offers. The Parisian taste testers choose the wine from Napa Valley as the winner, thus putting California on the map. The rest is history as they say, sort of.
Steven Spurrier held another Judgment of Paris in 2006 where another California wine won again. He was not fond of this movie although I thought it was overall enjoyable. It isn’t a movie that would have won any Oscars, but it was decent enough to support.
The supporting cast is Bull Pullman and Chris Pine playing the father and son, Jim and Bo Barrett, Eliza Dushku as Joe, Dennis Farina as Cantavale, Hal B. Klein as Shenky, and Freddy Rodríguez as Gustavo Brambila.
While Rotten Tomatoes has a rating of 48% according to its Tomatometer, it does have an Audience Score of 58%. The choice of viewing it is up to you as always, but can you really beat Alan Rickman doing the thing he does best.
May 28, 2017: Movie Recommendation
argo
Produced: Ben Affleck, George Clooney, and Grant Heslov
Directed: Ben Affleck
Written: Chris Terrio, Tony Mendez, Joshuah Bearman
I saw this in the theater when it came out in 2012. Argo was the kind of film that really had you at the edge of your seat even if you were aware of the end result. It is about a CIA operative, Tony Mendez, who plans the rescue of six United States embassy staff from Iran in early 1980s. He is portrayed by Ben Affleck, and convincingly I might add. This was the perfect role for him. The success of this mission is dependent upon the assistance of Hollywood and cooperation from Canada. Mendez goes through the motions of setting up a production company with a green lit script, fake crew members, and as you probably guessed it, the location of Iran. You watch to see if the six will survive this mission with Mendez leading them hopefully to safety. I’m pretty sure you can guess which way it went, but in case you don’t or don’t want to know ahead of time, I won’t say anything else except watch this film. You won’t be disappointed especially if you are into historical dramas and/or should I say Ben Affleck.
May 28, 2017: Movie Recommendation

awaywego

Produced: Peter Saraf, Edward Saxon, and Marc Turtletaub
Directed: Sam Mendes
Written: Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida

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This is a dramedy directed by Sam Mendes. The person responsible for directing the hit movies American Beauty and Road to PerditionAway We Go is the journey of a married couple, waiting for their first child to be born.  Their original plan of living close to his parents is spoiled when they surprise Burt (Jon Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) of moving out of the country.  This is when Burt and Verona decide to go on the road in search of the best place to raise their child.  Along the way, they observe differing parenting styles of family and friends, and come to an understanding of what kind of parents they want to be.  They also finally discover where they want to set down their roots.  This film has a good supporting cast and the most recognizable names of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jim Gaffigan, Allison Janey, and Josh Hamilton.  While this didn’t have the widespread reach like American Beauty, it is well worth the watch if you desire a lighthearted movie with the right amount of serious moments.
May 27, 2017: Hollywood Screen Legends and Those Missing in Action
The lack of diversity in Hollywood has been on my mind off and on the last few months. The whole debacle of the “White Oscars” and the unfortunate mistake of naming La La Land as this year’s Best Picture, which I think was an honest mistake in all regards, only fueled the fire.
I watched an episode of Charles Barkley’s American Race that aired on TNT, I think a few weeks ago, but these weeks are all blending together for me. It is almost June, which means summer will fly by, and then it will be fall. Once October rolls around, you might as well pack up the ghost and get out your Christmas tree or Menorah or whatever else you have tucked away in your closets.
Getting back to the topic at hand, the consensus is there isn’t much respect for Barkley doing this docuseries. The few reviews I did read weren’t that positive. I felt a little bit bad for him. It did lend to reinforcing my belief that it is hard for Hollywood to change when the people running the studios are White males between the ages of primarily fifties to seventies. It goes hand in hand that the people in power are usually the ones with strongest voices. They have the most resources. They make the majority of decisions. They are the ones who are heard over all the yelling in the background.
I typed out a list of the greatest screen legends from AFI, male and female, and only one person that I recognized that could be viewed as a minority was Sidney Poitier. This doesn’t take away from the talent of everyone else on this list because they are included for very obvious reasons. Don’t get me started on my admiration for Humphrey Bogart. The thing is I would bet my hands there were equally as talented non-White ethnic actors and actresses during this time. They just weren’t given the chance to shine because Hollywood is hard enough as it is to break into, and when you add race into the mix, it makes it that much harder.

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A recent example is the uproar over the James Bond casting on who would replace Daniel Craig. I think pushing the comfort boundaries would do us some good as a whole. It isn’t that White actors wouldn’t fulfill the role properly, but thinking a White actor only needs to replace Craig doesn’t make sense to me. Yes, he’s a British spy, but I highly doubt Britain is only made up of White people. Times have changed, but I also realize people like familiarity.
I think in many cases where it involves a minority character it is damned if you do and damned if you don’t meaning if you are a writer, someone will view your character as a stereotype. If you only cast physically fit or attractive people for your main roles or even extras, then you are somehow fat shaming everyone else. There isn’t an easy solution to making Hollywood more inclusive because on paper it looks simple, but realistically it takes a bit more work.
I find it equally perplexing that movies with some content, where you have to think a little bit, bomb in the box office. I can only chalk it up to people getting used to the remakes and superhero movies made year after year. I’m actually hoping for the next phase to start, and one that incorporates a wider range of subject matter and use of actors/actresses. I give thanks to those who continue to push to push the boundaries, and for making movies I like to watch.
May 14, 2017: The Hollywood Trend of Remakes and Reboots
There’s a Hollywood trend going on: the rebooting of long past television franchises and remakes of films already recognized for their great acclaim.  I have no issue with this, but what does open my eyes is the sloppy decision making along the process in some productions.
I know viewers have an investment in the original because they tend to hold allegiance to what they already know including myself.  I’m willing to give most movies a chance as I did Halloween by Rob Zombie, but when the light on the candle blows out in the first few scenes, I’m not clamoring to watch the second remake.
I won’t name the television show I tried to watch on Netflix recently.  I wanted to hop on this bandwagon, but I could only get through five minutes of it before removing it from my queue.  So why did I stop watching it?   Because of the acting overall and especially of what I would say is the main character’s acting chops or lack thereof.
I began to think of the scenes from the 1980s series where the original actress understood the nuisances of the character.  I thought maybe I was being too harsh on this new actress, but I don’t think I’m asking too much.  It’s hard to get past people who force the acting.  She sounded more like an actress in a body vs. a body in a body.
This finally leads to my movie recommendation where I think the original and remake are solidly worthy.  I’m sure you’ve heard of the zombie movie, Dawn of the Dead.  As a closing note about movies, what happened with the belly flop of King Arthur this weekend?  I was hoping it would do well in the box office because I like Charlie Hunnam as an actor, and it looked like an interesting movie.  I will have to read about its demise later.  Happy movie watching everyone and good night.
May 7, 2017: My First Movie Review of the Year

chuck

After viewing the trailer for Chuck on television, I pretty much knew I’d be seeing this movie this weekend. It was playing in a few theaters near me and one was close to my old stomping grounds. Today was the day to see it at Arc Light. The movie did not disappoint. I would rate it four out of five stars. It wasn’t perfect, but was pretty damn close. There shouldn’t be any spoilers in this review.
Information about Chuck

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Chuck is the movie about Chuck Wepner, also know as “The Bayonne Bleeder.” He served as the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s character of Rocky although Sylvester Stallone has denied this allegation. It would later be settled in court. This was not in the movie, and for good reason. It would have detracted away from the movie’s primary focus being Chuck’s conduct in his relationships and how it affected his family, friends, and most of all himself.
Chuck was written primarily by Jeff Feuerzeig and Jerry Stahl. It was directed by Philippe Falardeau. It had a superb cast including, but not limited to Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan and Spotlight), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men and A Handmaid’s Tale), Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy and Hellboy), Naomi Watts (St. Vincent and Birdman), and Pooch Hall (Suits and Ray Donovan).
Some of the best, emotional scenes were between Chuck played by Liev Schreiber and John played by Michael Rapaport as his estranged brother. I was able to suspend my belief these were actors, which to me is the mark of great acting. I saw tiny sparks of comedy in their interactions during intense scenes, which again is the mark of great acting.
I’m well aware this was a boxing movie too. The fight scenes were well choreographed and shot. The movie’s soundtrack matched the ugly outfits picked by the costume designer. The cinematography gave the viewer a realistic 1970s New Jersey feel. The whole production was top-notch.
Liev Schreiber as Chuck was one of those protagonists you can’t hate for too long despite his womanizing ways, drinking binges, and egotistical personality traits. I always got the sense his flaws prevented him from attaining complete acceptance by others, but more important they outweighed his desire to be rewarded justly. There is a scene with Chuck and Sylvester Stallone played by Morgan Spector, and by the end of it you feel for him. It wasn’t for his lack of trying in life because he really did try to the best of his abilities at that time. He was a boxer who basically went fifteen rounds with Muhammad Ali, had his short claim to fame, and found himself swimming against the currents of his life after it.
What Else I Liked about Chuck
Chuck is a down to earth, human story. I like these kinds of stories. They translate well on the screen if done the right way. I can say hands down that it was done the right way. I began to see a few parallels between the movie Chuck and the movie Rocky besides the obvious. Yes, the characters were similar. That’s a no-brainer. Yes, the underdog got the chance to go the distance with the champ. Yes, some things didn’t go as planned along the way.
Sylvester Stallone was fairly new in Hollywood at the time he wrote Rocky. He had done various odd jobs to pay the bills. When he was satisfied with his draft, he shopped it around. The studio offered him a handsome amount of money, but he rejected it until he was offered what was requested. It’s hard to imagine anyone playing the role of Rocky, and the rest is history as they say. At the end of it all, Chuck and Sylvester mirrored each other too, with the end result being recognition for dues paid. I conclude that while Sylvester Stallone turned Rocky into a franchise (and can we all agree it should’ve stopped at Rocky IV with Drago), Chuck got something of equal worth: his own movie about his own life.
Conclusion
This review isn’t meant to stand the test of time. Some might disagree with parts of this. I am open for debate. My views might change over time, but I doubt it. I hope this encourages others to see this movie. If you don’t, at least, watch Rocky with the commentary. It’s pretty entertaining. There’s a comedic side to Sylvester Stallone you won’t find in his movie Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! On this ending note, have a good night, and happy movie watching.
Images by IMDB/Trailer by IFC Films
April 30, 2017: Documentary/Movie Recommendation
The life of Richard and Mildred Loving, both reluctant to be the face of interracial marriage, sort of mirrors how well this movie did in the Box Office.  Let’s just say the gross total doesn’t cover its production costs as of today.  I’m not sure why more people didn’t want to see it in the theater.  It might be an ugly reminder the United States once enacted laws to preserve the status quo.  The last state to officially legalize interracial marriage was Alabama in 2000.  The film focuses less on the courtroom drama and more on their hardships as the Loving family tried to raise their children safely.  It wasn’t until they won their case in the Supreme Court in 1967 that they were able to return to Virginia and raise their family in relative stability.  The viewer never loses sight of the connection between race and power on both the national and personal level.  I won’t spoil the ending, but I found myself more hopeful than anything when the credits rolled.
April 18, 2017:  Documentary Recommendation

humanodyssey

I learned how resilient and strong our Homo sapiens sapiens ancestors were after watching this.  The rough terrain, unrelenting weather, and scarcity of food they endured and survived really make us the smartest bipedal animals in existence.  I watched all the great peoples of the world with primitive hunting styles and ways of life existing “alongside” the industrialized societies of today.  We have really turned into a population as an whole that our ancestors might question, good and bad.  Many millennial children will be the first to not be in a better place economically and physically compared to their parents.  I wonder hundreds of years from now will things have actually changed for the better given all that has gone and continues to dwindle.  It’s good food for thought as we seem to be turning into a world of machines and speed.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Netflix where this can be viewed as well as on PBS.  Everything in moderation, right?

homotimeline

Image by Wikipedia
April 18, 2017: Movie Recommendation
Contagion
I was away longer than I wanted because the circle thing in the picture below.  It made sure to let me know it had invaded my body and then some.  It knocked me down where I had to rest in bed and basically slept Thursday and Friday, got through work Saturday, and more rest on Sunday and Monday.  I’m feeling somewhat better today.  Thank God.
My recommendation is, of course, a movie related to sickness in the form of a virus that spreads rapidly.  Contagion, directed by Steven Soderbergh, has the perfect ending where you, as the viewer, completely understands the magnitude of infection and disease as it spreads.   It has stuck with me long after.  It also has an engaging beginning hook and a well-paced middle.
This definitely isn’t the feel good movie you want to watch at the end of a trying week.  It is coined as a “medical thriller, disaster film” for a reason.  I recommend watching it when you on the upswing in life as it realistically portrays what could happen although on a much smaller scale this did occur.  I only have this left to say:  remember to wash your hands. 
Cold Virus Image by webmd.boots.com
April 11, 2017: Documentary Recommendations

It’s Time to Get Serious Again!!!

You will get a sense of my interests as many of these are the same subject.  While this list doesn’t even scratch the surface, these are the ones that stood the test of time.  My apologies for not being able to format it properly, but I did not feel like staying up all night trying to get it to work after numerous tries.  The font would have been too small and not very eye friendly.  Enjoy.

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April 10, 2017: Movie Recommendations

It’s Time to Laugh!!!

Sneakers is a caper movie about five hackers.  It has some slapstick comedy and is well-paced.  My favorite character is the blind soundman played by David Straithairn.  The car scene was priceless.  Robert Redford and Ben Kingsley are good.  Dan Aykroyd and Sidney Poitier give equal performances.  Mary McDonnell does her part for the larger cause, but not without some resistance.  I give a shout out to River Phoenix because no one can forget young Indiana Jones.  The ending comes together in a nice little black box. 
Gross Pointe Blank is about attending your high school reunion for all the wrong reasons.  It stars John Cusack and Minnie Driver as past high school sweethearts.  It also stars Dan Aykroyd, at odds with John Cusack, as there can only one hit man allowed in this Michigan city.  This doesn’t justify the bad dancing by Jeremy Piven to popular 1980s songs.  All I have left to say is “POPCORN!” 
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion capitalizes on all the stereotypical blonde jokes and the cliques that often exist at reunions.  The popular students forever hold that status, the nerds remain nerds, the jocks never lose their helmets, the cheerleaders remember their cheers, and the remaining students aren’t remembered all that much.  It speaks of the friendship between Romy and Michele, the need for acceptance, the pain of rejection, and coming out stronger by the end without being overly mushy.  
Evolution is one of my favorite movies with David Duchovny.  It can’t get any sillier than four out of place characters fighting against rapidly advancing alien life.  As the movie progresses, the scenes go from ridiculous to over the top.  This is the appeal of the movie.   Watch it for mindless viewing.  
Ted could be a movie one might not want to admit watching.  I’m not one of those people.  I laughed more than anticipated.  You wouldn’t think a movie about a man choosing a teddy bear or his girlfriend could span a length of 106 minutes and keep your attention.  It did so well done to Seth McFarlane on your first directing gig.  As a side note, you need to have a bit of tolerance for swearing and innuendo because this movie has both. 
April 5, 2017: Movie Recommendation
life
Dane Dehaan portrays a convincing James Dean before his stardom in Hollywood.  He is followed by a photographer working for Life magazine, Dennis Stock, who is played by Robert Pattinson.  He joins Dean on an impromptu road trip back home where the relationship solidifies into trust and allows for the later snapping of the iconic pictures we now know today.  The tricks of a photographer and the love/hate relationship with the camera still exists, but now it’s more with the Paparazzi.  If you are looking for a no thrills drama without car chases and twists and turns, this is the movie for you.  It’s simply a movie about one man who doesn’t trust anyone but his family, and the other trying to find acceptance in a hard entering profession where not many knocks are heard.   
April 1, 2017: Movie Recommendation
cityofgod
City of God or its Portuguese name Cidade de Deus was released worldwide in 2003.  It’s about gang life in Rio de Janeiro.  It involves a kid, Rocket, who grows up with a camera in hand.  He doesn’t want any participation in this illegal lifestyle.  He remains in proximity to the gang members as he matures, but far enough away where he is relatively safe.  It’s a movie based on a true story where living in a rough environment is common occurrence for many kids in such disparity between the economic classes.  The opportunities or places to increase their skill sets are sorely lacking, which is reflected in the tagline, “If you run, the beast catches you; if you stay, the beast eats you.”
March 25, 2017: Movie Recommendation of an 80’s Movie
thefly
A movie I haven’t seen in a while is The Fly.  I’m talking about the David Cronenberg movie where I never looked at Jeff Goldblum the same way.  The metamorphosis of his character was one of greatness.  Yes, I prefer character driven movies vs. action based movies although I have no issue watching any Fast and Furious franchise movies.  The story of the enthusiastic scientist in the beginning to the tortured creature he became at the end also involved the human interaction he sought through Geena Davis’s character.  If only Seth Brundle had taken a little more time to ponder the consequences of his teleportation, but then the viewers would’ve been turned away in boredom.  This isn’t the jump out of your seat because scary things are lurking behind furniture movie.  Every action has an opposite reaction.  Isn’t that how the saying goes?  The Fly is a movie where you see what happens when you don’t check your obsessions at the Telepod door.  Enjoy the spectacular vision it deserves.  
March 23, 2017: Book Recommendation about Actors and Actresses
This is a great book for the fact it gives the reader insights into the personalities of famous actors and actresses, unadulterated and brutally truthful.  Even if it portrays the Hollywood legends in a less than favorable light, you continue to have respect for them as they deserve.  I enjoyed it from first page to the last.  If anything it will serve as a nice diversion from the current Hollywood trends of remakes and comic book films, which there is nothing wrong with, but it is nice to reflect back on eras of the past. 
Explore on Amazon

March 15, 2017: How many of these Greatest Movies have you seen? 

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March 14, 2017

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March 14, 2017: Movie Recommendation

nocturnal animals

This serves as a story of meeting an actor I admire and a movie he starred in that I am recommending.  The first was such a private moment in the sense we were the only two there except his friend, but I tend to forget about his friend.  It was just little old me jogging on a narrow path with the actor coming towards me from the opposite direction.  I had not been paying much attention in front of me as my focus was where my shoes were going, making sure I didn’t trip over any rocks. 

I was sporting my Ray Ban sunglasses and had on my blue jogging shorts.  This is when someone hit my arm as he passed me.  I glanced at him, didn’t really think about it, and picked up my pace.  I kept getting farther from the person when a thought crossed my mind.  Was that Jake Gyllenhaal?  I decided to stop after a few more steps and turned to find him standing still and looking back at me. 

I was sure he was looking at someone behind me, but he was not.  When I registered it actually was Jake Gyllenhaal and not to appear too weird, I darted off.  His head was shaved as he was filming the movie End of Watch.  I jogged back home, knowing I would remember this arm bump, and in between that time and now I’ve seen a handful of Jake Gyllenhaal’s movies.

The movie I’m recommending is Nocturnal Animals.  The interweaving between past and present is nothing new, but effective to the story.  I like a good drama.  Who doesn’t like seeing the relationship between two people have its ups and downs play out on the screen?  While I read some viewers grumbled about the ending, I thought it was done the right way.  It kept my attention from start to finish.  It made me think what would I do in the situation.  Enough talk.  Go watch the movie.  Enjoy it, and eat tons of popcorn for me.

March 11, 2017
I was late in watching the series Spartacus.  I wish there were more seasons and wonder what would have occurred had Andy Whitfield continued to live past the age of his prime.  I heard of this documentary while watching her and along with the other actors that played gladiators.  The tenacity and strength he possessed to prepare for this role astounds me.  I knew the filmmaker rallied his fans to help raise the finances needed to make this documentary.  I was one of the fortunate ones to reap this benefit.  It goes to show one never should lose sight on the importance of what life has to offer.  Live it to the fullest, learn from your mistakes, and look ahead more than behind you.
March 5, 2017
filmImage by Nyfa
quotewiseImage by Filmmaking
oscargoestoImage by Wallpapers
March 4, 2017

AFI Says…

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Rotten Tomatoes Says…

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Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Films

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March 3, 2017
I came to Hollywood in late 2006 wanting to live the big Hollywood dream as a screenwriter.  I went to an immersion program and ten years later I have written a few screenplays that went nowhere… really, really fast.  Fast forward to ten years later, which was the end of 2016 so I’m well on my way to making Los Angeles my home for eleven years.  I learned the hard way even if you believe in yourself 110% does not mean “it” will happen.  I’ve always been interested in movies, but I also enjoy the process of film making from the skill of actors/actresses to the strength and stamina of the DP and Director to the creativity of the production and set designers to the way sound effects can enhance a movie.
colors11Image by Will Direct
Tinseltown was a small community with a cut throat atmosphere and even more so today.  It is hard to get into and even harder to sustain it.  The new best thing is always around the corner and someone will take your place.  You need to be relevant and want it on many levels.  Those people who continue to work in the film industry, I commend them in every way possible.  It was not enough for me to learn all about below the line and above the line career opportunities, which none I was so lucky to be hired.  If I could do it over again, I might have delved into producing, but after a while I gave up on it altogether.
hollywoodlandImage by Schmoop
This made me feel like a failure many times over until I realized putting my eggs in one basket was never the way to go.  It doesn’t mean I gave up my creative endeavors, but I have a different spin on it compared to my early 30s.  I never took life for granted, but being in my early 40s I understand how important it is to “truly” live your life.  Being that I’m creative and ever the thinker, this page is dedicated to movies or if you prefer, film.  I usually watch movies long after they have come to and gone from the theaters.  I’ve become more selective and it takes a special kind of film, theme, actor/actresses to make me not see driving to a theater as a chore.  No matter if it bombed or excelled over the weekend, if I am interested in the movie, I will watch it, absorb it, and then comment on it.
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I’m not interested in being the most knowledgeable and well-rounded film guru because I’m the farthest thing from it.  There is no snootiness to this page and blogs/reviews posted will be humble.  I don’t need to show I’m well versed in this kind of genre or have seen every movie out there imaginable about X or Y or Z because I haven’t.  However, I’ve included a list a top movies for the recent years and best movies of all time according to Rotten Tomatoes and AFI.  I will soon post personal top ten lists.  The genres I prefer are dramas, musicals, epics, horror, political thrillers, and documentaries along with some comedies, westerns, and fantasy so be sure to tell me of any good movies you’ve seen because suggestions are always welcome.  It will break up the 160 Netflix choices in my queue.
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