Gimme 5: Famous Crushes!

Here’s a fun & easy one for you and just about everyone can sprout off at least five — so no excuses this week! We all have those actors and actresses who we just love to look at…those men and women who we think are simply hot, hot, hot! From those handsome and gorgeous men and women in those early classic films to the sexy and dazzling stars of today, I am asking this week for you to:

GIMME 5 CELEBRITY CRUSHES:

 

I Will Start:

1.  Ingrid Bergman
(never to be duplicated; never to be matched)
2. Scarlett Johansson
(a stunning blend of 40’s Hollywood and present day all rolled into one)
3. Jessica Biel
(She doesn’t make many good films at all, but The Illusionist is terrific & so is watching her in it!)
4. Christina Hendricks
(it won’t be long before she starts doing big time films…trust me)
5. Diane Keaton
(the tie, the hat, the vest…the epitome of sexiness forever tattooed in my head — and
she still looks dynamite!
)

My apologies to the beautiful Marisa Tomei!!! You’d be perfect on anyone’s Top 5 List!!!

Now It’s YOUR Turn!

Peter Eramo Reviews: The Girl Who Played With Fire (** ½)

Sequels are a tough breed — and a bit of a bitch to get right. Recent history has shown that it is the rare film indeed that can stand up to its predecessor, let alone best it. Let me start by saying that I thought that Niels Arden Oplev’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (released earlier this year) was a marvelous film — powerful, gripping, haunting, and vastly entertaining (see my review here). As of this posting, it remains the best movie of the year in my opinion – it really isn’t even close. That was the first film of the trilogy based on the bestselling novels by the late Stieg Larsson. I have not read the books and didn’t know much about them at all, so the first film caught me completely off guard in the very best of ways. Then The Girl Who Played With Fire came out recently to lukewarm reviews, but I loved the first film so much and was so thoroughly impressed with its towering achievement that I most certainly had to check it for for myself.

Sadly, I must agree with the general consensus that this 2nd installment — directed by Daniel Alfredson (and not Oplev, which may have been a detriment) — doesn’t come close to touching the first. I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who says otherwise. It’s not a terrible film by any means, but there is so much wrong with it that it doesn’t make up for its intriguing storyline, frequent plot twists, and overall mystery. This film, by contrast, seems scattered and disjointed. The character development that was done so brilliantly in the first film is altogether lost here. The pacing is also somewhat slower, with the action taking the viewer to numerous locations throughout Sweden rather than keeping it centered and focused.

Part of what made the original so compelling was its two lead characters: the ever-resourceful Lisbeth Salander and disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist respectively), working together throughout the film to solve the fascinating mystery. Rapace gave the grittiest, most multi-layered performance of the year and if she is denied an Oscar nomination for doing so, then something is most terribly rotten in the state of Denmark (or Sweden, if you prefer). Here, her computer whiz Salander has become the prime suspect in the double murder of two journalists right before an expose of the Swedish sex trade is launched in Blomqvist’s Millennium magazine. Refusing to meet with Blomqvist, she tries her best to avoid being detected and find the murderer(s) herself. In doing so, Rapace is given very little to do — and knowing her range and scope, it just seems to be a terrible waste. She is a loner, an outcast, autonomous, disconnected — too much so. For his part, Blomqvist is absolutely sure of Salander’s innocence and does everything in his power to prove this to everyone, including the police. His faith in and love for her is clear throughout and NyQvist does a good job of conveying this without going overboard.

There are some terrible bad guys here, which make for great villains — and some fascinating discoveries made along the way, some believable and some, unfortunately, too far-fetched. Peter Andersson makes another appearance as the “sadistic pig” Nils Bjurman and he is so effective in this role, truly creating one of cinema’s most vile characters. Yasmine Garbi does admirably as Lisbeth’s lover and woman who unwittingly puts herself in grave danger by taking over her friend’s apartment — and as Alexander Zalachenko, Georgi Staykov under all the heavy make-up is loathsome and harrowing. There is a line in the film that describes Lisbeth as being indestructible — and boy does the story really take that theory to its most extreme — to the point where it is almost too implausible.

However, for all of its faults and setbacks, The Girl Who Played With Fire does deliver in terms of suspense and intrigue. Alfredson manages to keep you on your toes and wonder what the next piece of the jigsaw puzzle will be. At its core, the film is a mystery/thriller and it does provide in that respect. But the ending — what were they thinking with this ending?! I can understand leaving viewers hanging a bit, but this was far too abrupt and left you more frustrated than anything else.

Now it may be unfair to compare a sequel to its original, but that’s part of the bargain — and the studios and  filmmakers are well aware of this. It is almost impossible to critique a sequel without some comparison to its original, especially when its the second film of an immensely popular trilogy with all three films released in the span of under a year (and I should mention that those who have not seen the first chapter, will be at a complete loss if they go into this second film blind). The upside here is that it provides a more modest level of expectation for the third film, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (also directed by Alfredson). Where the first film tidied things up rather soundly (though it sacrificed an utterly brilliant climax to do so), this second film leaves a few strings left untied, setting up the third and final installment quite nicely. Let’s hope it delivers in mighty fashion.

Rating:      
Director:    Daniel Alfredson
Year:          2010

To view the trailer for The Girl Who Played With Fire, click here.

Lily the Pug Turns 10! Her Top 5 Movie Dogs!

For those movie lovers familiar with this site, you may have come across the Lily the Pug page at the top of the homepage. When I first began writing this blog 7 months ago, I immediately proclaimed Lily to be the honorary mascot of the Magic Lantern Film Blog. Yes, the pug you see here is my sweet and beautiful Lily who I adopted from Pug Rescue in December 2001. And today, July 25th — Lily turns 10 years old!!! Many nights, Lily is comfortably by my side as I sit and watch my many movies. To commemorate this very special day, I promised our mascot that we would post her Top 5 Movie Dogs of All-Time. It may be somewhat biased, but today is her special day so she can choose any pup she wants to!

 LILY’S TOP 5 MOVIE DOGS!

#5. Jerry Lee (K-9, 1989)

Jerry Lee is a German Shepherd who gets assigned to work with narcotics cop, Mike Dooley (James Belushi) to help nail down a drug kingpin. The movie may not be brilliant, but it’s a lot of fun – especially the scenes between the two “odd couple” partners. Of course Mike can’t stand Jerry Lee at first, but a close bond slowly develops. Lily likes him because he does his own thing and has an exuberant personality all his own. Not only is he a good police dog, but Jerry Lee also gets a lot of action, especially with some cute, high-class poodle (the James BrownI Feel Good” cranks up when he’s done doing his thang). Most of the laughter from this film comes from these two bouncing off one another and the scene where Jerry Lee is laying in the hospital is very sweet.

Very interesting note – Jerry Lee was played by Koton, an actual Kansas City police dog. Tragically, he was shot and killed apprehending a suspect in the attempted murder of a police officer in 1991 (listed on the IMDb website). Rest in peace, Koton!

#4. Frank the Pug (Men in Black, 1997 & 2002)

Frank the Pug was so good in the first movie, that director Barry Sonnenfeld made sure to give him an even larger role in its sequel. He just has a knack for stealing every scene he is in, which is no easy feat when you are opposite Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. In the film, Frank is actually an extraterrestrial in disguise and acts as an informant for MiB, providing them with information on “the galaxy.” Frank supplies a lot of humor here and has a lot of moxie; Lily likes him for his singing chops — remember him barking to “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and singing a few lines of the nauseating “I Will Survive”? In both films, Frank is played by a pug named Mushu. I think Lily voted for him just because he’s a fellow pug, but she swears she was being completely objective on this.

#3. Old Yeller (Old Yeller, 1957)

Lily is into the classics too (insisting that Toto is way overrated) and feels there is no Top 5 list without this lovable, unforgettable mutt. Critic Jeff Walls stated, “Old Yeller, like The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars, has come to be more than just a movie; it has become a part of our culture” — and this is mainly because of the lasting impact that this Labrador Retriever/Mastiff mix has on us long after the end credits roll. Old Yeller comes to this family uninvited really – and develops such a strong bond with Travis and the rest of his new family. How one can watch this movie and not shed a few tears, I will never know. It remains one of the most popular tear-jerkers in cinematic history and that all stems from the love that Old Yeller has for the Coates family and the love that they in turn have for their dog. A funny coincidence here is that James Belushi in K-9, tries to intimidate Jerry Lee by telling him that when he watched the end of Old Yeller as a boy he “did not cry!” Another tidbit of trivia: the dog who played this timeless pup was named Spike. Great job, Spike! Lily feels the Academy snubbed you bigtime!

#2. The Eight Sled Dogs (Eight Below, 2006)

Based on a true story, a sled dog trainer must leave the polar base in Antarctica and ties his eight dogs up so that they may be rescued in short time. But when the mission is called off, the dogs are left to fend for themselves, fighting the unforgiving Arctic terrain for six months. Though the makers tinkered a bit with actual events (and the fate of some of the real-life dogs), the movie is surely an inspirational and heart-warming one. For the film, two Alaskan Malamutes (Buck and Shadow) were used, as well as six Siberian Huskies (Maya, Max, Truman, Dewey, Shorty and Old Jack). Each actor-dog had stunt dogs that pulled sleds and performed various other stunts. In all, 30 dogs were used to portray the eight characters. A credit to the filmmakers, each seems to have his/her own personality. Poor chubby Lily would never be able to survive in the Arctic for a single day, which makes her admire and respect the heart and perseverance of these eight all the more.

#1. Otis the Pug (The Adventures of Milo & Otis, 1986)

Yes, Lily went with another pug for her #1 slot — a shameless sign of favoritism on her part, if you ask me! But if you have ever seen this adorable little film, you can perhaps understand where she is coming from. Milo is the cute little (and lucky) cat — his bestest friend in all the world is Otis, the adorable pug who looks out for him. From tiny kitten & pup, these two pals grow up together on the same farm and get into all kinds of mischief, mostly because Milo’s curiosity always gets the best of him. One day, the two are separated and the real adventure begins — Otis must go off and find his best friend! To do so, Otis must travel far and bear the merciless weather, as well as fight off a few hungry foes. Narrated quite beautifully by the late Dudley Moore, this is a remarkable tale of loyalty and friendship. Both animals are so very cute and it’s fun to watch the two grow up and have families of their own. This is a wonderful, moving film for both kids and adults. Lily just loves watching Otis — he’s her Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp. And he remains her absolute favorite movie dog of all-time…

Lily wanted to make sure and give Honorable Mentions to:

Hoser (Strange Brew), Hercules (The Sandlot), Lady (Lady and the Tramp) and Hachiko the Akita, from Hachi: A Dog’s Tale which we both watched a few weeks ago — we both greatly admired Hachiko’s unwavering loyalty and perserverance throughout those many, many years of waiting for her Master (Richard Gere) to come home from the train station. Such a sweet film…

Gimme 5: Seriously Shitty Sequels!

I just posted a list of 10 movies to look forward to over the last few months of this year and included in this list is Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. This is of course, a sequel to the original that was released 23 years ago. I’m not a fan of sequels, especially the ones without much reason for them, the ones that are made so blatantly for money purposes. The trailer for Stone’s sequel is quite captivating and I am very much looking forward to seeing where Gordon Gekko goes from prison. But it got me to thinking about sequels in general and all the ones (as there have been oh-so-many) that have simply stunk up the screen. So for this week’s “Gimme 5” feature, I am asking you to share your own thoughts and, off the top of your head:

GIMME 5 SERIOUSLY SHITTY SEQUELS!!!

I will start…(in no particular order)

1. Caddyshack 2 (1988)
everyone but Chevy was smart enough to bail out
2. Ocean’s 12 (2004)
so bad Clooney had to apologize for it when the 3rd came out
3. The Matrix Reloaded & Revolutions (2003)
I get a two-fer here!!!
4. Staying Alive (1983)
bad sequel, but does make for an awesome comedy!
5. Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
campy in the worst way possible; Michael Caine to this day says he only did it for the money…

Now it’s YOUR Turn!!!

10 Movies To Get Excited About for the 2nd Half of 2010!

So we are well past the halfway point of 2010, and I can say with all sincerity that I have sadly seen only one truly great movie so far. By leaps and bounds, Niels Arden Oplev’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo stands, in my opinion, as the best film of the year thus far (perhaps Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard was great too, so, ok…two movies) . But we still have five months left and you know those “Oscar-type” films will start creeping into theatres come October, which is always something to look forward to. With the summer lackbuster season headed into its final stretch, I thought I’d highlight ten movies to look forward to for the second half of this year. They are in no particular order — just ten movies to get excited about.

#1. Conviction (dir. Tony Goldwyn)

I caught this trailer in the theatres a couple of weeks ago and it screamed Oscar buzz, especially for its two leading actors – Sam Rockwell and Hilary Swank. Rockwell (Choke, Snow Angels, Moon) may very well be his generation’s most underrated actor and it is high time this man starts getting his due. Here, Swank plays a high school dropout and single mother who spends two decades putting herself through law school in order to overturn her brother’s murder conviction. The rest of the cast ain’t so shabby either — Minnie Driver, Peter Gallagher, Juliette Lewis and the always strong Melissa Leo round out what looks to be one of the highlights of the latter part of the year.

#2. Secretariat (dir. Randall Wallace)

Walt Disney Pictures releases this film which tells the rousing story of Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), whose freak of a horse, Secretariat won the ever-elusive Triple Crown in 1973. Taking over for her ailing father, Chenery enters into the male-dominated world of horse racing and fights against all odds to produce one of the most successful champions of the 20th century. This marks the first film Wallace has helmed since 2002’s We Were Soldiers and looks to be a very heartwarming and inspiring film. John Malkovich, Scott Glenn and James Cromwell co-star in this true story. I was a tremendous fan of the wonderful Seabiscuit and though this is an altogether different tale, I remain hopeful that it is just as good.

#3. Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (dir. Oliver Stone)

I’m usually not one for sequels, but this one just looks too damned good. The trailer, played to the backdrop of the classic “Sympathy for the Devil,” had me right away and thankfully, Stone, one of America’s most powerful directors, is behind it all. And he could use a rebound after a few clunkers in recent years – fingers crossed, this one looks like the real deal, despite the presence of Shia LaBeouf.  The disgraced Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas, reprising his Oscar-winning performance) is out of prison and back on the stockmarket scene. Considering the state of our nation’s current economy woes, the film couldn’t have better timing. Jacob Moore (LaBeouf) is a young trader who teams up with Gekko to alert the financial world of its impending troubles — and also to seek out the murderer of his mentor. Eli Wallach, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Susan Sarandon — and yes, Charlie Sheen, round out the cast. Ah, greed….

#4. Megamind (dir. Tom McGrath)

This one, from Dreamworks Animation, sets up the ultra heavyweight match we’ve all been waiting for — Ferrell vs. Pitt, and looks like a lot of fun for moviegoers of all ages. Will Ferrell lends the voice for the title character, a super-evil villain who becomes quite bored after killing his arch enemy. Since there is no one left to fight, he creates a new rival in Titan (Jonah Hill). But things don’t really go Megamind’s way once Titan sets out to destroy the world instead! Brad Pitt is the voice of Metro Man and Tina Fey also provides some vocal work to what looks to be a very humorous satire on what we have come to expect of the superhero genre.

#5. Jack Goes Boating (dir. Philip Seymour Hoffman)

This strikes me as being a sleeper hit of the Fall season. Hoffman makes his directorial debut with this film, based on the Robert Glaudini play that Hoffman starred in and helped develop off-Broadway. John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega are also back, reprising their stage roles. Set in New York City, Hoffman plays Jack, a socially challenged hermit who spends the better part of a year preparing for a blind date. Based on the trailer, this looks like a wonderfully quirky, charming and romantic film and you can see that Hoffman is ideal for this eccentric role. This looks like the kind of movie I always embrace, and of all the films on this list, this may be the one I am most looking forward to.

#6. The Fighter (dir. David O. Russell)

Darren Aronofsky was slated to direct this one, but got caught up in his fantastic film, The Wrestler. Enter hothead director, David O. Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees) who is looking to make a comeback. The film stars Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg (who was brilliant in “Huckabees“), Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo (that’s two on this list and I’m so excited she is getting a lot of work). The film focuses on the boxer “Irish” Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his rise to the world light welterweight title. His climb to the top is propelled by his half-brother Dicky (Bale), a former boxer turned trainer with a seedy history of crime and drugs. I’m a fan of sports flicks and Wahlberg has shown himself to be a very gifted actor. From the looks of it, there seems to be a Rocky-like feel to it, not just because it is set in the world of boxing, but in its heart and spirit.

#7. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (dir. Woody Allen)

OK, if you’re a reader of the Magic Lantern Film Blog, you know that this is a pro-Woody site. Deal with it — I love Woody Allen, despite the fact that his recent films (Match Point, Cassandra’s Dream, Whatever Works) have been pretty good at best. But with the approach of each new Allen project, I remain ever-hopeful that this will be his “comeback film.” The movie had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and stars Anthony Hopkins (in the surrogate Woody character), Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Lucy Punch, and Josh Brolin. Set in London, the word is that this is a romantic farce where Hopkins plays an old crumudgeon who tries to cheat death by leaving his wife and falling for a much younger prostitute (Punch). Watts plays Hopkins’ daughter who is unhappily married (it’s a Woody film, remember?) and has a crush on her boss (Banderas). I’m just glad that I don’t have to sit and watch Nicole Kidman, who was originally slated to play the part played by Punch. I’m sure all of the themes that Allen loves to explore will be prominently displayed here — I’m just hoping for a funny and smart film that can hopefully rank among the better works of this legendary filmmaker.

#8. The Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Malick)

Maverick director Terrence Malick brings this period piece to life, examining the lives of a family with three boys set in the 1950’s. It tells the tale of one boy in particular and his journey from childhood innocence to his disillusionment as an adult, struggling as a “lost soul in the modern world.” He sets out on a search to to find the true meaning of life. Knowing Malick’s work, this promises to be a visually stunning film with great characters and rich, lavish designs. After taking twenty years to come out with The Thin Red Line (1998), it’s great to see Malick coming out with this one only five years after his under-appreciated The New World. Details have been a bit hard to find on this one (no surprise), but the movie stars Sean Penn and Brad Pitt, so that’s a pretty good start and reason enough to be excited.

#9. Hereafter (dir. Clint Eastwood)

It’s Clint – what the hell more do you want?! This time, he takes on a supernatural element from a script written by Peter Morgan (The Queen) that focuses on three people from different parts of the world who are touched by death in very different ways. Like most Eastwood projects, there isn’t very much information being released on this thriller, but the man’s resume the past few years is simply indisputable. Matt Damon plays George, a soft-spoken factory worker who has the ability to talk to the dead, but chooses not to. His story, along with two others intersect as the characters search for answers about what lies in store for us after we are gone. Bryce Dallas Howard, Cecile De France, and Richard Kind co-star in what could be another very busy awards season for Mr. Eastwood.

#10. True Grit (dir. The Coen Brothers)

I know that movie purists and John Wayne enthusiasts are ‘gritting’ their teeth at the fact that this classic 1969 film has been remade. I’m not a fan of remakes at all and there are very few that have ever been any good, but three words give me tremendous hope that this will stand out among the others — the Coen Brothers. That’s really all I need to hear and with their ever-impressive body of work since 1984, I fully trust that they would never have set out to make this film if they didn’t think it was going to be terrific. In my opinion, they’ve made one bad film (Intolerable Cruelty) among an abundance of brilliant works that include Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, A Serious Man, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. Their other remake (The Ladykillers) wasn’t such a great movie at all, which gives me some pause, but just look at who is playing Marshal Cogburn, the role that won Wayne his “Best Actor” Oscar — the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges! That’s reason for excitement in itself. 14-year old Mattie Ross looks to hire the toughest marshal she can find to help her seek out the man who murdered her father and she ends up with Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn. I can’t wait to see Bridges in that eye-patch in this ever-slothful, no-good role. Comes out on Christmas Day — a real present for movie lovers, one and all!

Peter Eramo Reviews: “Inception” (** ½)

Christopher Nolan’s Inception was perhaps the most widely anticipated movie of the summer; a summer besieged with lackluster remakes and sequels; a summer filled with mediocrity. Acknowledging the depth of Nolan’s past work (in particular, Insomnia and Memento), I too was looking forward to seeing this new sci-fi thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard, though I remained cautiously optimistic. Now, the film has had an impressive opening weekend at the box-office and has received a tremendous amount of critical and public acclaim. And though it is at times an engaging and entertaining film, it falls well short of its pre-perceived hype that had already declared it a “masterpiece” before it was even released. In fact, there is no reason to even be thinking of throwing around the overused “m” word in this case – the word is so recklessly thrown about too much as it is. But, I digress…

Inception is an easy enough movie to explain, however hopelessly wearing and nearly impossible to follow. That is because this is a film about dreams and nearly everything that we see here is a dream, or a dream within a dream — or as arduous as it sounds, a dream within a dream within another one. It’s an easy out for Nolan and he takes full advantage of it, believing that he is giving the public something to mull over and analyze, when really, he has a full-proof “out clause” for any perceived hole in the story, of which there are a few. Nothing needs to be logically explained here — it’s all surrounded by dreams…the writer’s ever-tempting “fall back.”

Set in the near-future, technology has now advanced to the point where people can enter into and access the dreams of others. Enter Dom Cobb (DiCaprio), a thief who specializes in entering people’s subconscious minds and extracting their ideas and thoughts. Cobb is fighting his own personal demons which build in the various dream sequences throughout the course of the film. Living from job to job, he wants nothing more than to be able to enter his home country once again and be reunited with his two small children, who he hasn’t seen in years. Enter the mysterious business tycoon, Saito (Ken Watanabe) who presents Cobb with a very intriguing proposition and the chance to return to his children for good: rather than extracting an idea from someone’s mind, Saito wants to hire Cobb to implant the seed of an idea into the mind of the wealthy heir of a gigantic business conglomerate (a wooden Cillian Murphy). This process — called “inception” — has seemingly never been done before, though Cobb insists it can be done and takes this one last risky job for a chance at redemption. “Assemble your team!” Saito shouts out from his private helicopter and with that, we are introduced to Cobb’s team of professionals.

Let’s start with that team, shall we? A fine collection of actors who are given very little to do. Nolan is not interested in giving these characters any depth whatsoever and we learn almost nothing about the entire lot. The result is that we are left with uninteresting, 2-dimensional characters who we have no emotional connection or investment in. His right-hand man and trusted associate Arthur (Gordon-Levitt), meticulously plans out all the intricacies of the mission, his forger (Tom Hardy) takes on various identities within the dreams, and Yusef (Dileep Rao) is their chemist who makes sure that everyone is properly in a deep sleep. But Nolan needs someone to explain all of his rules about the dream state to the audience, so he has Cobb hire a new architect (Ellen Page), someone who creates the structural design of the dream world. The dialogue in these parts, is a bit stiff as it really only exists to explain and narrate to the audience what is actually going on. Rao and Gordon-Levitt are fine, though kind of just “there.” Hardy actually brings a charm and certain suavity to Eames, the forger. Watanabe, though very fitting, is very hard to understand throughout because of his thick accent and a lot of dialogue is lost. Clarity is always a good thing. Ellen Page is simply a complete misfire here and brings almost nothing to the role of Ariadne. She plods along throughout the movie with little emotion and I just never bought into the silly idea that Cobb’s associates, who have worked with him for years, aren’t aware of his volatile mental state as it concerns his wife (who haunts him in each and every dream) — but the girl who has been on the job for a few days knows all about it and continues to pester Cobb to let the others in on his little secret. Marion Cotillard plays Cobb’s wife, and as we come to expect, she is quite captivating here and keeps our attention on her whenever she appears. The scenes between husband and wife are very well done and it’s the only time DiCaprio really gets to work his acting chops. Cotillard’s presence is pervasive, even in those scenes which she is not in. Michael Caine is wasted in his two scenes and it is a wonder why he even needed to play such a thankless role other than having worked with Nolan before.

Of course the special effects here are remarkably impressive, but at this point, isn’t that to be expected? I don’t really count that as such a major plus at this point, knowing how far technology in film has come. We watch DiCaprio and Page calmly sit outside a Parisian bistro as the city is blowing up all around them. Very cool to look at indeed, but when you know the two actors are sipping cappuccino in front of a green screen, it takes something away from the experience. The art direction truly stands out as does Hans Zimmer’s score. Lee Smith has the very tiring and impossible task of making sense of all of this and does a commendable job.

I must say that I was very much engrossed in this movie for the first hour. I loved the dynamic of Cobb and his wife and the idea of inception struck me as original and compelling. Everything is set up pretty well and I’m waiting to see how this mission will take shape. It’s when the team puts their “mark” (Murphy) under sedation that the film slowly begins to go south…and boy do I mean slowly. I have never minded a long film in my life, so long as it’s engaging and worth the time. The last hour of this movie just lumbers along at a painstaking pace you can’t wait for it to end – and that is never a good sign. What takes 40 minutes here can easily have taken 20 minutes, but I fear that Nolan falls so in love with his own vision that it comes back to bite him. Memento is the much tighter, smarter film; not to mention, the more entertaining of the two.

I have read a number of glowing reviews over the past couple of days and I wonder to myself if they were watching the same muddled mess I was watching. There is the idea that people were going to fall in love with this film no matter what they saw (which certainly happens). Perhaps compared to nearly every summer movie out there, this simply looks more impressive than it is based on comparison alone (which happens as well). I know that Nolan has a devout following and this is yet a third hypothesis. Look, I don’t think this a bad movie by any stretch — and I will certainly give it another viewing, which I feel it deserves. But I like to remain truthful and honest in my criticism and as much as I wanted to love it too, I cannot get past the many flaws that are quite clear in this work. In many ways, this is a cold movie — in mood, narration and approach to its audience. In areas it has remnants of The Matrix and Dreamscape, two films that I would give much higher recommendations to. In the end, I know this film will wind up on nearly every critic’s Top 10 list of the year, and I know when I see that, I will still be shaking my head wondering why….hoping that this too will be a dream that I am suddenly waken out of.

Rating:      
Year:          2010
Director:   Christopher Nolan

Gimme 5: Your Five Favorite Nic Cage Films!

OK, so today marks the release of one of the year’s most anticipated films and I know many (including myself) that are going to see it this weekend. So for this week’s “Gimme 5,” we’ll focus on THAT OTHER film being released today…that’s right — The Sorcerer’s Apprentice starring the one and only Nicolas Cage! Now the trailer for this didn’t look all that bad and I will most likely catch it when it is released on DVD. An Oscar-winner, Mr. Cage has a long and impressive resume (despite films like Ghost Rider, The Wicker Man and a few others) dating back to his feature-film debut in 1982 in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

So for this week, I am asking you movie-lovers to:

GIMME YOUR 5 FAVORITE NIC CAGE MOVIES!

I will start…

5. Face/Off
4. Adaptation
3. Wild at Heart
2. Leaving Las Vegas
1. Matchstick Men

(this was actually much tougher than I thought it would be…)

Now, it’s YOUR Turn!!!

The Top 15 Sports Movies of All-Time!

We are officially in the midst of the Dog Days of Summer, with Major League Baseball just finishing up their annual All-Star festivities and their season hitting its midpoint. Football mini-camps are right around the corner (Go Jets!) and the frenetic chaos that was the NBA period to sign free agents has come to and end. The World Cup is over and The U.S. Open hits Flushing, NY at the very end of August. So I thought that now would be a fitting time to come up with my personal Top 15 List of the Greatest Sports Films of All-Time. Two things I love in this world are sports and film — and I love when those two elements are put together to make an inspiring, stimulating and emotional sports flick. I brainstormed about 120 sports films and whittled it down to just ten movies – but much like my “Greatest Comedies of the Decade” list, I was upset that a few of my favorites were left off, so I branched out to 15 great movies. Then there was the question as to whether or not I considered certain films to be classified as “sports films” (the debate on this continues for films like Jerry Maguire, Field of Dreams, The Hurricane, and Raging Bull). There are also a number of very good films that did not make the list, so I included some honorable mentions as well. Hope you read and enjoy — and, as always, I look forward to your own thoughts and comments on this topic.

#15. Miracle (2004)

Before all of the fun and purity was sucked out of the Olympic Ice-Hockey games by letting professional players compete, the amateurs ruled the ice. And in 1980, one of the biggest upsets in sports history took place when the United States Hockey team defeated the seemingly unconquerable team from the Soviet Union in Lake Placid and then winning the Gold Medal by defeating Finland. Miracle focuses on the player-turned-coach Herb Brooks and how he led the underdog Team USA to their extraordinary run. Kurt Russell does an admirable job as the ever-demanding, workaholic coach and the film does a terrific job at staying true to actual events and capturing the moment that shocked the world and made America proud.  

#14. Eight Men Out (1988)

A superb film, with a stellar cast and directed by one of our very best filmmakers in John Sayles. If you like sports movies and haven’t seen this one yet, put this one in your queue right away! Most recently, Major League Baseball’s black eye was the use of ballplayers taking performance enhancing drugs, but for decades it was the infamous “Black Sox” scandal – when the Chicago White Sox of 1919 deliberately lost the World Series. Sayles does a brilliant job of telling this unbelievable true story in which eight players (including Shoeless Joe Jackson) are suspended for life. A wonderful period piece, the film does a great job of putting you in a different time and place. The costume design and dialogue are completely authentic and the cast (including John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, John Mahoney, Michael Rooker, David Strathairn and D.B. Sweeney) does a marvelous job. You truly empathize with the characters and the dilemmas they are going through — and if you are an avid baseball fan like myself, you will really lose yourself in watching America’s greatest pastime during its real Golden Age.

#13. Caddyshack (1980)

This movie is the main reason I augmented this list from 10 to 15 films. I don’t know if it’s a “guy thing,” but there was no way I could create a “Best Sports Movies” list and not include this comedy classic from Harold Ramis. Rodney Dangerfield is at his crude and arrogant best, and every Bill Murray scene is hilarious, but it is Ted Knight who is my absolute favorite here as Judge Smails, the owner of the illustrious Bushwood Country Club. The funniest scene here (out of so very many) is when Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) has to play through Carl Spackler’s (Murray) hovel. I also love the ever-growing conflict between Judge Smails and Al Czervik (Dangerfield), the eccentric millionaire. This film always makes me laugh and for my money, is the better “golf film” than The Legend of Bagger Vance or Tin Cup. “In the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre, ‘Au revoir, gopher!'”

#12. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

This film won the “Best Picture” Oscar and deservedly so as it truly packs a devastating right hook. Warner Brothers did an incredible job of keeping the story under wraps when it was released so when I went in to see it, I just thought this was going to be a movie about a female boxer. Boy, was I wrong! Some people think this Clint Eastwood flick is overrated, but my guess is that they either heard about or were made aware of  the emotional roller coaster ride this movie takes you on beforehand. The father/daughter-like relationship between Eastwood’s Frankie Dunn and Hilary Swank’s Maggie Fitzgerald is a beautiful one to  behold and so elegantly crafted. Eastwood also does a very nice job of interspersing some well-needed humor at just the right moments. There are some great boxing sequences and Swank creates a character who comes from nowhere and has a dream; she is fiercely competitive, and has the heart of a lion. There are also some great, atmospheric scenes around Dunn’s gym where all the regulars go on a daily basis (including Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris played by Morgan Freeman). A magnificent piece of storytelling that breaks your heart every time. Mo Cuishle…

#11. Pride of the Yankees (1942)

The true story of the “Iron Man” himself, Lou Gehrig, one of the greatest baseball players ever to don the infamous Yankees pinstripes. Gary Cooper’s portrayal of Gehrig is a commendable one as the film follows him from his childhood in New York, through his years as a New York Yankee and ending, tragically, with his now famous “Luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech before succumbing to the fatal ALS disease at the very young age of 37. You learn a lot about the life of this talented ballplayer here, including the unhealthy relationship he had with his mother (Elsa Janssen does a terrific job in the complex role). Teresa Wright is very well cast as the woman who loves him and Babe Ruth is played by…well, the Babe himself! A classic sports film — and a must-see for any baseball fan…or any fan of inspirational and moving films.  

#10. Remember the Titans (2000)

I just love this film. It’s a great sports film, but so much more than that, covering the real life events of the early 1970’s when two high schools integrated and formed T.C. Williams High School. Racial tensions were at their peak and it doesn’t get any easier for this small town when the popular Caucasian coach is replaced by Herman Boone, an African-American coach from North Carolina. Denzel Washington is dynamic as Coach Boone — demanding nothing but 100% from his young players on and off the football field. Will Patton gives a moving performance as well, playing Boone’s assistant coach. The film does a great job of putting us in this place and time — and the great soundtrack only intensifies the atmosphere. Little by little we watch as the locker room grows from one of contempt and segregation to one unified alliance. A tear-jerker of a movie with some terrific moments throughout — and some great football too. This movie leaves a lasting impact and you can’t help but cheer at times and even shed a few tears. The true essence of competition, teamwork and what it means to be a true teammate is fully illustrated here. A great movie! 

#9. Seabiscuit (2003)

A story of second chances for each of our main characters here and another film based on a true story. Set in the Depression-era, Gary Ross’ film examines one of the most famous racehorses in history — and how he helped to lift the spirits of a nation that was in desperate need of it. A true underdog story, the movie actually tells the story of a few long shots — the owner, the trainer, the hot-tempered jockey and Seabiscuit, the undersized racehorse. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, the movie features wonderful performances by Chris Cooper, Tobey Maguire, William H. Macy, and the mega-awesome Jeff Bridges. Real life jockey Gary Stevens is also excellent in a supporting role and the racing scenes are so skillfully shot — the costumes and sets capture the time period perfectly. On the surface, the movie appears to be about the inspiring story of this magnificent racehorse and those who loved him, but it tells us so much more about attaining the American Dream. You don’t have to be a fan of horseracing to truly appreciate this film — another work that is brimming with a blazing spirit and tugs at your  heart.

#8. The Hustler (1961)

Paul Newman shines as Fast Eddie Felson, an up-and-coming pool player with an ego as big as his game. He wants to be known as the best player in the world and to do it he seeks out the legendary champion Minnesota Fats so that he can take him on. You honestly couldn’t cast a more suitable actor to play Minnesota Fats than Jackie Gleason, and for his electrifying performance, he received a well-deserved Oscar nomination. The back-and-forth between the two is a treasure to watch, as is Eugen Schüfftan’s amazing cinematography. Piper Laurie gives a tender performance here and George C. Scott is captivating, as always…and a real shit to boot! The pool shots are real and exquisite, as Gleason was well-known as being a terrific pool player. The seediness of this culture and its inhabitants is shown quite well here. But the movie is all Eddie’s — as we watch him burn out, mature, and learn from his mistakes. An all-encompassing drama and though pool may not be on the tip of your tongue as being a riveting sport to watch, this film succeeds in doing just that. A film for the ages — far superior to the sequel that would be released 25 years later.

#7. Bull Durham (1988)

The love triangle is an entertaining subplot here, but the true greatness of this terrific sports film is seeing how a minor league baseball team goes through a season — on buses instead of private planes, in cheesy little ballparks rather than the gorgeous monuments of MLB, in seedy rooms at the Motel 8 instead of the Four Seasons. Kevin Costner plays the cerebral, aging catcher Crash Davis, who is just trying to hold on to one more year to play the game he has loved his entire life. He watches with envy as the new phenom pitcher ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh (Tim Robbins)comes to the Durham Bulls to be groomed for the Big Show. The chemistry between the two actors is solid and Susan Sarandon was the ideal actress to play Annie Savoy — here she is the perfect mix of sexy, smart and tomboy. Writer/Director Ron Shelton has written a hilarious and moving script; one that accurately depicts the life of minor-leaguers. There are some classic lines scattered throughout, and the baseball scenes are done quite well. One can’t help but root for and feel sympathy for Costner’s Crash – he has played a baseball player a few times, but this was his first time doing so, and he brings a tremendous authenticity to the role. No sports film list would be complete without this one…  

#6. Hoosiers (1986)

Where in the world do people live and breathe high school and collegiate basketball? Hoosiertown, that’s where. Set in rural Indiana, David Anspaugh’s film is basketball through and through. Gene Hackman is astounding as the highly volatile Coach Norman Dale, a man with a checkered past who has just been hired to coach this small-town high school basketball team. His style and methods are immediately met with raised eyebrows, but this guy knows how to coach in a very Bob Knight kind of way. If you had a son, this is the guy you want coaching him. We watch as he prepares his underdog team throughout the season and on their way to becoming a shocking contender for the state championship in 1954, which is just about everything in Indiana. Dennis Hopper plays the father of one of the young players and he gives a heartfelt and moving performance as the town drunk who everyone seems to have given up on. Hopper earned an Oscar nomination for his work here. Hoosiers is a classic tale of redemption for many of its characters and it is another sports film that you cannot resist rooting for. Based on a true story, this movie has everything for the sports/film lover — heart, resilience, courage, teamwork, loyalty and attitude. This is a movie I can never turn away from if it’s on — and I get caught up in it each and every time.

#5. The Natural (1984)

Barry Levinson directs this fairy-tale baseball movie about Roy Hobbs, a middle-aged man who comes out of nowhere to become one of the greatest baseball players to ever live. Robert Redford is perfect as the midwestern Hobbs who is now enjoying the renowned career he should have had in younger days when he was a pitcher. However, that life was tragically sidetracked and is just now becoming a household name. Here is another period piece that does a marvelous job of taking us back to a time when every gentleman in the stands wore a fedora. We root for Hobbs throughout this film and though it may not be as authentic as some other sports films, that is not what this film is about. We go along for the ride and we enjoy every bit of it — right up to the point where Hobbs hits a ball that soars high in the sky, shattering the ballpark’s lights. Richard Farnsworth, Wilford Brimley, Robert Prosky, Glenn Close and Kim Basinger are all great in their supporting roles and all having a tremendous impact on the life of Hobbs in some way. With a rich and intricate screenplay, along with the great costumes, sets and period props, this is a baseball movie for the kid in all of us!

#4. Field of Dreams (1989)

This is very easily one of my all-time favorite movies and it makes me cry every time I see it. Yes, the background is the legendary baseball field built by Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), but the film is not really about baseball at all. At its heart, we have a family man who is destined to go on a journey for reasons he cannot fathom, while his farm hemorrhaging money and is about to be lost; a man who was never able to apologize to his father with whom he had a more than strained relationship. And that is the crux of this movie — a father, a son and the game of baseball. It all comes together so gorgeously in the end that it never ceases to move me in so many ways. Phil Alden Robinson does a wonderful job at adapting W.P. Kinsella’s book and directs the movie so skillfully, while getting the most out of his stellar cast. James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Amy Madigan, and the legendary Burt Lancaster are a joy to watch. The banter between Ray and Jones’ Salinger-like author is great fun and Lancaster is nothing short of extraordinary as “Moonlight” Graham. The ballpark itself is its own character in the film and is ever-present throughout. A great, feel-good movie that has everything we look for in a great sports movie without much of the sport actually in it.

#3. Hoop Dreams (1994)

There are some wonderful documentary films that focus on athletics, but this, for me, is the quintessential achievement. Some of the films on this list are based on true stories, which adds a special element to the viewing experience. This does one better as director Steve James and his crew followed two Illinois high school students for over five years and collected over 250 hours of footage. William Gates and Arthur Agee want to be professional basketball players like their idol, Isiah Thomas. they are recruited by St. Joseph High School, which is renowned for its basketball program. The film does a phenomenal job of showing you what each of these boys is going through as they try to get recruited by the top-notch collegiate programs. In addition to seeing the highs and many devastating lows that the boys must face, Hoop Dreams raises a number of important societal issues such as race, education, economic status, and what our values in America are. You feel as if you are a fly on the wall throughout and you really get to know James’ subjects. It’s better than almost any sports movie because it isn’t just based on real life — this is real life.

#2. Raging Bull (1980)

This may be the greatest movie on this list for the sheer brilliance of its filmmaking, so if you have this as #1 on your own list, you will get no arguments from me. I wasn’t sure if this could be categorized as a “sports film,” but it does examine the real life of middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta — his bouts in the ring and his self-destructive nature outside the arena. Robert DeNiro gives perhaps his greatest performance as LaMotta — completely uninhibited, crude, raw, authentic. He’s like Stanley Kowalski, but on mega steroids. The way this man treats those he presumably loves is at times, so uncomfortable to watch. On top of this mesmerizing performance, we have perhaps Martin Scorsese’s greatest achievement as a filmmaker. I’m not sure there has ever been more realistic footage taken in the ring and Michael Chapman’s black-and-white cinematography is nothing short of resplendent.  Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is crisp and economical, as always. Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty are fantastic in their respective roles and play off DeNiro quite well. The film plays like a Greek tragedy as we watch this man slowly bring about his own tragic demise — and it makes for a riveting, masterpiece of a film.

#1. Rocky (1976)

The quintessential underdog film — and an American classic, winning the “Best Picture” Oscar in an ultra-competitive year. For those of you who think Sylvester Stallone isn’t all that talented, I would ask you to remind yourself that he is the man responsible for creating this truly inspiring film, writing its screenplay and playing the legendary Rocky Balboa character — on his way to receiving two Oscar nominations that year. Balboa is an uneducated, small-time boxer who works as a “collector” for a local mafia man. His time is up and he has nothing in his life but a tiny apartment and his dog, Butkus. When he is unexpectedly given the opportunity of a lifetime — to fight the heavyweight champion of the world (as kind of a publicity stunt) — he takes full advantage of it and shows how far a resilient heart (and solid jaw) can go. John G. Avildsen directed this inspiring and wholly entertaining work, featuring an iconic score by Bill Conti, precise editing, and some great boxing sequences. Talia Shire gives a subtle, lovely performance as Adrian and Carl Weathers does a great job as Apollo Creed, the champion who takes his opponent way too lightly. Of course, Burgess Meredith is the ideal choice to play Mickey, Balboa’s stubborn, feisty veteran trainer. The city of Philadelphia is prominently displayed here — its actually another character in the film and you can almost smell the cheesesteaks through the screen. The fight  keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout — and the ending is just perfect. This may not be the greatest film achievement on the list (or maybe so, I’m not sure), but I think it is the epitome of what a classic sports film should be – the benchmark that other sports films should strive to emulate. I can’t think of a sports film with more heart, one that shows the courage and will of the human spirit so effortlessly or one that can so easily bring me to my feet in applause. Rocky – you will always be the champ!

Some Honorable Mentions for Good Measure:

1. I do love Rocky II and Rocky III (could have easily been in the Top 15)
2. Everybody’s All-American (1988)
3. Blue Chips (1994)
4. Major League (1989)
5. Bigger, Stronger, Faster (2008)

In Honor of the Boss: George Steinbrenner on “Seinfeld”

I know that this is a film blog, but in addition to being a film fanatic, I am also an avid sports fan. In particular, I love baseball and have followed the New York Yankees for years. Today, the baseball world was hit with the very sad news of the passing of the legendary, lion-hearted owner of the New York Yankees, Mr. George Steinbrenner. He was 80 years old. Mr. Steinbrenner purchased the team in 1973 and the Yankees have won 7 World Championships under his reign. Known for his fiery temper and passion for winning, he also had a great sense of humor, which he showed off by hosting “Saturday Night Live.” However, it was the hilarious “Seinfeld” sitcom that he is perhaps more famously associated with. Larry David always played his voice on the show, but Steinbrenner himself made a cameo appearance that was never aired on national TV. I thought today would be a good time to have a laugh and post this terrific clip.

Rest in peace, Mr. Steinbrenner. There will never be another one like you — and you will surely be missed.

 

Peter Eramo Reviews: “Cyrus” and “Despicable Me”

While every film nut is desperately awaiting the release of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, I was able to take in a couple of movies this weekend to try and fill in the void. Now, I am not nearly as confident as everyone else seems to be about Nolan’s latest work (I remain cautiously optimistic), but I was expecting to see two good films in Cyrus and the new animated feature Despicable Me. It’s odd because I would rate each film 2 ½ stars, but would recommend the “strong” 2 ½ star film, while suggesting you wait to catch the other on DVD or if it’s playing on cable. I’ll start with Jay and Mark Duplass’ dark comedy, Cyrus.

Cyrus has a lot going for it, starting with its impressive cast of John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener and the gorgeous Marisa Tomei. Reilly plays John, who has been divorced for seven years and is still not quite over the hurt of it all. His life has been in a tailspin since, as he lives in a shoddy little apartment and doesn’t ever get out and socialize much. He meets the girl of his dreams in Molly (Tomei) and they hit it off quite well. That is, until he meets her 21-year old son, Cyrus (Hill) who has a lot of twisted Oedipal issues going on inside that little eccentric brain of his. A battle of wits begins between John who is trying to get closer to this wonderful woman he has just met and Cyrus, who will do anything within his power to see that he is out of their lives forever.

I must say that Hill is pretty convincing here in a darker role that we are not accustomed to seeing him in. The way he looks at his nemesis throughout is pretty freaky, with eyes that just seem to pierce through the screen. Reilly is perfect for playing the lovable, awkward loser and his chemistry with Tomei is convincing enough, though I not sure if I ever really bought into them hooking up in the first place. You see, they meet at a party and watching him try to speak to a few of the women there is pretty painful to watch. I know it’s supposed to be funny, but I didn’t find it very humorous as I just sat and squirmed in my seat watching his failed attempts at finding his soul mate. The idea that Molly would be turned on by this was far-fetched to me. I also felt that the Duplass brothers could have taken this premise so much further (as they wrote and directed the film together), but settled for a fairly predictable 2nd and 3rd act. You could surely see how this was all going to play out.

I guess in the end I didn’t find the film to be all that funny. Sure, there were some funny moments between Reilly and his counterpart and I thought his first scene with Tomei was charming and witty, but it felt much more like a drama to me, which is absolutely fine. Also, I didn’t find the abnormally close relationship between mother-and-son here to be all that realistic. I give the Duplass brothers credit for not going over-the-top here, as they could have easily done. Instead, they go for real, genuine moments and the motives of the characters are believable throughout. This is not a bad film by any means – I just felt there could have been so much more and even with all the crap that is permeating theatres at the moment, I would recommend that you see this one at home rather than pay the $10 in the theatre.

Rating:
Director: Mark and Jay Duplass
Year: 2010

To view the trailer for Cyrus, click here.

Universal Pictures’ new animated feature Despicable Me (which grossed an astounding $60m in its opening weekend) is a very different kind of comedy, of course. I must first say that I enjoyed this film very much and laughed quite a bit. Steve Carell is the voice of Gru, a super villain who takes great delight in all things wicked. At the moment, he is facing stiff competition from an up-and-coming, younger villain in Vector (voiced by Jason Segal) who has just stolen a world-famous Egyptian pyramid. So Gru is now in the midst of planning the world’s greatest heist of all – with the help of his army of little minions, he plans on stealing the moon! Vector steals the almighty shrink ray from Gru, so now Gru must find a way into the very secure home of his worthy archenemy. To do so, Gru adopts three little girls from an orphanage who want nothing in life but a loving parent. Gru seems to have faced many great trials in his life, but nothing compares to the challenge of these three sweeties who see something in Gru that no one else ever has.

Carell’s voice for Gru is terrific and made me laugh throughout. He’s got a lot of great lines here and is the source of most of the film’s comedy. The actions of his many little yellow minions also made for some great comedy. The three little girls are adorable, especially the voice of Elsie Fisher’s Agnes, the youngest of the lot. Seeing the relationship between the devilish Gru and the girls grow is also rather sweet.

Compared to other animated films though, Despicable Me sadly falls a bit short and that lies with the prescribed storyline. The character of Gru was funny, but not much else really is. I enjoyed it, but could not help feeling that so much more could have happened here. I think kids will certainly love the film and have a great experience with it. However, I’m not so sure about most adults. Most of the new animated features work on both levels, engaging an adult audience just as much as the kids they appear to be catered to. Despicable Me doesn’t offer much more than a very funny front man and the crazy little minions (who I loved) — but no other characters really stand out. I don’t know if I am nit-picking on an animated film, but I also felt the way in which Gru learns to love the three girls was far too easy and not fully developed. All in all though, it is a sweet film with a big heart and I would highly recommend taking kids to see it. Looking at it a bit more critically, it just misses measuring up to some of the “better” animated films such as Happy Feet, Over the Hedge, or Monsters, Inc.

Rating:
Director: Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
Year: 2010

To view the trailer for Despicable Me, click here.

Gimme 5: Your 5 Favorite Animated Flicks!

I chose the theme for this week’s Gimme 5! feature in honor of the release of Despicable Me,which stars the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segal, Miranda Cosgrove and Kristin Wiig. The film opens nationwide today and as a fan of animated features, I remain very excited to see it.

The Pixar animated film Toy Story 3 was released on June 18th and has already made an astronomical $313 million at the box-office and is still steadily rising. In recent years, animated features have proven that they aren’t just for children anymore — with many showing more originality, intelligence and humor than most of the dreck that comes  out of Hollywood.

So for this week’s Gimme 5!….

Gimme Your 5 Favorite Animated Movies!

I Will Start…

5. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
4. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
3. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
2. Dumbo (1941)
1. The Iron Giant (1999)

Now It’s Your Turn….

A Few Words About Mel Gibson

Oh, Mel…looks like you’ve done it again.

In 2006, when he was arrested for DUI, he shocked us all when he ranted that, “”The Jews are responsible for all wars in the world” and admitted to saying as much on Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer. Four years later, poor Mel is on the proverbial crucifix again and up to his neck in more negative press. Radar Online first broke the exclusive story, revealing that Mel was taped going off on a racist and vulgar rant towards Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of their baby daughter, Lucia. On the infamous tape, Mel is alledged to have called Oksana a “bitch,” a “fucking fake,” and “an embarrassment” to him. Most damaging of all, he tells her: “You look like a fucking pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of ni**ers, it will be your fault.” Later, more news. It was discovered that Mel had actually hit this woman and is even caught on tape declaring that she “fucking deserved it.”

I am not writing this article to vilify or voice my negative opinions about Mr. Gibson. In fact, on the contrary. I’m writing in response to the many movie-goers I have seen since this discomforting story broke denouncing his work and claiming to boycott his future films. Whatever. I think these people are hypocrites. Seen a Hugh Grant movie the past few years? How about Eddie Murphy? Did you go see Christian Bale in The Dark Knight or the superfluous T3 after his vulgar, moronic and mean-spirited 4-minute rant against a helpless crew member? Watch any Tom Cruise flicks after he tried imposing his personal religious beliefs on others? Any Russell Crowe fans still out there after all his violent outbursts? Or we can look to just about any Hollywood celebrity or musician that feels it their civic duty to vociferously spew their immaterial political opinions every four years. And on and on we go.  

All I know is that if we boycotted every movie or concert of our favorite artists from music and film who said/did something wrong or stupid, then we wouldn’t be seeing a whole hell of a lot of movies or buying into much music at all. I for one have tremendous respect for Mel Gibson as a filmmaker and as an actor so I will gladly continue to pay my money to see his work. Part of what was coined the ‘Australian New Wave,’ this is the man responsible for bringing the magnificent Oscar-winning Braveheart to the screen — snatching up two well-deserved Academy Awards in the process. The highest paid celebrity in 2004, he has mostly chosen projects that revolve around characters fighting for justice or seeking revenge. I loved his performances in Payback, The Man Without A Face, Lethal Weapon, and The Bounty opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins. He did a terrific job tackling William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and showed off his charm and famous sense of humor in What Women Want. Whatever you may think of his Apocalypto, I thought it to be gorgeously filmed and a pretty impressive achievement.

I can’t stand political correctness. Not much offends me. What does offend me is when narrow-minded people are offended by material deemed politically incorrect. We’ve all lost our tempers at some point. We’ve all said things to others in the heat of the moment that we surely do not mean. It happens. We’re human. Some of us are more emotional and volatile than others (Gibson admits to being guilty of this in his GMA interview). The difference is that we don’t have paparazzi following us everywhere; nor does anything we say/do make the newspapers or electronic media. No one cares what we say. But they certainly do care what Mr. Gibson has to say. That’s where he gets screwed, and yes, that’s the price one pays for worldwide fame and making that kind of money.

So I really don’t care what Mr. Gibson says in the privacy of his own home. That’s his business, not mine. Where people do have a right to be upset is his admittance to striking a woman. That ain’t cool. I have no idea what was going on between the two, what was being said or how it came about, but I personally don’t believe in ever hitting a woman. I have never done it and don’t think I ever would. But let’s not all get on our soap boxes and condemn him, pretending that we were there and know what happened. These are the same small-minded people who ask me with a sour face, “How can you like Woody Allen? He’s a pedophile!” Or how I can pay good money to support a Roman Polanski film. It’s actually pretty easy. I love their work. I admire them as artists. I don’t give a shit about their personal lives.

I am sorry to see this all happening to Mel Gibson. I have always enjoyed seeing him on-screen and I respect him as an artist. I know that when Jodie Foster’s upcoming movie The Beaver comes out (in which he stars), I will most certainly go and try not to let the tabloids deter me from doing otherwise. Chin up, Mel!

Postscript: 7/9/10: After listening to the 2-minute heated exchange of the actual tape today, I do find it conspicuously odd that Oksana remains so terribly calm throughout. Sounds as if she had planned to set poor Mel up all along.

%d bloggers like this: