Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Look-e-Likes, Second Edition

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

A Warning, just like the last edition of Look-e-Likes…these are going to be out there. But just to be clear, I stand behind every one of these.

Lets start off with a really good one, and the brief story of its discovery. I was listening to a podcast replay of Terry Gross’s interview of David Carr on Fresh Air. Carr is a writer for the New York Times and they were discussing his career and especially the events surrounding the documentary about the New York Times, Page One. With a little help from Netflix, I was able to insta-watch the movie. Only about ten minutes in, we got our first Look-e-Like and I still haven’t finished the movie. Without further ado, Entertainthing presents Clay Shirkey: writer, teacher, and consultant in the field of Internet Technology.

You may also know him as…Tom Hanks.

There’s only one more Look-e-Like in this edition, but I always have my eyes open for more. This one came about when I was watching TV in my room after sleeping in a bit in Las Vegas. The sun was completely blocked out by the heaviest curtains in the world and while the shower poured away in the granite studded bathroom, I lazily left the TV turned to an old episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. First, a non-look alike caught my attention. Her name is Callie Thorne and when I’m not sharp enough on the DVR remote, I catch her face on a promo for her show Necessary Roughness while I’m watching Psych. She’s not a feature of the article, but here’s her picture anyway.

Now that I think about it, she does look an awful like an actor that shouldn’t have her own show…

Starring along with Callie in this episode was a guy we’ve seen a lot before, in Quantam of Solace, The Green Hornet, he’s been all over TV. But this time, looking like the stressed-out criminal boyfriend of a criminal murderer girlfriend, he looked to me an awful lot like an Emmy winner. Ty Burrell from Modern Family. David’s on the left.

Now tell me they couldn’t be brothers!

I’m sure more great Look-e-Likes are just around the corner, please e-mail if you see any. Ok, one more for the road.

Suzy Amis, Edie Finneran from The Usual Suspects and Eric Stoltz.

Drive – Pulls it Off

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Take one look at the poster for Drive and you’ll have no idea what this movie’s about.  There’s Ryan Gosling who’s all dirtied up and squinting, then the name of the movie spelled in 1980’s pink.  It’s only a small vertical tag line on the side of the poster, “Some heroes are real,” that gives any hint at the action to come.

Gosling is a getaway driver of the highest quality and he carries himself with a quiet, isolating, confidence.  Through persistent accidental encounters, he lets his neighbor, Carey Mulligan, and her son into his life.  We’ve been given an optimism at this point, with a synthesized dreamworld soundtrack and a montage of Mulligan slowly melting Gosling’s exterior over a sunset drive and dinners at home.  But Gosling’s day job as a mechanic and Hollywood stunt driver roll him into dangerous business circles and, just like Gosling, we the audience are trained to keep our guard up.

The plot of Drive is engaging, but it’s more interesting to see how the director, Nicholas Winding Refn, gets away with turning this awkward romance into an ultra violent action movie.  The success of this comes from Gosling’s performance and our understanding of his motivation.  We hear the crunching of bones and we see realistic sprays of blood, but it works completely.  While it’s shocking, we have come to understand a character that will do anything to protect someone he cares about.  This understanding allows us to root for a good guy in a bad situation.  It allows us to accept the fact that the pink font and the innocence of the movie poster are not a lie, but that they’re the motivation, the drive for a person like Gosling to do what needs to be done.  We’re told that some heroes are real, and I believed it of Gosling.

The Nanny Movie – Why?

Monday, March 7th, 2011

There seems to be an unwritten rule in Hollywood that wrestlers and martial artists and tough guys have to do a babysitting movie.  But why?

Almost without exception, these nanny movies are terrible.  The stars are playing against type, but that doesn’t make it funny.  They’re also surrounded by horrible, annoying, third-rate kid actors who don’t help the movie at all.  Here’s a list of these movies off the top of my head, starting with the one that inspired this post.  I saw the movie poster for this first one as I was leaving Wal-Mart a few minutes ago: The Chaperone with Triple H, then Mr. Nanny with Hulk Hogan, The Tooth Fairy and Game Plan with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Pacifier with Vin Diesel, Cop and a Half with Burt Reynolds (if you need an old school tough guy), and The Spy Next Door and Robin-B-Hood with Jackie Chan.

The picture below should say it all.  Why guys?  Why?

David Gray in Detroit – A Prelude to the Oscars

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

When I got an e-mail from announcing the dates for David Gray’s Lost and Found Tour, I was upset. David Gray was coming to Chicago, but he was coming on Sunday February 27th, the night of the Academy Awards, a night I can’t miss, even for my favorite musician. So the choice was clear, I was going to drive up to Detroit to see David Gray the night before and rush back to get my house ready for the biggest turnout yet for my annual Oscar party.

It was surprisingly easy to find a driving partner and partner in crime for my one day mission to Detroit. My friend and ex-roommate Kevin is a huge D Gray fan, so the desire was there.  As far as the logistics, it helped that Kevin is a professional poker player on a crazy-late sleep schedule so the idea of making the five hour drive back to Chicago at 11 o’clock at night was nothing for him.  The drive to the event is always easy because of the anticipation and we made it even easier by listening to a bunch of David Gray and then finishing off the drive with two hours of The Ricky Gervais Podcast with me chiming in with a bunch of Karl Pilkington stories from his show An Idiot Abroad.

I keep hearing that Detroit doesn’t have a real downtown area, but whoever said that is dead wrong.  We parked our car next to Comerica Park where the Tigers play and near the Fox Theatre where Ke$ha was performing that night, too.  That must have been a real Sophie’s Choice moment for Detroit…David Gray or Ke$ha…hm.  Our show was at the Detroit Opera House which was a beautiful venue, much smaller than the Chicago Theatre (where I’ve seen David Gray before), but with a similar ornate-movie-theater decor.  I got screwed out of the pre-sale so Kevin and I bought 4th row broker tickets for well over face value, but they were definitely worth it.  This was the closest I’d ever been to David Gray and it made for a really great show because in Detroit, he was especially expressive and interacted with the audience throughout the whole performance.

This was one of the best shows I’ve seen Gray put on and after we clapped our hands off and the lights went up in the Opera House, I told Kevin, “Let’s follow his bus to Chicago.”

He looked at me like I was nuts, “No way, he’s going to stay the night here and drive to Chicago tomorrow.”

“He can sleep on the bus.  Let’s go.”  I worked him and worked him and eventually Kevin broke down and we parked the car about thirty yards from the tour bus and waited and waited for them to leave.  As we watched out the windows we saw a small group of teenage girls and middle aged men and women pool around outside the gates of the tourbuses and I started to realize that even better than following the bus, we might actually be able to get his autograph.

“Let’s go,” Kevin said, after another twenty minutes of waiting.

“No, wait, five more minutes.”

“Fine,” he said.

“Seven?” I asked.

Kevin shook his head and I knew I could only hold him for five more minutes.  We nearly spent these five minutes when I saw the group of teenagers jump up and down and scream and I knew he was there.  I grabbed a McDonald’s napkin and flew out the door.  A few seconds later I was standing in front of David Gray when I had a total Ralphie-in-front-of-Santa-Claus moment from A Christmas Story.  I totally froze.

“Who’s it to?” David asked me in his raspy voice.  Um.  Um.  All I could hear was Kevin shouting the name of one of my favorite songs in my ear, ‘The LightThe Light!’  He repeated himself, “Who’s it to?”

I finally got it out, “Jordan,” I told him.  Then I asked him about the song Kevin was yelling about (‘Football?  Football?  What’s a football?’ – Ralphie) “Do you ever play The Light in concert?”

He kept his head down writing and said, “Sometimes…sometimes.  Occassionally.”

“I’ll just have to keep seeing you then,” I said.  And then, “Not that I wasn’t happy with what you played tonight.  Great set.”  He just nodded and went on to sign the next autograph and the next and he stayed outside until everybody had a picture or signature.  As he finished up he grabbed his bottle of Heinekin back from his manager and turned back to his bus.  Right before he disappeared behind the gate I shouted out, “Thanks, David!  Great show.  Just great.  Thanks!”  He turned back and met my eye, and nodded with a small smile on his face.

Kevin and I got back in the car and we flew through Detroit to the outskirts, riding high on meeting our favorite musician, trying to find the safest place for our autographs in the road-trip-trashed front seats of his Corolla.  As good as I knew David Gray would be in concert, I never expected to meet my absolute favorite musician of all time that night.  My awesome girlfriend already framed the autograph (there’s nothing more dangerous than an autograph on a McDonald’s napkin, especially with my spring allergies on the way) and I just need to find the perfect spot for it in my house.  It’s definitely not going up until after my Oscar party Sunday, I’m not taking any chances with this one.  And here’s some advice if you ever meet your hero: Don’t pull a Ralphie.  Have something ready to say, just in case.  And check out The Light, it’s a great song.  Here is a link for a David Gray concert review I wrote for back in 2005:

At Least I’m Not Unoriginal…Or Am I?

Friday, February 25th, 2011

“Maybe, but at least I won’t be unoriginal.”  This is one of my favorite lines from Good Will Hunting, when Will tears down that ponytail guy in the Harvard bar.  Unfortunately, with seven billion people on the planet, it’s really hard to be a true original.  I was just talking to my brother who was at the Bulls vs Heat game last night and I told him to check out for my Chris Bosh post.  He laughed and told me, “Ha, that’s great…actually, the first play of the game a guy behind me stood up and yelled, ‘Chris Bosh is an Avatar!'”  Uh-oh.  I Googled ‘Chris Bosh Avatar’ and man!  It’s definitely out there.

I feel like I have independently come up some really great ideas…you know Charles Darwin went through the same exact thing.  While he was taking his sweet time putting together his theories of Natural Selection in On The Origin of Species a man named Alred Russel Wallace was putting forth the same concept.  Unfortunately, one of the people he put his concept forward to was Charles Darwin who was then prompted to rush out and beat Wallace to the punch.  I am just like Charles Darwin…or Wallace…but at least I’m the only one who compared Bosh to the female Avatar Neytiri.  I still call it a win for me.

An Avatar Among Us

Friday, February 25th, 2011

My inspiration for writing this post was simply to find a way to justify putting a side by side picture of Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat (NBA) and Neytiri from Avatar because of their uncanny likeness to one another.  In finding my justification, I wanted to touch on athletics as a whole and our desire as a people for physical competition and even physical violence.

In popular culture science fiction movies and novels touch on violence as entertainment all the time, The Running Man, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and The Hunger Games trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins.  We hardly need to predict the future to see our physical nature.  The ancient Romans of our past held violent battles for entertainment (not as entertaining if you’re the victim) and today we have boxing and the UFC mixed martial arts competitions.  Even in more widely accepted avenues, sports are a huge part of the human cultural fabric.  What is it that makes it so?  This is a very hard question to answer.

In sports we have the chance to see what our physical bodies are capable of.  We have the opportunity to see the fruits of other respected activities like study and excercise and attributes like hard work and dedication.  I won’t try to answer the question for anybody else, but for myself a big part of the answer lies in being to support my local athletes.  I take an illogical pride in the athletes who represent me (albeit just marginally) and where I come from and where I live.  And now…phew…finally, I am able to write what I really wanted to write this whole time.  The Chicago Bulls beat The Miami Heat last night at home 93-89.  Yesssss!  Man that feels good to write.  And what about the Avatar among us?  Chris Bosh went 1-18 from the field and looked terrible…and like an Avatar.  See for yourself.  Go Bulls!

A Too Blue Valentine

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Blue Valentine is the story of Michelle Williams being a total B to Ryan Gosling. I could stop there but it wouldn’t do justice to Gosling who was great in this movie.

At the very first scene I thought Gosling’s character Dean was going to be a self-involved, troubled D (ick, ouche, fill in the blank) but after about fifteen minutes it’s clear that he’s an insightful, talented, charismatic, caring character. Through flashbacks it’s shown how he fell for Cindy (Michelle Williams) at first sight and when the life they built together starts falling apart (because Cindy’s a…because of Cindy) he tries to give his all to hold it together.

Williams is good in this, too, but because her character becomes so irremediably frustrated and distant from Gosling’s, the viewer is left only to enjoy the flashbacks to the couple’s better times and the brilliant portrayal of Dean’s grief.

It’s a heavy movie which doesn’t leave you with a smile but it does give you plenty of them along the way. The dialogue is sharp and Dean is entertaining all the way through. The only thing I wish is that Dean wasn’t so completely likable and Cindy so unlikeable. She was painted as the only faulty party which doesn’t work as well for a movie that pretends not to take sides. You need a fight not a fist and a punching bag to sustain the dual perspectives. The one thing I’ll say for the writers is that they nailed the title. This is the bluest Valentine I’ve seen in a long time.

Can’t Miss

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Everybody has some can’t miss artists.  People that when they come out with a new album, new book, or new movie, you will be there to experience it as soon as you can.  Here are just a few of mine:

Leonardo DiCaprio – Movies

This is the one guy in Hollywood that hasn’t disappointed in a long time.  Since DiCaprio did Catch Me If You Can he’s been great in everything and everything he’s done has been good.  He’s pretty choosy about his movies which makes it easier, it’s not like he’s pulling a Nicholas Cage and showing up every three months at the bottom of the box office with new hair.  Now this is my one category that has seen the most upheaval in can’t miss status.  First it was Tom Hanks and then I don’t see Tom Hanks anywhere (I only heard him as Woody in Toy Story 3) and at one point it was Matt Damon and Brad Pitt.  I will probably see those guys in just about anything, but I’m not giving them the status, DiCaprio has the status and I don’t think he’s going to be losing it any time soon.  According to IMDB he’s going to be in J. Edgar and Devil in the White City, based off the great book.  Well done, great choices.

David Gray – Music

If you know David Gray at all, most likely it’s because of his 1998 album White Ladder and the hit songs Babylon, Please Forgive Me, This Year’s Love, or Sail Away.  He’s my favorite musician and I’ll see him any time he comes to Chicago and I’ve bought every album and will buy every future release as well.  His sound has become richer over the years and he is always trying to learn something new in his sound but always he has been a lyrical poet as well.  If you think you know David Gray or you know you don’t know him, the absolute best way to experience this artist is to see him live.  He’s on tour again this February and March.  Hint, hint.

Bill Bryson – Books

When I was in seventh grade I got it into my head to find the biggest books in my school library and just start reading.  I’m talking about novels, too, I’m not talking about the Reference Section here.  The first huge book I picked up was The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks (fantasy and as it turns out a total ripoff of The Lord of the Rings, but how could I know that, I wouldn’t read the Rings trilogy for another seven years), then Shogun by James Clavell and Roots by Alex Haley.  I was huge into reading novels, I started reading espionage novels for a long stretch and eventually, I got to the point where I will read anything.  Yesterday I picked up the new book by Bill Bryson titled At Home.  I can tell already that this is going to be a great book.  In At Home, Bryson literally finds objects around his house an delves into the history of these things that we completely take for granted.  In a lesser writer the information Bryson conveys in his non-fiction books would be overwhelming.  If these writers could ever sift through the words in the first place, readers would be completely lost and overwhelmed or bored out of their minds, but Bill Bryson is a brilliant organizer and he enlightens his readers from truly unlikely subjects.  Most of the books Bryson used to write were travel books, through Europe or Australia, North America and they make for the best audio books out there (make sure to get the ones read by the author otherwise I will not endorse them).  I can’t miss Bill Bryson and I’ll keep filling my mind and my book shelves with his work as long as he keeps writing.

Modern Family – TV

If you’re not watching Modern Family do not start now.  We’re in the middle of the second season and there’s nothing I disapprove of more than when people think to themselves, “Well, a show is a show.  It’s not a big deal if I don’t know who any of these characters are or how the previous story lines may affect tonight’s episode.  I’ll just start watching right now.”  It’s about the journey as much as the destination so please rent or buy, you won’t regret it, season one of Modern Family and catch up.  This is the best show on TV right now, for sure the best sitcom.  With a great mix of characters, clever dialogue that plays to the height of the show’s intellect this show should go on forever.  Or until the kids are all grown up and things get awkward.

So, if I’m missing something, tell me.  If you’re missing these…boy…Get on it.

The Haul 2010

Monday, December 27th, 2010
Lately I’ve wanted to write something positive for the Christmas season.  I’ve been catching up on the classic Holiday movies, which has been great, but I’m only fifty-fifty at the theater lately (Good: Tangled, The Fighter Not Good: Tron Legacy, How Do You Know).  So, I thought I’d write about something that just can’t miss.  With the spirit of the season inside me, here are the DVD’s I got this Christmas and why you should get them, too:
Band of Brothers – If you liked Saving Private Ryan, you’ll love this.  Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg and inspired by true events, you get to see U.S. soldiers’ journey from bootcamp to Berlin in a smart, emotional, action packed 10 part series.
Toy Story 3– Just in case just saying the title isn’t enough at this point, this is a Pixar production.  Just in case that’s not enough (embarrassing if that is the case) this is as good as animated movies, as good as any movie gets.  The unlimited imagination and heart behind this series really comes together in this third and probably, but hopefully not, last Toy Story movie.  Do you believe that the original Toy Story came out in 1995?  These movies have been with us 15 years already!  That’s why it really feels like you’re visiting old friends again when you put this movie on.  Many of these movies’ biggest fans have been with Buzz and Woody for half their lives.  The next generation will have these guys in their cribs.
Inception – One of my friends just asked me what I thought about this movie today.  He asked me two things, what did I think happened at the end and what are the Oscar prospects for this movie.  What I’ll say about the first question is…(go see the movie).  As for Inception‘s Oscar chances?  They’re good.  This movie should and will be up for Best Picture (don’t get me started on the 10 nominees thing!), Christopher Nolan will be up for Best Director and I’m sure a few of the visual effects and hopefully Best Original Screenplay.  Anytime you throw together Christopher Nolan and Leonardo DiCaprio, I’m going to see the movie and it’ll probably be on my Christmas list, too.  If you start to think ever story has already been done, a movie like this comes along.  You have to see it and probably see it again.
The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum– This trilogy was Matt Damon’s wheelhouse.  You couldn’t have cast a better Jason Bourne, and the series is pretty much fueled by that casting.  The action sequences are awesome, the hand to hand combat was better than anything else out there.  In Supremacywhen Bourne beats a guy to hell with a rolled up magazine, you know you’re watching a different kind of spy movie.  There are moments from these movies that feel somewhere close to what a real spy would experience.  The thing that holds this series back from being great is the over-arching storyline of Bourne’s past identity.  It just gets boring at some point.  The pretentious attitudes of the bureaucrats at their respective agencies takes the fun down a notch, too, but overall, the feel of these movies is dead on.
The Hangover– This movie was something else!  I loved this movie and every character was great, except for Doug.  Boy am I glad he was stuck on the roof the whole movie.  And how about Tyson?  Man, this movie was hilarious.  It really capitalized on the Vegas hype without getting to be all flash.  No Jessica Alba, no Kate Bosworth, just Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and a bunch of great supporting characters.
Psych (Season 4)– This show took a great concept, fake psychic detective, and because of the strength of the characters and their relationships to each other we’ve got a show that’s still great five seasons in.  The show is full of pop culture references so that it feels like you’re watching someone that grew up in your neighborhood solve crimes.  Even though the concept may be unique, the main characters are so immediately relatable that Psych has been and will continue to be one of the best hour long shows on TV.
Flight of the Conchords (Season 2)– Either you’ll like this show or you won’t.  I guess that’s the case with everything, but this show about two naive New Zealanders who are struggling to make it in New York as musicians is really quirky, but also really hilarious.  Every episode features funny songs from the duo and really ridiculous plot lines.  The best scenes are the ones with the band’s manager Murray who lends a little bit of relative practicality to the show and these guys play their accents for comedy to the fullest.  Always putting themselves and their country down, late in Season 2 the Prime Minister of New Zealand comes to visit Murray and the guys and he always introduces himself just as Brian.  It may not read very funny, but give it a shot.
The last DVD I got this year was the Chicago Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup DVD.  Oh, yeah, just in case you didn’t know, the Chicago Blackhawks are reigning world champions.  Sniff.
What a great Christmas and Happy New Year!

How Do You Know You Should See Something Else?

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

How do you know you should see something other than How Do You Know?  Because of Paul Rudd?  No, because the preview gives a hint that there are just too many subplots to allow this romantic comedy to be either romantic or comedic.

The opening scenes of the movie show Reese Witherspoon’s character struggling with being dropped from the U.S. Softball team (even though she’s only 5’1″ tall and softball won’t be a part of the 2012 London Olympics).  We also see Paul Rudd’s character struggling with legal issues from his family business, even though he doesn’t make a single business decision in the entire movie (great commitment to the story).  Great, we’ve got two characters with issues and they’re going to hook up, seems like a romantic comedy to me.  Except that they don’t hook up, they don’t even meet until well into the movie.  Their first conversation is Paul Rudd telling Reese that he won’t be going on a date with her.  At this point you it hits you that this is a terribly constructed movie.

Owen Wilson is the only bright spot in the movie and he’s hilarious.  He actually has funny lines that weren’t in the preview, good for him.  But there could never be enough Wilson to counteract the negative affects of Kathryn Hahn.  If you don’t think you know who this is, you do.  She’s been in so many romantic comedies…I’ll just say, she’s been in too many romantic comedies: The Holiday, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!, A Lot Like Love, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days…there are two infuriating scenes with this girl in How Do You Know: in the first scene she’s telling Paul Rudd that she can’t tell him something and he’s telling her he already knows so she won’t tell him.  That goes on for five minutes.  It feels like really really pointless improv.  Then we’re forced to watch this side character get proposed to.  Twice!

If the upcoming ending to this post feels abrupt, keep in mind that it’s being written without a multi-million dollar budget and under a short time constraint.  Unlike the ending of How Do You Know which feels like the main characters just kind of shrugged and sighed and settled.  How do you know you should see something else?  Because Paul Rudd is in it.  Wait, sorry.  Because no one will like this movie.