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Mets’ Collapse (Encore Performance) Continues

9/23/08

Here we go again.

I know I’m beating a dead horse, and come to think of it, thats more or less what the Mets resemble, but Jerry Manuel’s ballclub seems to be flatlining once again despite being an arms reach away from a postseason berth.

Last night, the Mets found yet another way to reach rock bottom, as the fatal blow came from the opposing teams starting pitcher, who took rookie Jon Niese deep from a fourth inning grand slam which broke open a 2-2 game.

It’s tough to say whether or not this is deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once said, or whether or not the Mets will stop this lateseason landslide before they find themselves on the outside looking in for a second consecutive October.

Once again, the Mets control their own playoff destiny, as they maintain a one game over a Milwaukee Brewers team who has been trying its best to avoid a late season meltdown of their own.

And while the Mets will wake up this morning still holding onto a playoff spot, you wouldn’t know it by the vibes surrounding them.

Last night, Shea Stadium, beginning it’s final week of regular season baseball it’s rusting and rotting walls will ever witness, saw its crowd turn quickly on their favorite choke artists, as cautious cheers turned into defening, sustained boos.

The one big difference between this season’s late season slide and last is the absense of Willie Randolph, who ended up being the scapegoat for the 2007 disaster, losing his job in the middle of June earlier this season after his team failed to show an ability to get out of its own way through the first 70 games or so.

And while Randolph was enjoying the festivities Sunday night saying goodbye to Yankee Stadium, his successor may have to start preparing to say goodbye to more than his current ballpark come Sunday.

He may lose that interim tag after all- along with his chance of coming back next season.

But just as the blame was somewhat unfairly placed on the shoulders of Randolph, Manuel has done his best to weather this storm that only seems to strengthening by the day.

Once again, this falls on the players.

The bullpen has been putrid, but the offense continues to leave far too many runners on, notably in late game situations.

It would be a shame to spoil some of the feel-good stories around this team, whether its the resurgence of Carlos Delgado or the brilliance of Johan Santana.

And despite those, a failure this season to clinch a playoff spot would be nothing short of apocalyptic for this franchise, which is still very much trying to heal its emotional wounds from how horribly last season ended.

And yet with a chance to atone for their shortcomings last season, the Mets seem to be lacking the same killer instinct they needed last season, along with the mental toughness the team their chasing manages to find a nightly basis.

The Phillies, who were last season’s beneficiaries of the Mets collapse, have once again this year come from behind while leaving the Mets in their rearview mirrors, now holding a 2.5 game lead with the Mets having only 6 games left to play.

As Joel Sherman states in today’s New York Post, a second consective collpase would be “two much too handle”.

6 more games, at home, with the Cubs and Marlins at hand.

The Mets will start Santana tonight, and again on Sunday in Shea’s finale.

This is why the Mets went out and got him, and why GM Omar Minaya isn’t just yet preparing a resume for job interviews.

Santana’s maginificant season has come down to these last two starts, where he can help pitch his team into the playoffs and put the nightmarish memories from last season.

Succeed, and Shea Stadium will be given a stay of execution.

Fail, and everyone from Minaya to Manuel may not be so lucky.

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September 23, 2008 Posted by | Movies, Sports | , , | Leave a comment

Oh, What a ‘Knight’

7/20/08

In what was easily the most highly anticipated movie of the summer, ‘The Dark Knight’ had a lot of expectations to live up to and upon seeing the film yesterday, I unfortunately have to say that it failed to do so.

No, The Dark Knight didn’t meet my expectations.

It exceeded them.

In one of if not the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen, The Dark Knight delivered with some the help of a very memorable performance by the late Heath Ledger, who portrayed The Joker.

It’s rare that a movie with as much hype as The Dark Knight delivers, and while I had a handful of minor gripes with movie, all in all, I couldn’t have left the theater much more satisfied than I did.

I’ll start with the negatives, because there really weren’t many.

The movie was 2 hours and 30 minutes, and probably didn’t need to be. The last half hour of the movie seemed to lag just a bit, and the thing that bothered me was I kept worrying the movie was going to end prematurely due to it’s length, however that wasn’t the case at all.

I thought as good as Heath Ledger was (relax, I’m not about to knock his performance), he was somewhat underutilized considering how brilliant he was. From a lot of the reviews I read before seeing the movie, the idea going in I had was that Ledger’s Joker was almost the featured character in the movie, and that simply was not the case. That being said, the fact we didn’t see The Joker more almost mystified the scenes he was in, which you could argue made the character all the better.

Finally, I was disappointed (and I really can’t believe I’m saying this) with the replacement of Katie Holmes by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Forget about her personal life (I strongly believe that despite the fact she’s married to Tom Cruise and is therefore crazy by association), Holmes gave the character of Rachael some personality, while Gyllenhaal was rather bland and quite frankly somewhat boring. But again, that being said, Gyllenhaal’s performance in no way took away from the movie, it’s simply one of the minor issues I had with the film.

Ok, so lets talk about what made this movie worth all the hype, and then some.

First and foremost, Heath Ledger was as good as advertised if not better.

Following in the footsteps of Jack Nicholson who was outstanding in his portrayal of The Joker back in the 1989 hit movie Batman, Ledger brought a whole new level of creepyness and insanity to the character.

He took a well known character and not only successfully transformed himself into that character, but really made it own with a signature voice, laugh, walk and some downright disturbing facial expressions.

Now I may offend some people by saying this, but Heath Ledger’s performance, while very impressive, was not Oscar worthy, and should he be nominated, I would imagine it would have a lot to do with the fact he passed away.

A best supporting actor nomination wouldn’t be an injustice, just somewhat undeserved based solely on the fact that between the type of character he played and the amount of time he had on the screen.

The acting across the board (with the afformentioned exception of Maggie Gyllenhaal) was exceptional.

Christian Bale reprised his role of Batman and alter-ego Bruce Wayne and did another solid job with both characters.

Hats off to Aaron Eckhart who played Harvey Dent, Gotham City’s new hotshot District Attorney. I’ll come out and say it, his performance was just as good as anybody else’s in the film, including Ledger.

Gary Oldman returns as Gordon, and plays a much larger role in Dark Knight than in Begins.  He puts in a quietly outstanding job once again, despite the added screen time.

Michael Caine (Alfred) and Morgan Freeman (Lucious Fox) both nailed their supporting roles, while both were also somewhat underused in my opinion.

For the first time in leaving a movie (and I had read this in other reviews but didn’t really understand what it meant until I saw it myself) I want to give some serious credit to the editing of the movie. It’s not often a movie that long runs so smoothly scene to scene. As my friend was correct to note, the editing was “seemless”.

After I left the movie, I only felt worse that Heath Ledger left us far too soon, because his performance was so original and so genuine that one can’t help but think about the continuing success he would have had.

If you weren’t part of the $155 million+ dollars the movie made over the weekend in setting a new all time record for an opening, regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the Batman franchise, do yourself a favor and go out and see this movie.

The Dark Knight starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.

A-, 3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

July 20, 2008 Posted by | Movies | , , , , | 1 Comment

Keeping Up With the (Indiana) Jones (movies)

5/24/08

Friday was more or less my ideal summer vacation day (until I start work).

Between 12 and 6:30 in the afternoon, I watched the first three Indiana Jones movies on DVD.

I had seen parts of all three, but none in their entirety.

I then capped off the day by going out and seeing the latest installment of the series, meaning that I did indeed spend over 8 hours of my day watching Harrison Ford.

Before I review the newest film, I’ll throw out some of my feelings about the original three.

He might not have an Oscar on his mantle, but Ford can act.

He’s very entertaining in almost every role he plays, and combines a strong screen presence and sense of humor to take the movies he’s in and usually make them worthy of the price of admission.

The Indiana Jones franchise is no exception, as Ford is simply terrific playing the professor/archaeologist/adventurer who always seems to have a nact for getting himself into and out of trouble with his enemies.

Of the original trilogy, I’d have to rank them as followed:

(1) Raiders of the Lost Ark (first film)

(2) The Last Crusade (third film)

(2) Temple of Doom (second film)

The movies are all filled with lots of excitement, highlighted but the variety of booby traps Indy always manages to navigate his way out of, along with classic one-liners that only Harrison Ford is able to deliver (“…I’m making this up as I go along”).

The first film introduces us to the formula that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg successful present throughout the series, which essentially deals with Indiana being asked to go on some treasure hunt for some ancient artifact (Lost Ark, Holy Grail, etc), runs into trouble on his way to finding it, escapes traps and bullets while landing the girl and eventually surviving it all and getting this job done.

The first and third films incorporate the Nazi’s as enemies (the films take place during the mid to late 1930’s) and some of the historical references are pure genius, such as Indy running into Adolph Hitler during the third film and having him sign his father’s Holy Grail diary.

But now we fast forward 20 years (the first three came out in 1981, ’84 and ’89 respectively) and an older Indiana Jones is once again faced with the task of tracking down an artifact with mystical powers (The Crystal Skull), yet he’s thrown a curveball when he is approached by the young and rebellious Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouff) to find a former collegue of Indy’s who has some vital information in finding the skull.

Their quest brings them to South America and the Amazon, and also reunited Indy with Marion, his love interest from the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Taking place during the late 50’s, the backdrop is the Cold War, and the Russian KGB is in search of the Skull in an effort to develop a mind-reading weapon.

Among the more humorous historical references are a scene in which a nuclear bomb is test-detonated with Indy narrowly escaping the devastation it causes (sorry if you consider that a spoiler, but if you haven’t caught on, he usually makes it from beginning to end of every film).

There are plenty of references to the past films, which include filling us in on the fates of his father (played by Sean Connery in the Last Crusade) and Dr. Marcus Brody, a fellow professor and close friend of Indy.

For a 60 something year old, you gotta give it to Harrison Ford who has maintained his youthful exuberance in this role, running, jumping and cracking his whip without having missed a beat.

If you’re a fan of the first three films, you’ll enjoy this one and smile at the nostalgic feeling you get watching Ford doing what he does best, even 20 years later.

The plot is far-fetched, maybe a little too much so for one of these films, but it never takes away from the thrill of the ride, which is good as ever.

A very admirable B+ from me, and hats off (get it?) to Ford for once again delivering a vintage performance, and turning the clock back and giving us an all around fun time.

May 24, 2008 Posted by | Movies | , | Leave a comment

Sarah Marshall: You Won’t Be Forgotten

4/18/08

I saw the preview for this movie a few months ago, and upon seeing that the cast and crew was a lot of the guys who gave us 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad and Knocked Up, I knew that I would make sure I had a seat when Forgetting Sarah Marshall hit theaters.

This afternoon, on a beautiful 75 degree afternoon when I easily could have been outside enjoying the warm weather (I actually was outside for 2 hours before seeing the movie), I was inside a nice air conditioned theater.

Judd Apatow, who gave us the aforementioned films, this time delivers Jason Segel (who also wrote the script) as Peter Bretter, an easy going song writer who is dating TV star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell).

Before the film is 10 minutes old, we learn two things:

1) Peter is being dumped by Sarah after 5+ years.

2) Jasen Segel isn’t shy about showing us his penis.

Yes, full frontal male nudity comes at you (wow…no pun intended) early several times throughout the film, so be warned if you’re thinking about seeing it.

Upon being dumped, and also finding out the Sarah is now dating flavor of the week British musician Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), Peter begins his period of mourning by taking the one-stand route, which he finds doesn’t help him with moving on.

He decided a trip to Hawaii would serve him some good, however his vacation hits an early bump in the road when his ex flame and new love are vacationing in the same hotel.

Peter meets a friendly receptionist (Mila Kunis, That 70’s Show, Family Guy), along with some of your favorite faces from past Apatow films, Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill, who play a surf instructor and hotel waiter, respectively.

Peter begins trying to get over Sarah while simultaneously dealing with having her around, constantly flaunting her newfound happiness while Peter seeks his own.

I’ll stop with the summary there, as I don’t want to spoil anything, although if you’ve seen any of Apatow’s other films, you can pretty much figure out how this one ends.

The movie wasn’t quite up to par with the other three films I mentioned, but still serves its purpose of entertaining.

Segel, who might be most recognizable as Marshal (coincidence) from the CBS show How I Met Your Mother, puts in a very worthy effort, both acting and writing.

Bell (Veronica Mars, and also serves as the narrator on Gossip Girl, my not-so-guilty pleasure), is absolutely gorgeous and dead sexy as Sarah, and does a nice job playing the ex-girlfriend with no heart, yet also captures being vulnerable at various points during the movie.

The scene stealer is Brand, a British actor I had honestly never heard of before seeing this movie. He sounds a lot like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribean, and had me laughing non-stop with his combination of being a sexually charged, sober free spirit.

The movie is as charming as it’s main character, but lacks the ‘umph’ (for lack of a better term) that Apatow’s other films were able to capture.

Mila Kunis, who is also far prettier than I remembered her being on That 70’s Show, wasn’t perfectly cast for the role of Rachel, but is sweet enough to pull it off.

This isn’t a movie I would suggest taking your parents too, as there is more sex and more male nudity than I could keep track of, but you kind of just go with the flow and laugh it off, as it only helps to hold onto the immature innocence Apatow has put into all of his films.

If you’re going to get your Jonah Hill fix, you might be disappointed, as his role, along with Rudd’s, is minor, but never the less funny. Also in the film is Bill Hader, who plays Peter’s brother in law, although his character in the movie falls way short of Officer Slater, his character from Superbad.

This movie is worthy of a 2 and half stars, and a respectable B-.

If you’re looking for some good laughs, a simple plot and some raw penis, go check out Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

And after seeing it, you’ll probably have a tough time doing so.

April 19, 2008 Posted by | Movies | , , | Leave a comment

To The ‘Country’ and Back

3/12/08

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One of the important things to keep in mind when seeing an Oscar-caliber movie (sorry, Enchanted, you don’t count), is knowing what you are looking for.

As simple as that sounds, a lot of times when these Oscar nominated films are released, there is often a lot more than just the plot which needs to be accounted for.

Themes, cinematography and characters all defied the overall story of No Country For Old Men.

Of course I made the mistake of watching the movie simply for the plot, so after watching it yesterday, I did what I almost always do after seeing a movie of that nature: I went on Wikipedia and read up on the movie.

In addition to one of my most trusted sources (thank you Wikipedia, my professors may doubt you but I never will), I also like reading professional reviews to see what I might have missed.

The dilemma I had with No Country was that at the end of the movie, I was left both disappointed and confused.

Without giving away too much for anybody who hasn’t seen it yet and is interested in doing so (and I recommend you do with proper expectations), here is what I can tell you.

The Film begins with us hearing the voice of Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Ed Tom Bell, a sheriff in a small West Texas town close to the Mexican border. He is talking about the world is becoming a more violent place around him. We then for the first time are introduced to the Javier Bardem character Anton Chigurh, who is being taken back to a local police station. Anton has with him a strange looking device that resembles an oxygen tank with a chord attached to it, which (according to my guys at Wikipedia) is actually a Captive Bolt Pistol. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is, but the thing kills instantly with a single shot. It is also used by Anton to open locked doors by suctioning out the lock itself with pressure. While at the station, Anton kills the police officer who brought it up by strangling him, all without breaking a sweat.

We then meet the third main character of the movie, Llewelyn (Josh Brolin) Moss, who is out hunting. He comes across a drug deal gone bad, as lying before him are dead bodies and blood all around. He finds one man still barely alive, asking for water, which Moss is unable to provide. He then finds a huge stash of drugs, along with 2 million dollars in cash. He brings it home, only to have his conscious tell him to return to the scene.

Big mistake, as he is seen by others looking to claim the cash, and he narrowly avoids being killed, escaping with the cash. This begins the cat and mouse, hunter and hunted game which keeps the movie thoroughly entertaining and incredibly suspenseful for the first two thirds of the film.

The film had great acting across the board. I’m not sure if Bardem was worthy of his Best Supporting Oscar, but he put in a very solid job as the very creepy, very emotionless hitman Anton. Tommy Lee Jones was his usually great self as sheriff Ed Tom Bell. A relative unknown to me, Josh Brolin was in my opinion the star of the movie as Llewelyn, as he was this cowboy with a conscious who also happened to be relentless in his defiance of Anton’s pursuit of both he and his wife.

There was plenty of blood, yet I would stop short of describing the film as particularly gory. The suspense during the first half of the film was as good as it gets, however like I said, don’t hold out for or get your hopes up for an ending you think you would either expect or predict.

Because I was ignorant and only seeking out a Hollywood plot, I was left disappointed when the movie ended. I don’t want to give anything more away, however if you are looking for a movie with a big bang ending, look elsewhere.

The movie was great if you’re a fan of the Coen brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski), and also if you’re looking for terrific directing with all that “artsy” stuff, for lack of a better term.

After doing my research after watching the movie, I gained an entirely new appreciate for it.

Among the things I found interesting which I would recommend you look out for while watching…

(From Wikipedia…so trust at your own discretion)

” motifs of chance, free-will, and predestination…fate and circumstance”

“Numerous critics cited the importance of chance… focusing on Chigurh’s fate-deciding coin flipping”

“…points out that Chigurh, Moss, and Bell each “occupy the screen one at a time, almost never appearing in the frame together, even as their fates become ever more intimately entwined.”

And regarding Javier Bardem’s Anton Chirgurh…

“Death walks hand in hand with Chigurh wherever he goes, unless he decides otherwise … if everything you’ve done in your life has led you to him, he may explain to his about-to-be victims, your time might just have come. ‘You don’t have to do this,’ the innocent invariably insist to a man whose murderous code dictates otherwise. Occasionally, however, he will allow someone to decide his own fate by coin toss, notably in a tense early scene in an old filling station marbled with nervous humor”

When I began writing this review, I was planning on talking about how overrated this movie was, and to an extent it was.

While I am hardly in a position to judge what a truly great film is with my limited experience watching movies relatively to how long they’ve been making them and awarding them, if a movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture required that I read up on it afterwards to understand it’s full significance and appreciate it the way the filmmakers intended me too, I’ll have to hold back on showering it with gushing words of praise.

That being said, I think it is a movie you should definitely rent, and just make sure you make sure you know what you’re getting into when watching it.

Otherwise, wait until Friday when Horton Hears Who! comes out.

No Country For Old Men- B+

March 13, 2008 Posted by | Movies | Leave a comment

Semi Pro = Complete Disaster

2/29/08

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Let me preface this review by saying how much I really do enjoy Will Ferrell movies.

Anchorman? One of the flat out, funniest movies I have ever seen.

Umm….

Ok, well I really do love Will Ferrell.

He was always great on Saturday Night Live.

His earlier roles in Night in the Roxbury, and Zoolander were brilliant.

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Even his smaller roles in films like Austin Powers, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Wedding Crashers were great.

Frank the Tank in Old School was one of his best roles.

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However as he made the shift from supporting character to leading man, with the exception of Anchorman, his movies have all felt redundantly familiar (if thats even a term).

Talladega Night’s was marginally decent at best.

Kicking and Screaming had me doing exactly that.

Blades of Glory had me reaching for one.

And now he’s released Semi Pro, a comedy about the now extinct ABA, or as Ferrell referred to it in an interview as the NBA’s ugly stepbrother.

Back in the day, the league was actually full of fun, as the ABA had the three point line and the multi colored ball.

It had stars like Dr. J (Julius Erving) who were more than worth the price of admission.

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So pairing up a comedic talent like Ferrell with the fall of the ABA had plenty of potential for anybody who was either a fan of Will Ferrell, sports or both (like yours truly).

Despite the right parts in place for a pretty good movie, Semi Pro was hardly a slam dunk, and much closer to an air ball.

Will Ferrell stars as Jackie Moon, the player/coach/owner of the Flint Michigan Tropics, one of the ABA teams fighting for a place in the NBA following the upcoming merger between the two leagues. The Tropics are a joke, with little talent and fewer fans. The only working part of the car wreck that is the Tropics is Clarence ‘Coffee’ Black (played by Andre Benjamin of Outkast). Upon learning that only the top 4 teams will be merged into the NBA, Jackie acquires former NBA player Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson) in exchange for the teams washing machine.

The Tropics must work their way from the cellar of the league standings into fourth place to qualify for a place among the NBA, and along way must also come up with ways to raise struggling attendance numbers. This is where the movie gets utterly ridiculous, as a lot of the material they expect you to find funny seems forced on you, and a lot of the subtleties and quirky phrases which made Anchorman so lovable are lacking.

Maura Tierny (Liar Liar, ER) plays the romantic interest of Woody Harrelson’s character, and I can’t really understand A) what she was thinking signing up for this movie and B) why her character really needed to be part of the movie. Some of the other supporting roles were played by Will Arnet (SNL, Blades of Glory), Andy Richter (Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Talladega Nights) and Rob Corddry (The Daily Show, The Winner). The only Anchorman alumni was David Koechner (Champ), who plays the Commissioner of the ABA.

The movie felt like it was thrown together at the last second (a point made by my roommate Matt which I have to agree with) and the funniest jokes were nothing more than the blunt use of profanity. The story was more or less predictable and for a movie based on basketball it didn’t seem like there a lot of it actually played.

In the end, Semi Pro was a huge letdown, although this is more or less what the audience should expect from Will Ferrell’s comedies. They all follow the same basic formula, which has been very disappointing ever since his breakout performance in Anchorman.

The only redeeming qualities of this movie were that fact that it was short and at least for me, I saw it early enough in the day to save myself 3 dollars with a matinée ticket.

If you are debating whether or not its worth spending the 10.50 on seeing Semi Pro, do yourself a favor and fill your Will Ferrell craving by spending the night with Ron Burgundy and renting Anchorman.

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Final Verdict?

D+ for incredibly Disappointing.

March 1, 2008 Posted by | Movies | Leave a comment

My Top 10 Favorite Actors

2/24/08

In the spirit of the 80th Academy Awards, I figured it was an appropriate time to bust out a new top ten list, this time being all about my 10 favorite actors from the movies.

I don’t know what exactly it is about movie stars I’m so into, however seeing these larger than life figures just takes you out of your own life and into a more exciting one that only exists on the big screen.

Watch the Oscars is always fun, for me at least, because its awesome to see all the big names gathered together, along with seeing the years best rewarded with those pretty golden statues.

Putting together a list of only 10 actors in not easy, as I probably could have had a list approaching 50 if I wanted to, however based on the movies I’ve seen (and by seeing the hundreds and hundreds of movies I listed on this blog clearly I’ve seen far too many) I did my best in putting together the ten actors I most enjoy watching, not necessarily the ten greatest actors of all time or anything like that.

And hereeee they are….

10- Harrison Ford

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Is it possible to consider one of the most famous stars in Hollywood underrated? Harrison Ford is often considered underrated because he lacks an Academy award win, and amazingly has only been nominated once (Witness). However, if you are going to tell me that Harrison Ford isn’t among the biggest stars in the business you’re crazy. When you star in not one, but two of the biggest, mega-blockbuster movie trilogies ever (Star Wars and Indiana Jones), you know you’re a big time star. Although he does have a tendency to play the same type of character- that swashbuckling, action hero, as he did as Indy, as Han Solo, as the President of the United States (Air Force Once), as Richard Kimble (The Fugitive) and so and on and so forth. While he may be getting older (65 to be exact), he’s hardly slowing down, as he is reprising the role of Indiana Jones in the 4th installment of the movie series this spring. Here’s to hoping there is plenty more where that comes from.


Worth Seeing Him in: Air Force One, Indiana Jones Trilogy, Star Wars Original Trilogy
Oscar Worthy in: The Fugitive
Deserved the Golden Statue for: Witness (nominated for Oscar)


9- Tom Hanks

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While some may actually be more familiar with his voice than his face (for you Toy Story fans), Tom Hanks is a true Hollywood heavyweight. His younger roles in Bachelor Party and Big set the stage for his career to blossom with starring roles in Forrest Gump which won him a Best Actor Oscar, Saving Private Ryan in which he nominated for one and Castaway which earned him yet another Oscar nomination. Hanks has always been likable and even if some of his lesser leading roles in films such as That Thing you Do and a League of Their Own, he is always entertaining and always among the best in the business.

 

Worth Seeing Him in: A League of Their Own, Catch Me If You Can, That Thing You Do
Oscar Worthy in: Saving Private Ryan (nominated for Oscar)

Deserved the Golden Statue for: Forrest Gump (won Oscar), Philadelphia (won Oscar)

8- Johnny Depp

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Despite being notoriously reclusive as he splits his time between Tinsel town and France, Johnny Depp was joined the ranks of blockbuster movie star following the unprecedented success of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Johnny Depp first struck gold with his successful teenage hit 21 Jump Street, and continued his rise to stardom with some of the more interesting roles you’ll come across, including Edward Scissorhands. He was terrific in Finding Neverland (a film I HIGHLY recommend) and put forth a noteworthy effort in an otherwise awful movie as Willy Wonka. However it will be the swashbuckling pirate Jack Sparrow which Depp will be most associated with, as he certainly found the buried treasure as ‘Pirates’ broke box office records. Savvy?

Worth Seeing Him in: Donnie Brasco
Oscar Worthy in: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (nominated for Oscar)

Deserved the Golden Statue for: Finding Neverland (nominated for Oscar)

7- Matt Damon

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Although he probably wasn’t receiving the attention he deserved in comparison to his best friend and fellow actor Ben Affleck, Matt Damon quietly turned himself into one of the finest, most versatile actors in the industry. Displaying not only his acting ability but his screenwriting potential as well, his original screenplay he co-wrote with Affleck Good Will Hunting earned the two the Academy Award for Best Original Screen Play. Damon also earned a Best Acting nomination. He has showed off his ability to play all different sorts of characters with roles ranging from action star (Bourne trilogy) to soldier in Saving Private Ryan to bisexual murderer in The Talented Mr. Ripley. He displayed his comedic side in Dogma (as well Jay and Silent Strike Back) and a dynamite performance as a crooked cop in The Departed. While Ben Affleck may have been the first of the two to get the Hollywood spotlight, Damon has become one of the most dynamic actors on the big screen today.

Worth Seeing Him in: The Bourne Trilogy
Oscar Worthy in: The Departed
Deserved the Golden Statue for: Good Will Hunting (nominated for Best Actor Oscar, won for Best Original Screen play)

6- Adam Sandler

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Ok, so Adam Sandler lacks an Oscar worthy performance on his resume, but nobody goes to an Adam Sandler movie looking for an academy award winning role. You go because he makes you laugh while never seeming to grow up. His movies usually include the same cast of clowns in supporting roles, and when he isn’t wasting your time with mistakes like Little Nicky and Anger Management, if you know what to expect he rarely disappoints. Aside from the fact several people think I look like him (I disagree), Sandler’s movies usually don’t deviate much from the same formula of cheesy, romantic goofball comedy. He has tried to mix things up with films like Punch, Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, however for the best of Sandler look no further than his classic comedies.

Worth Seeing Him in: The Wedding Singer
Showed Some Depth in: Big Daddy
His Must See Films Include: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore

5- Jack Nicholson

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One of the most established and respected actors in the film industry, Jack Nicholson has become nearly synonymous with Oscar. Jack has been the recipient of a record 12 Academy Award Nominations, including 3 wins for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment and As Good as it Gets. Jack has a screen presence that can only be compared to by the likes of a Marlon Brando. In addition of memorable performances he has given us some of the most memorable lines in movie history, with perhaps none better known than “You Can’t Handle the Truth!” from A Few Good Men. He’s got the talent, the experience and the hardware to undeniably be considered one of the greatest film actors ever. And don’t forget that grin!

Worth Seeing Him in: The Bucket List, Batman, About Schmidt
Oscar Worthy in: A Few Good Men (nominate for Oscar), The Departed
Deserved the Golden Statue for: As Good as it Gets (won Oscar), Terms of Endearment (won Oscar), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (won Oscar)

4- Robin Williams

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As great on the screen as he is on stage, Robin Williams is as diverse a performer as you are going to find. Starting way back when from his days on Mork and Mindy (before my time but worth checking out), Robin Williams is good a dramatic actor as he is a standup comedian. He’s been a four time Academy Award nominee, bringing home Best Supporting Actor honors for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He was equally as superb in Dead Poets Society, and combined his dramatic and comedic abilities for his role as Patch Adams. Dude looked like a lady in Mrs. Doubtfire and his voice was behind the Genie in Aladdin as well as Bender in Robots. If you have ever seen his Live on Broadway standup act (and if you haven’t you are missing out) you know just how off the wall he can be. Whether he’s making you laugh or making you cry, Robin Williams is as talented as they come.

 

Worth Seeing Him in: Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook
Oscar Worthy in: Dead Poets Society (nominated for Oscar), Patch Adams

Deserved the Golden Statue for: Good Will Hunting (won Oscar)

3- Anthony Hopkins

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If you want to talk about actors who are best remembered for one defining role, Sir Anthony Hopkins falls into this category with his Oscar winning performance in The Silence of the Lambs. Dr. Hannibal Lector is not only one of the most memorable characters in movie history, he remains one of the most unique. Hopkins was downright creepy in Silence, as he played the cannibalistic doctor serving a life sentence in a maximum security asylum. His scenes with Clarice (Jodie Foster) kept you on the edge of your seat, yet it was the complexity of his character, along with his ability to make you feel compassionate for this psychopathic killer was worthy of Best Actor honors. Hopkins of course has been brilliant in a number of other films, however his portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lector is what most moviegoers will likely always associate him with, along with some fava beans, and a nice chiante.

Worth Seeing Him in: The Mask of Zorro
Oscar Worthy in: Amistad (nominated for Oscar)

Deserved the Golden Statue for: The Silence of the Lambs

2- Denzel Washington

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There are a class of actors who can take a role or even an entire movie, and by simply being in it make it better. The quintessential example of this is Denzel Washington. When Denzel is in a movie, chances are the movie will be worth seeing. I have been saying for a while now that Denzel Washington doesn’t make bad movies. Sure, some of his films were not as good as others (Out of Time, Déjà vu), however for the most part, his movies are very good and his character is even better. Another knock on him is that he always plays the same sort of characters, whether it is the inspirational oppressed guy (Remember the Titans, The Great Debaters, The Hurricane) or the take no prisoners bad ass/cop/bodyguard (American Gangster, Inside Man, Training Day, Man on Fire). Regardless of the movie, you can pencil Denzel Washington in for a great performance, as he has delivered time and time again. The fact that he has won only two Oscars is probably a sham, however it’s only a matter of time before he adds another statue to his mantle.

Worth Seeing Him in: John Q, American Gangster, Man on Fire, He Got Game, Inside Man
Oscar Worthy in: Remember the Titans, The Hurricane (Nominated for Oscar), Malcolm X (nominated for Oscar)

Deserved the Golden Statue for: Glory (won Oscar), Training Day (won Oscar)

 

1- Will Smith

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Ok, so you probably didn’t expect to find the Fresh Prince topping off my list of favorite actors. However not only is Will Smith an above average actor capable of playing a variety of different characters, he is simply put the epitome of what comes to mind when I think about what a movie star should be. Will Smith doesn’t make movies, he makes blockbusters. There are few actors who can carry an entire movie themselves, yet he was able to pull it off with the recent I Am Legend. He’s smooth, he’s funny and whether it’s trying to give a better life to his son (Pursuit of Happiness), saving the world from some extraterrestrial villain (Independence Day, Men in Black, I Robot, I Am Legend) or portraying the greatest of all time (Ali), Will Smith is Hollywood. He’s no stranger to the romantic comedy (Hitch) and despite his nice-guy image, he knows how to be bad (Bad Boys). It should be surprise that the movies Will Smith makes have consistently had monster opening weekends (he was number 1 on a list of most powerful actors on the planet according to Newsweek), along with the fact that he is one of only 3 actors to release 7 consecutive 100 million dollar grossing films. He has certainly come a long way from his rapping days and wrecking havoc in Bel-Air, and today, this prince has become the king of Hollywood.

Worth Seeing Him in: Men in Black, Independence Day, Hitch, Bad Boys
Oscar Worthy in: Ali (nominated for Oscar), Enemy of the State
Deserved the Golden Statue for: The Pursuit of Happiness (nominated for Oscar)

 

The Best of the Rest (My Golden Globes if you will…)

 

Leonardo DiCaprio

Al Pacino

Joe Pesci

Walter Mattheu

Jack Lemon

Robert DeNiro

Chris Tucker

George Clooney

Brad Pitt

Alec Baldwin

Russell Crowe

Kevin Spacey

Will Ferrell

Paul Rudd

February 25, 2008 Posted by | Movies | 4 Comments

Worth Seeing? ‘Definitely’.

2/16/08

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Being single meant that for the first time since I was 16, February 14th this year was just another day on the calendar.

The cherry on top of my anti-Valentine’s Day festival might have been buying myself 2 beautiful new coats last weekend along with an even more beautiful new Movado watch.

However the high point (or low point however you choose to look at it) of celebrating V-Day was last night when I went to see Definitely, Maybe.

I’ll set the scene, and it was as romantic as it gets.

A handsome young man and a very beautiful young lady, sitting in the last row of the theater, sharing soda and some popcorn, enjoying a nice Friday night together while watching a lighthearted comedy about love…

…sitting right next to me and my roommate Mike.

There we were, two 20 year old guys, with only each other, sitting in a room filled with couples left and right.

Now that being said, and realizing how pathetic our lives were, Mike and I certainly weren’t about to let any of that ruin the movie.

And fortunately it didn’t.

REVIEW

With his biggest leading role since Van Wilder, Ryan Reynolds plays the role of Will Hayes, a 30 something advertising agent.

The movie opens with us learning that Will is being served with divorce papers. We soon after meet his 10 year old daughter Maya, played by Little Miss Sunshine star Abigail Breslin. Upon picking her up from school, Will learns that Maya’s class was given a Sex-Ed lecture, which prompts the story of the film later that night when Maya asks her father to tell her the story of how he and her mother met.

Will reluctantly agrees, and only under the circumstances that the real names of the characters in his story are changed does he begin the “love story-mystery” as Maya refers to it.

Without giving away too much, we meet the women, starting with Will’s college sweetheart “Emily” (Elizabeth Banks, Scrubs, The 40 Year Old Virgin), whom Will is forced to leave when he accepts a job in New York (they come from Wisconsin) to be part of the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign.

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“Emily sends Will away with a gift for an old friend of her’s, “Summer” (Rachel Weisz, The Mummy) who Will meets in New York, along with Summer’s boyfriend/college professor Hampton (Kevin Kline, In and Out). Rachel is an aspiring writer, smart and sophisticated but seemingly unavailable until she kisses Will goodbye.

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At Campaign headquarters, Will meets April (Isla Fisher, Wedding Crashers) who is working there only to make a few extra bucks photocopying. April is a free spirit, very intelligent but without any real direction in her life.

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Throughout the film, Will goes back and forth between the three, although as the movie progresses you begin t0 sense with whom his heart lies.

However the film does a nice job of throwing you some slightly unexpected twists in an otherwise typically predictable romantic comedy.

Reynolds gives easily his best performance in his first, real mainstream role. He uses his usual combination of sarcasm and wit to win you over, but he is able to contribute a really good amount of sincerity to his character.

The three women in the film were all very well cast, however the scene stealer is Breslin.

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There was some genuine chemistry between Reynolds and Breslin as the Father/Daughter relation is pulled off beautifully. She is beyond adorable and very enchanting, yet manages to come across as wise behind her years, at one point telling her father that she only wants him to be happy, and knows he isn’t.

The movie seemed to be a bit long towards the end, however it didn’t take away from the story as the ending of the movie wraps up more or less the way you want it to.

There is also a really funny dose of historical humor, as the film takes place over a span on 16 years, beginning in 1992 with Clinton running for President.

Some of the better moments of this include Will being introduced to the cell phone, seeing a very young George W. Bush taking greater pride in his ownership of the Texas Rangers baseball team than his Presidential father, and the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1997.

Overall, while the movie follows the traditional romantic comedy formula, Mike and I both really enjoyed it…at least until we left the theater once again realizing how pathetic we were.

Regardless, the acting was better than you would expect from a movie of this sort, and the story was both fun and convincing.

If deciding whether or not you want to take the time and spend the money to see this movie, I would ‘definitely’ recommend it.

Final Grade: B

February 16, 2008 Posted by | Movies | Leave a comment

Say Hello To…An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

1/28/08

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Can you believe how quickly January has flown by? I guess as the saying goes time flies when you’re wasting your life away…

…But seriously, this past weekend was spent primarily indoors as I guess somewhere between the sub-zero temperatures and the number of friends abroad there just wasn’t a lot to do Friday and Saturday night.

However, not going out didn’t mean not having a productive weekend- no, I didn’t open a notebook or textbook (or my book bag for that matter)- but productive in the sense that I finally took the time to watch two of the most recognizable films- arguably of all time- in the Godfather and Scarface.

I had always been under the assumption that the two films were a lot alike (and not because Al Pacino happens to play a main character in both) but because of the mafia/drug world/crime theme going on.

Before I get into both films, I’ll give a warning right now that if like me prior to this weekend, you have not seen either film, go watch them and come back because there will be some spoilers along the way. If you don’t care, then lets dive right in…

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Ill start first with The Godfather. Mentioning the Godfather generally is accompanied with the phrase “greatest movie ever made”, and according to the American Film Institute, it ranks second only to Citizen Kane (a film I also HIGHLY recommend for anybody who appreciates cinematography), and IMDB has it ranked numero uno on it’s list of the top 250 movies of all time, as voted on by movie goers.

I am somewhat surprised at myself for taking so long to see The Godfather, not only because I love movies and this one is supposedly among the greatest ever made, but because one of my favorite TV shows ever is The Sopranos, a drama based on the life of members of La Cosa Nostra (the Mafia).

The Godfather, starring the mega famous Marlon Brando as Don (Boss, Tony Soprano character of the film) Vito Corleone, a very young (and at the time relatively unknown) Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, youngest son of Vito, Diana Keaton as Michael’s girlfriend and eventual second wife, and Robert Duvall as family Consigliere (counselor or adviser to the boss, Silvio from Sopranos was Tony’s consigliere).

Aside from having a star studded cast, the film itself did not disappoint.

Beginning with the Wedding of Vito’s daughter, Connie, you are taken into the world of “The Godfather” (Brando) and you watch as he balances celebrating his daughter’s wedding while also conducting business inside at the same time. The power and respect he has gives you an idea as to how commanding a character he is.

The majority of the first part of the film is to show how things work in the Corleone family, as the principle rules are that the Family always comes first, whether it’s a personal matter or a business matter.

The best early example of this is when The Don is asked a favor by his Godson, Jonny Fontain (a fictional celebrity Singer/Actor), to land a role in an upcoming film which has been denied by the studio head. The Don sends Tom (Duvall) out to California to take care of things. After being initially threatened and turned down, he is invited to dinner with the studio exec, whom once again declines to work with Jonny. Tom leaves in the middle of the meal, telling the exec that The Don likes to be immediately notified of bad news.

The next scene cuts to the exec waking up from his sleep, covered in blood, but not his own. In one of the most famous scenes in movie history, the exec removes his sheets to reveal the severed head of a horse he owned, which he had shown off and bragged about to Tom prior to their meal. The scene shows just how bad an of an idea it is to turn down a request of Don Vito Corleone. Consequently, Jonny receives the part in the film, as we later see an enormous bouquet of flowers delivered from Jonny to Vito, thanking him.

The real meat of the film revolves around the rise of Michael, who following the shooting of Vito in a fruit market, is visiting the hospital one night to check up on his father, and realizes that nobody is on guard to protect him. Upon realizing this, Michael shows the first real signs that he is ready to step out from the quiet, polite war solider he is introduced to us as, and hides his father while convincing a group of assassins that the hospital is in fact being protected. When Michael encounters an officer who we later learn to be corrupt, the officers breaks Michael’s jaw after refusing to leave the hospital, where he was not supposed to be.

What was really well done in this movie, among other things, was the way in which you see the rise of Michael, from this very reserved, almost under appreciated member of this big crime family, to eventually succeeding his father and taking over the family. Among the other notable parts of the movie are when Michael takes it upon himself to deal with some of the issues on his own, much to his family’s surprise. Another very famous scene is in the Italian restuarant, when Michael retrieves a gun from the bathroom and executes (figuratively and literally) the plan of taking out the corrupt cop and Mafioso behind the hit on Vito.

Michael goes into hiding in Italy, falls in love with a local girl and marries her, only to be discovered and narrowly avoid a hit on his life, which results in the death of his new bride. Upon returning home, he reconnects with Kay (Diane Keaton) and marries her. Following the death of his older brother, an apparent heir to the thrown, Sonny, Michael continues his rise to the top after he is handpicked by his recovering father to lead the family.

After Vito dies of a heart attack playing with one of his Grandsons, Michael is able to (with the advice of his father) figure out who within his own family has betrayed them, and also succeeds in taking out the heads of the 5 major crime families, flexing his muscle and earning newfound respect.

As the movie ends, Michael officially takes over as Godfather, ringing in the dawn of a new era in the Corleone family.

All in all, While I would probably stop short of considering it the greatest movie ever made, I have no issues with anybody making the case that it is such.  The movie, while very long, was cinematic art at it’s best, with a dynamic cast and memorable performances all around.

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In the interest of not turning a review into another summary, Scarface has also received it’s fair amount of hype, and I was equally as excited to  see Scarface, the movie about Tony Montana, Cuban defector arriving in Miami in 1980.

The film takes place in Miami and similarly to The Godfather, centers on the rise and fall of an Al Pacino played character.

In Scarface, Tony Montana starts out running favors for a drug boss and works his way up the ladder, using his fearlessness and reckless abandon to stop at nothing to achieve his goal of getting to the top.

I thought the film was good but hardly great.  Michelle Pfeiffer plays the female lead as the girlfriend of the the boss Tony starts to work for, and eventually marries Tony during his rise.  Her character was sort of useless in my mind, as Tony initially becomes completely obsessed with getting her to fall for him.  Once he gets the power and the money he seems to lose interest in her, as she continues to waste away her days sitting by a pool snorting coke all day.

Some of the better aspects of the film were the overall performance of Pacino who proved that his best years were clearly before the turn of the century, as he actually sounded convincing as a cuban drug lord, hell bent on taking over.

You also have to appreciate that 1980’s backdrop, because nothing beats 80’s music in Miami, which seems to stuck in time should you visit.  From what I hear parts of Miami are still living in the 80’s, and good for them.  They were better times then these.

Back to the movie, Pacino takes command of the movie from start to finish, and even when he shows compassion by refusing to kill a member of the media who is traveling to the UN with his family, about to expose the underworld Tony was being asked to protect by his business associate. Not wanting to kill a wife and their children, Tony aborts the mission, sealing his own fate in the process.

Although the plot is pretty predictable, hearing the word fuck over 200 times never got old, and the movie was entertaining.  It was also long, and unlike Godfather, the movie had a few parts where things sort of dragged out and stalled.

All in all, The Godfather was the better movie, but both were very entertaining and worth watching.

John Elway finally won that elusive Super Bowl at the end of his career, while last year director Martin Scorsese finally won an Oscar after years of being snubbed.

And after years and years of being embarassed to admit I had never seen them, I can finally say that yes, I have seen The Godfather and I have seen Scarface.

And neither movie disappointed.   If you for some reason have yet to see either, you should probably get on that.

January 29, 2008 Posted by | Movies | Leave a comment

Heath Ledger 1979-2008

1/23/08

A quick word about the Heath Ledger tragedy.

No more than 3 hours before hearing about what happened, my roommate and I were watching the trailer for The Dark Knight in which Ledger plays the Joker, after which we spoke about him as an actor for a good ten minutes.

His death has got to rank up there among the more shocking, because of how recognizable he was but more so because of how young he was.

Sounds like he was a great guy, very down to earth and a loving father before everything else in his life, and hearing about his death was truly heartbreaking, not only because he was a better than average actor with his entire career ahead of him, but also because he was a father and a genuinely good person.

Rest in peace Heath.

January 23, 2008 Posted by | Movies | Leave a comment